King Edmund of Great Britain
Full name: Edmund Augustus Edward
Style: By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India (last title added in 1876)
Country: Great Britain and Ireland
Royal anthem: God save the King
Royal house: Hanover
Reign: June 20, 1837 - November 4, 1900
Predecessor: William IV
Successor: Edward VII
Birth: February 21, 1818
Death: November 4, 1900
Birthplace: Kensington Palace, London
Deathplace: Windsor Castle
Spouse: Anita Howard only daughter of Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk
Issue: Anna, 1840-1858, died with no issue, of pneumonia.
Father: Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent
Mother: Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
In 1817 concern over succession arose when George IV's only legitimate child and George III's only legitimate grandchild, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, died. George III had twelve surviving children. The younger sons of George III had not expected to figure in the line of succession to the throne of Britain, and therefore showed little interest in marriage. When Charlotte died, the remaining unmarried sons of King George III, now in their 40s and 50s, scrambled to marry and father children to guarantee the line of succession. At the age of 50, The Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III, married, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The couple had two children Edmund and Victoria both were born at Kensington Palace, London, Edmund on 21 February 1818 and Victoria on 24 May 1819. At birth Edmund was fifth in line to succeed his grandfather George III to the British crown after his father’s three older brothers and his father. Edmund was baptized in the Cupola Room of Kensington Palace on 30 May 1818 by The Archbishop of Canterbury (Charles Manners-Sutton). Christened Edmund Edward Augustus—and called Edmund from birth he was formally styled His Royal Highness Prince Edmund of Kent. From birth his first language was English and Seconded was German, unlike his sister Victoria whose first language was German. Edmund's father, the fourth son of George III, died after a illness on 23 January 1820—just a little over a year after Edmund was born. King George III, his grandfather, died six days later on 29 January 1820. At that point, Edmund’s uncle, the Prince Regent, inherited the Crown, becoming King George IV. George IV died in 1830 and because the second son of George III, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, had died without issue in 1827, George IV was therefore succeeded by another brother. This was the third son of George III, Prince William, Duke of Clarence, who reigned as William IV. The fourth child of George III, Charlotte, Princess Royal, though not in line for the throne before her brothers, had died in 1828 without issue William IV was the father of ten illegitimate children by his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan, but had no surviving legitimate children. As a result, the young Prince Edmund, his nephew, became heir presumptive, and his sister Victoria in line after him. The law at the time made no special provision for a child monarch. Therefore, a Regent needed to be appointed if Edmund were to succeed to the throne before coming of age at eighteen. Parliament passed the Regency Act 1830, which provided that Edmund's mother, the Duchess of Kent, would act as Regent during the King's minority. King William disliked the Duchess and, on at least one occasion, stated that he wanted to live until Edmund's 18th birthday, so regency could be avoided. Princess Victoria met her future husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when she was just seventeen in 1836. They would marry in 1840. Edmund who had not married yet was happy for his sister. Edmund and Albert would become very good friends over the years. The two had a very close relationship. Edmund who unlike his sister was not very egotistical or stubborn seem to create equilibrium between the two.
On 21 Feb 1837 Edmund turned 19, for a year now the regency was no longer necessary. On 20 June 1837, Edmund was awakened by his mother to find that William IV had died from heart failure at the age of 71. Edmund was now King of the United Kingdom. His coronation took place on 12 June 1838, and he became the first Monarch to take up residence at Buckingham Palace. At the time of his accession, the government was controlled by the Whig Party, which had been in power, except for brief intervals, since 1830. The Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, at once became a powerful influence in the life of the politically inexperienced King, who relied on him for advice. The King then commissioned Sir Robert Peel, a Tory, to form a new ministry.
In 1841 it was decided that Edmund was to marry. Edmund choose his childhood friend and the only daughter of Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk. Her name was Anita and was very beautiful and very learned, and she had fancied Edmund since they were young. Edmund and Anita got on swimmingly. However since the Howards were Catholic in order to become Queen Anita had to become Protestant. Luckily this change occurred with little problem. They married 5 May 1841 in Westminster Abbey. Edmund’s wedding gift to Anita was a Scottish Highland Estate, Balmoral. Balmoral would become a family favorite and Edmund, Anita, Victoria and Albert would have many good times there. Unlike many of his predecessors he would keep no mistress and would have a deep relationship with his wife until his death. On the 8 January of 1842 Anita gave birth to a daughter Anne Elizabeth Victoria, Anna for short. Unfortunately during the birth the Queen became unable to have children again. Fortunately Edmunds sister Victoria would have many children to secure the line. Soon after Anna’s birth Edmund and his minister drew up the Will of Succession, to secure Anna’s throne. It said that after his death Anna would be Queen and then her issue thereafter. However there was a sub clause that was thought to never be used, if Anna died without issue the crown would go to Victoria’s oldest son, the future Edward VII. Unfortunately Anna died at the age of eighteen of pneumonia after horseback riding in the cold rain at Balmoral. After her death Edmund was not as outgoing as he was before but continued his duty as King and found much joy in his nieces and nephews. Edmund’s nephew Edward known as Bertie to the family was now the heir and Edmund made him Prince of Wales two years later, the title he gave his daughter five years before. During Anita’s pregnancy, eighteen-year-old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the King while the couple was riding in a carriage in London. Oxford fired twice, but both bullets missed. He was tried for high treason, but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity.
Assassination attempts and Government
Further attempts to assassinate King Edmund occurred between May and July 1842. First, on 29 May at St. James's Park, John Francis fired a pistol at the King while he was in a carriage, but was immediately seized by Police Constable William Trounce. Francis was convicted of high treason. The death sentence was commuted to transportation for life. Additionally, on 13 June 1842,Edmund made his first journey by train, travelling from Slough railway station (near Windsor Castle) to Bishop's Bridge, near Paddington (in London), in a special royal carriage provided by the Great Western Railway. Accompanying him were his wife and the engineer of the Great Western line, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The King and Queen both complained the train was going too fast at 20 mph (30 km/h), fearing the train would derail off the railway line. From this point on Edmund developed a great interest in the railroad and had a Royal Train be constructed for his use when traveling. Then, on 3 July, just days after Francis's sentence was commuted, another boy, John William Bean, attempted to shoot the King. Although his gun was loaded only with paper and tobacco, his crime was still punishable by death. Feeling that such a penalty would be too harsh, King Edmund encouraged Parliament to pass the Treason Act 1842. Under the new law, an assault with a dangerous weapon in the monarch's presence with the intent of alarming her was made punishable by seven years imprisonment and flogging. Bean was thus sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment; however, neither he, nor any person who violated the act in the future, was flogged. Peel's ministry soon faced a crisis involving the repeal of the Corn Laws. Many Tories—by then known also as Conservatives—were opposed to the repeal, but some Tories (the "Peelites") and most Whigs supported it. Peel resigned in 1846, after the repeal narrowly passed, and was replaced by Lord John Russell. Russell's ministry, though Whig, was not favored by the King. Particularly offensive to Edmund was the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, who often acted without consulting the Cabinet, the Prime Minister, or the King. In 1849, Edmund lodged a complaint with Lord John Russell, claiming that Palmerston had sent official dispatches to foreign leaders without his knowledge. He repeated his remonstrance in 1850, but to no avail. It was only in 1851 that Lord Palmerston was removed from office; he had on that occasion announced the British government's approval for President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte's coup in France without prior consultation of the Prime Minister. The period during which Russell was Prime Minister also proved personally distressing to King Edmund. In 1849, an unemployed and disgruntled Irishman named William Hamilton attempted to alarm the King by firing a powder-filled pistol as his carriage passed along Constitution Hill, London. Hamilton was charged under the 1842 act; he pleaded guilty and received the maximum sentence of seven years of penal transportation. Edmund was known for his habitual manner, he was one of the first to wear glasses continually, he said so he could see God’s good earth and people. Edmund was also know to read the Bible daily and also enjoyed going to church especially to hear the Pipe Organ his favorite instrument.
Later Reign and Ireland
King Edmund and Queen Anita along with Victoria and Albert went on a holiday to Ireland in 1843 specifically Killarney in Kerry. In 1845, Ireland was hit by a potato blight that over four years cost the lives of over one million Irish people and saw the emigration of another million. In response to what came to be called the Irish Potato Famine, Victoria personally donated 2,000 pounds sterling to the starving Irish people. Edmund did likewise. Edmund's first official visit to Ireland, in 1849, was specifically arranged by Lord Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Despite the negative impact of the famine on the King's popularity he remained popular enough for nationalists at party meetings to finish by singing "God Save the King”. Thanks in part for Ireland’s affection for his sister. By the 1870s and 1880s the monarchy's appeal in Ireland had diminished substantially, partly because Edmund refused to visit Ireland in protest at the Dublin Corporation's decision not to congratulate his nephew Bertie, now the Prince of Wales following his cousin’s death, for both his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and on the birth of the royal couple's oldest son, Prince Albert Victor. In 1851 Edmund and Albert, together, planed the Great Exhibition which was like nothing the world had seen. It was a demonstration of the ingenuity, technology, power and influence the British Empire had. Edmund refused repeated pressure from a number of prime ministers, lords lieutenant and even members of the Royal Family, to establish a royal residence in Ireland. This was odd because Edmund was usually not so stubborn and did enjoy Ireland no one was quite sure for his reasons. Edmund paid his last visit to Ireland in 1898, when he came to appeal to Irishmen to join the British Army and fight in the Second Boer War.
Albert’s Death and State Visits
The Prince Albert died of typhoid fever on 14 December 1861 due to the primitive sanitary conditions at Windsor Castle while visiting the King. Edmund was grieved by the loss of his friend and brother-in-law. But his sister was devastated by his death. She entered a state of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. She came to live with her brother the King at Windsor where she would remain in her brother’s care for the rest of her life. She avoided public appearances and rarely set foot in London in the following years. She blamed her son Edward, the Prince of Wales, for his father's death, since news of the Prince's poor conduct had come to his father in November, leading Prince Albert to travel to Cambridge to confront his son. Edmund however attempted to convince otherwise. Years early Edmund put faith in Edward to be King when he died, and he did not want to surrender his confidence in him. In 1857 Edmund toured Egypt and South Africa. In 1866 Edmund would have an official visit of Ireland again and Canada as well as the United State, where there was great welcome after the recently ended Civil war. Bertie went with. And in 1876 Edmund had a State visit to India where he was crowned Emperor of India. As time went by Edmund reigned would be tied to his sister, he felt an obligation to her. This became very evident after Albert’s death. After Albert died Edmund spent a good deal of time with his wife and sister at Windsor and Balmoral. Though Victoria Edmund had become the Uncle of Europe a title his nephew Edward would take on as well. Edmund abhorred drinking and smoking in excess and was said to have never smoke or drank. From a young age he had deep religious conviction that he kept but never pressured them on others. However, he did try to instill them in his family. In 1881 Edmund had Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and Balmoral, installed with electric lighting and indoor plumbing as well as new boiler systems to heat the aging buildings. Edmund often went hunting and began to eat large portions of food (making him rather large) and spent time with his nieces and nephews, becoming their father figure. His passion for railroading continued, he took many trips by means of the Royal Train which was his pride and joy. He had an “Iron Duke” 4-4-2 commissioned by the Great Western Railway the Train and royal coaches were painted a smart maroon red. In 1887, the British Empire celebrated Edmund's Golden Jubilee. Edmund marked the fiftieth anniversary of his accession with a banquet to which 50 European kings and princes were invited. Although he could not have been aware of it, there was a plan—ostensibly by Irish anarchists—to blow up Westminster Abbey while the King attended a service of thanksgiving. This assassination attempt, when it was discovered, became known as the Jubilee Plot. On the next day, he participated in a procession that, in the words of Mark Twain, "stretched to the limit of sight in both directions". By this time, Edmund was a extremely popular monarch. On 22 September 1896, Edmund surpassed George III as the longest-reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history. The King requested all special public celebrations of the event to be delayed until 1897, to coincide with his Diamond Jubilee. The Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, proposed that the Diamond Jubilee be made a festival of the British Empire. The Prime Ministers of all the self-governing dominions and colonies were invited. The King's Diamond Jubilee procession included troops from every British colony and dominion, together with soldiers sent by Indian princes and chiefs as a mark of respect to Edmund, the Emperor of India. The Diamond Jubilee celebration was an occasion marked by great outpourings of affection for the septuagenarian King. A service of thanksgiving was held outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Many trees were planted to celebrate the Jubilee, including 60 oak trees at Henley-on-Thames in the shape of a Edmund Cross. The Edmund Cross was introduced on 29 January 1856 by King Edmund to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War, and it remains to this day the highest award for bravery.
Death and succession
Edmund died at Windsor Castle, where he spent most of his years, from a heart attack on November 4, 1900 at half past 10 in the evening, at the age of 82. He was found that morning unconscious on the floor of his study. At his deathbed he was attended by his sister, Victoria, his wife, Anita, his nephew Bertie, the future King, and his eldest great-grandnephew, the German Emperor William II who had been visiting. As he had wished, his nephews lifted his large body into the coffin. His funeral was held later on the 7 November, and after three days of lying-in-state, he was interred beside his daughter at the Chapel of St. George at Windsor Castle. His wife would die two months later of a “broken-heart”. His sister would die the following year. Flags in the United States were lowered to half-staff in his honor by order of President William McKinley, a tribute never before offered to a foreign monarch at the time and one which was repaid by Britain when McKinley was assassinated later the next year. Edmund had reigned for a total of 63 years, the longest of any British monarch. He was subsequently surpassed by his great-great-grandniece Elizabeth II in December 2007.