Thursday, August 16, 2012

Queen Victoria's Bad Boy Bertie

Perhaps no Prince of Wales in history has been less trusted — or more spied upon — than the boy everyone knew as Bertie. 

When he attended a military summer camp, at age 19, the future King Edward VII was surrounded by minders: two stern Grenadier officers, a colonel and a general. He even had to share a general’s quarters.

Happily, however, they had not thought to lock Bertie’s bedroom window. So, one night, the heir to the throne wriggled out, made a beeline for the camp prostitute — one Nellie Clifden — and triumphantly lost his virginity.

Nor did it help that the birth of her son and heir was difficult: the baby was exceptionally large, and Victoria — at 4ft 11in — exceptionally small. Afterwards, she was dogged by post-natal depression for nearly a year.

Bertie, named after his father, was tossed to a wet-nurse — a woman called Mrs Brough, who later murdered her own six children in a fit of madness. 

So needy was Victoria for Albert’s love that she had little affection to spare for her second child. In any case, she thought Bertie was ugly — ‘too frightful’ and also ‘sadly backward’.

A royal wedding, she decided, presented the perfect solution: it would not only remove the presence of her irksome son but also stop him lusting after loose women. Bertie must wed the unprepossessing Alexandra.

Desperate to please her, he did precisely as he was told. But as I will reveal on Monday, far from taming him, marriage would turn Bertie into a world class womaniser, who justly deserved his nickname ‘the Prince of Pleasure’.

Excerpts from "Bertie: A life of Edward VII" by Jane Ridley

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