NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99

NE99

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Forget-me-not Remembrance Vol.4 80 A Spoiled Visit By Terence Cottrell BA(Hons), MA, JD. "M ysterious little Victoria is dead and fat vulgar Edward is king," American novelist Henry James wrote after the death of the revered British Queen-Empress, Victoria, in January 1901. And the writer and sophisticated man-of-the-world had put his finger on something important. For though the grief demonstrated all over the world was genuine, it was seasoned with concern at the prospect of the 60-year-old rake-hell Prince "Bertie" mounting the throne of the world's greatest empire. The black sheep of the royal family, Edward Albert, was handsome, rich and intelligent, and widely seen to be a lecher, gambler and scatter-brained bon vivant. His mistresses were said to have included the "divine" Sarah Bernhardt and Lily Langtree. What was not known – even to his mother- was that her son's attendance at the sporting houses, race-tracks and gin-palaces of Europe had been an excellent cover for diplomacy between the British government and foreigners of high office- to say nothing of espionage. The Prince of Wales was in fact a man of great personal charm and wit. He had an acute sense of compromise and persuasion, second to none during the age of the Dreadnought battleship and the world-wide influence of US Navy Captain, Alfred Thayer Mahan's masterpiece treatise The Influence of Seapower, Upon History (1660-1783) (1890), when threats and sabre-rattling were the general order of the day, particularly over the German battleship building-program, then under the tutelage of Admiral Alfred Von Tirpitz guided by Bertie's nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II (reigned 1859-1941) in competition with the long-standing and successful British building program. ("I believe the Emperor of Germany hates me," Bertie is reported to have said of him. The son of Victoria's beloved Albert, Prince of Saxe Cobourg, Bertie had been brought up in the Prussian tradition. He'd endured a "scientific" regime devised by his humourless father and his father's own austere military tutor. As a child Bertie was denied access to his mother; forbidden companions of his own age; denied sports and not allowed to study the arts. His routine from morning to night was filled with lectures and study periods. This mortification of spirit and flesh was supposed to keep him from the hereditary madness of the House of Hanover. Instead it built in him a deep sense of bitterness and rebellion. Yet, against all odds, this intelligent youth developed a warmth of personality and strength of character that – coupled with a native intuition about people – enabled him to charm everyone he met. One success was his defusing of the "Venezuela Crisis," a boundary dispute that triggered the American "Monroe Doctrine" (regional hegemony claim) and almost caused war between Britain and the United States. For years the vague border between British Guiana and Venezuela had been broached and plundered by both sides. But in 1895 Venezuela had set out to annex the frontier strip. The British had rattled the sabre and the Americans intervened, claiming that despite their geographical remoteness their direct interests were involved: "Today the United States is practically sovereign on this continent," Secretary Olney wrote, " and its fiat is An 1860 drawing (left) of Prince 'Bertie.' King Edward VII (right) in 1910. Photo taken from Heritage Kingston

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