Tag Archives: edward vii

Edward VII Reviews Field

“The simultaneous movement of those hundreds of white arms, the rustling of robes, the flashing of the jewels made him think of a scene from a ballet.”
‘To Marry An English Lord’, Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace

The prince lowered his head
As he stood inside the chapel
And wrapped around his temples
He felt the rhythmic carving of gold
With all apprehensions
Responsibilities
And weary years
Impaled on each prong like worms
Suffering with promise
And the ache of the future

When the king raised his head
There was a luminous movement
As one hundred peeresses
Raised their tiaras with round and powdered arms
In a frisson of light
And synchronized loyalty.
Flesh under a king’s review,
A soft population
Bred for discretion
And immodest seclusion

Image result for edward VII crowning

Lillie’s Apologia

lillie

‘I resent Mrs Langtry, she has no right to be intelligent, daring and independent, as well as lovely’.

  • George Bernard Shaw

‘I would rather have discovered Lillie Langtry than America.’

  • Oscar Wilde

Lillie Langtry was a great and unique beauty.  She was considered such a one, in fact, that it became her career.  She was a professional beauty – a profession that could only have been devised during her heyday, the gilded, steely 1880’s. It was a subtle democracy:  a way for society to feast on demure helpings of scandal, and for the tiny rivulets of respectability to trickle into the demimonde.

The PB’s face and form were her invitation – the key to unlock any door, to gain entrance to any party.  Her image was seen daily, on the postcards and photographs that were displayed in shop windows:  desire pressed under glass.  She decorated any room – she gave it cache, and was that new acquisition required by the clever and discerning hostess.

Yet to our eyes, Lillie seems strange, almost coarse-looking.  Her face is broad, with a bone structure that is unsubtle and a profile that is strong and indelicate.  Her eyes are pale and distant.  Her torso is powerful and buxom, disappearing into a waist that is as cinched and twisted as a bound foot.  She seems to our modern sensibilities, graceless and unfeminine.

But we are only looking at a photograph.  Lillie Langtry’s beauty dates to an earlier time – her profile and build were considered classical Greek – ‘Praxitelean’ – her followers likened her to a goddess.  Oscar Wilde proclaimed her “The New Helen of Troy”.  Her Amazonian physicality alienated her from her dainty contemporaries.

Photographs do not share with us her famous coloring; we can only envy those who witnessed it first-hand: the blue eyes; rich, milky skin and auburn hair that set around her neck like bronzed sunlight.

In addition, Lillie’s intelligence set her apart – it set a fine balance, crossing a vast ocean of wit to journey from ribald, to masculine, to a winking modesty.  She was daring, sly and feral.  No photograph would dare show that.

All things considered, she was irresistible.

It is common knowledge – among those who make it a point to know such things – that Lillie Langtry was the first officially recognized mistress of King Edward VII:  an admirer of lovely and witty women.  She became good and lasting friends with his modest but pretty wife, Alexandria.

But Lillie herself had many lovers, as is the wont of a lovely and witty woman.  For her wanderings she has – then as now – been labeled infamous, immodest, a courtesan, a jeweled whore.  But I find this wild labeling, however, to be unfair.

I believe that Lillie was a romantic; she fell in love often, and with great generosity:  as if her latest love would be her last and greatest.  Would we not do the same?  What would we do, what would we give, if we thought we had reached our final love, our final day?

Why, everything.

The Jersey Lillie

"They saw me, those reckless seekers of beauty, and in a night I was famous."

That one night was in 1876.  She had been invited to a reception and the dress she wore was simple; serene beside the skirts bobbing like likes of crinoline and the bodices that cut deep, with decorations pursuing the cruel pathways of cloth and bone.  All her dress did was follow the full, natural contour of her strong body.  The dress was black – she was still mourning the death of her younger brother – and her creamy, unpowdered skin made a handsome contrast.  her auburn hair warmed the eyes.  She was an untouched palette, attractive to any artist who searched for his subjects in the drawing rooms of Victorian England.

And there were artists in attendance that night.  In the morning, copies of her portrait could be seen in shop windows throughout London.  In a single night, Lillie Langtry had become famous.  Society had found its new Professional Beauty – invited to the most enviable parties, holding the London Season like a bouquet in her arms…she would be its queen until the flowers grew cold.

This photo was taken in 1890.  Much had happened since then.  She is 37 here; never possessing prettiness, which would have condemned her masculine wit, her features are clear-cut and Grecian.  She is still Oscar Wilde's 'Helen of Troy'.

Her affair with Prince Edward (eventually to become Edward VII) had ended ten years ago, his attentions straying to a dark, nimble sprite, Sarah Bernhardt.  Once Lillie was free of him, there had been other men.  In 1881 she gave birth to a daughter, Jeanne Marie – the father's identity still a matter of speculation.

On her friends' advice, she embarked on a stage career.  The leap from society to the stage is not such a tremendous one.  And talent notwithstanding, there wouldn't be a theater in the country that would turn Mrs. Langtry away.  Within months of her daughter's birth she had made her debut.  In 1882 she was touring America.  That same year she had found another lover, a millionaire, Fred Gebhard, and was his mistress for nine years.

And after him, there was George Alexander ("Squire") Baird, amateur jockey and boxer.  He beat her regularly, seeking her forgiveness with diamonds and yachts.  She found the bruises acceptable currency, and endured the violence that ran unrestrained across her skin.

A year after this picture was taken, a coarse fist would exploit the face that many had considered the loveliest in the world.  She would hide that face, discolored and distorted, and sigh – perhaps – for the days when she was society's precious toy, the gilded lily lying on a velvet pillow.

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My Name Is Caesar

In the first decade of the 20th century, he was known as the terror of the court.  Described by the French as 'a person of importance', with 'la beaute du diable', he was officious and snobby.  He was also fond of attacking gentlemen's trousers.

He was Caesar, a wire-haired fox terrier, a constant and a boon companion to King Edward VII.

 

The Faberge workshops, previously known for more elegant, glittering subject matter, immortalized this rough-coated, working dog in a trinket made of precious stones and jewels, with rubies for eyes, a gold bell and a gold collar.  Commissioned by the King, it was a gift to his long-suffering wife, Queen Alexandra.

 

Caesar 

 

Then, on May 6, 1910, the King died.  Only a dog suffers blindly, without care, untainted by understanding.  Caesar was inconsolable and refused to eat.  He was found in the King's bedroom by the Queen, hidden under the bed and shaking…an animal doesn't posess a human's comprehension, but he knows all the same.

 

That same year a small illustrated book was published, titled "Where's Master? – by Caesar, The King's Dog."  Allegedly written by the animal himself, it is a description of sorrow and confusion as deep and pathetic as the title.  The cover bears Caesar's portrait by Maud Earl, a noted Victorian painter of animals.  One of her most famous paintings was called 'Silent Sorrow', which depicted the mourning dog resting his head on his master's unoccupied chair.

 

 

Publications around the world documented a nation's grief at the loss of its King, of Europe's loss of its 'Uncle' and of a dog's loss of his master.  

 

Alexandra continued to care for Caesar and made the necessary funeral arrangements.  So on May 20, when King Edward VII's coffin was carried to Paddington station, it was followed by the his dearest pet, trotting sedately – behaving as he should for perhaps the first time in his life – led by a member of one of the Highland regiments.  He preceded Kaiser Wilhelm in the procession.

 

The tomb of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra is located in the south aisle of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.  And lying at his master's feet, instead of the long-maned British Lion – the heraldry on which the sun never set – is the wire-haired fox terrier who one day would find his days dark. 

 

Caesar died in 1914.  There is some confusion as to where he was buried:  some say that he sought ground - as all good terriers do – on the grounds of Marlborough House, the London home of the Dowager Queen.  Others claim that he is buried at Sandringham, where many royal pets are buried, and which is the home of The Queen's Kennels today. 

 

But there is also a story that he rests in the garden at Regal Lodge, the racing stable of Lillie Langtry, the first of the King's mistresses to be brought from behind the curtain, and be publicly recognized.  Alexandra might have been deaf, but she was not blind (she notified Mrs. Keppel - whose daughter, Violet, would shock her in time – the current royal mistress, of the King's condition; she was holding his hand when he died).

 

During that funeral procession towards the end of May, regiments and officials strode en masse.  Swords, rifles, cuirasses and monocles glinted in the sun.  But there was one other mourner who also lent his light, by way of his canine loyalty – which is a perfect thing – and by way of his little gold collar, which was inscribed with the words:

 

My Name Is Caesar.

I Belong To The King.

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