King Edward VII. The truth about his death.
One of history’s myths regards the death of King Edward VII, the actions of his wife Queen Alexandra and of his mistress Alice Keppel.
The king was in his late seventies when he was taken ill – at first with a series of chills.
He had always enjoyed what we might call the pleasures of the flesh – fine dining, splendid wines and of course, a series of beautiful and charming mistresses.
But my the time he became it, it was largely suspected that his relationship with his last mistress, Alice Keppel, had become platonic.
The king had always remained on cordial terms with his ex-mistresses – there was never any rancour.
He had been on vacation with Alice Keppel, as was their annual habit, in Biarritz in France when he was first taken ill with a chill.
When the king arrived back in England near the end of April, 1910, his ailment turned to bronchitis but the king continued to work as usual.
The last night he went out in public was on May 2nd when he went out to dine with Alice Keppel and other friends but Alice was concerned about him and sent him home to the palace.
By this time, the king’s doctors had been in touch with Queen Alexandra who was abroad and urged her to come home because of the king’s worsening condition.
The next day, the illness advanced and it became clear that the king was dying.
The persistent myths that the kindly Alexandra invited Alice Keppel to the king’s deathbed are untrue
This myth has now been written in history books as fact. Although the queen was exceedingly tolerant about the king’s affairs and mistresses,there was no love lost between her and Mrs Keppel. And she certainly didn’t invite her to the palace to say her final goodbyes.
Several years beforehand, the king had been operated on to remove his appendix. He had written a letter to Alice – their affair was at its height – in which he said that if he was dying, he was sure that ‘those about him’ would allow her to come to see him. Alice had carefully filed this letter away and when the king was known to be dying, forwarded it to the queen who reluctantly allowed her to go to the palace.
When she arrived at the palace, she entered the sickroom and curtseyed to the queen and her daughter, Princess Victoria. The king beckoned her to sit beside him. He then insisted that the queen kiss Alice to make up their differences. The queen grudgingly offered her cheek to her husband’s mistress.This was reported by the eminent royal doctor who was in attendance but the queen was later to deny that such a thing took place.
As the three women sat beside the king he suddenly made a pronouncement:
“I want to piss”.
The queen, who had always been hard of hearing, asked what her husband had said and Sir Francis Laking,the king’s doctor, adroitly replied:
“The king is asking for pencil, ma’am”.
Mercifully, before the queen could investigate further, the king lapsed into unconsciousness at which point the queen knowing that the end was near told the doctor to ‘get that woman away’.
By this time, Alice was hysterical. She only agreed to leave the room when she was told that the king demanded it. She was escorted firmly from the room. The king died later that night.
How did the myth originate?
It didn’t originate with the queen or her loyal entourage who were always keen to present her in the best light. This myth that is often now seen as fact originated with Alice Keppel herself. Now her protector was dead, she had to protect herself.
She related the story of how the queen had sent for her, wept with her and assured her that the royal family would look after her.
This was a complete fabrication.
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