Power and Place: the political consequences of King Edward VII

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 31st August 1998

We are not used to thinking of King Edward VII as a political figure. In popular historical memory he is a playboy, womaniser, gambler, sybarite. Yet in Simon Heffer’s view it is time we took him more seriously.

That first decade of the twentieth century proved to be far more than a golden epilogue to the reign of Queen Victoria. It was a crucial turning point when the remnants of feudalism and hereditary power that had survived Victoria’s sixty years on the throne finally yielded to power that had been democratically elected.

To say that Victoria was the last unconstitutional monarch and Edward the first constitutional one is simplistic. As Heffer recounts, during his reign Edward fought constant battles with ministers, notably at the Foreign Office, War Office and Admiralty. He was absorbed in the most bitter constitutional crisis of the twentieth century – the fight between the Lords and the Commons about the retention of the Upper House’s veto on legislation.

Edward’s influence was enormous. As Heffer points out, the extent of his power and authority can be measured by the speed with which, after his death, great changes were made to the prerogative powers of the throne.

Power and Place: The Political Consequences of King Edward VII is a major reconsideration of a monarch whose achievements in twentieth century political and diplomatic history have too often been ignored.