The Diplomacy of Edward VII

Long excluded from public business, King Edward showed, when he came to the throne, a remarkable grasp of foreign affairs. He was, as A.P. Ryan says, “a good European and a lover of peace.”

“Papa is going to France.” This, the earliest recorded pronouncement of Queen Victoria’s son and heir on foreign affairs, was neither discreet nor accurate. The little prince uttered it at a children’s party given by his great-aunt, the Duchess of Gloucester, in July 1854, and it made public property the news that his parents had changed their attitude to Napoleon III. But Papa was not going to France until the Queen had first made good her right to entertain her new French allies on this side of the Channel. Napoleon and his bride Eugénie were duly entertained at Windsor and Buckingham Palace in April 1855, and in August the English royal family, including the little prince in Highland costume, did go to Paris. There he charmed his hosts in all ranks of society and hugely enjoyed himself. Louis Blanc detected in him “un vrai personage de féerie.” The royal person grew, as time went on, too stout to look his best in Highland costume, and to carry a trail of cigar smoke into Parisian quarters that were not generally honoured by the presence of princes.

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