The Edwardian era (1901-1914) is the last period in British history to be named after the monarch who reigned over it.
Although Edward VII reigned from 1901 to 1910 to be succeeded by George V, the Edwardian period is generally considered to have ended at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The Manor House program series covers the years 1905-1914.
Like the Victorian era, the Edwardian era took not only its name, but also much of its character from its monarch. And Edward was a very different character to his mother. In contrast to the strict moral codes of Victoria, and the almost puritan example of his father Albert, Edward, or "Bertie" as he was known to his friends, loved the luxuries of life.
While still Prince of Wales, Edward had already got himself something of a reputation as a playboy, a bon viveur and a gambler. Even though he had married in 1863, he continued to live the bachelor lifestyle long after he had ceased to be one, and his numerous mistresses were common knowledge among the upper classes.
And he continued to live the same way after he took the throne: he surrounded himself with men who had made their fortunes in trade and finance - the "plutocracy" - and Edward led the "fast set" in the conspicuous consumption that so typifies the period.
The royal timetable seems almost completely dominated by social events: in August he would be found yachting in Cowes; in September he'd be abroad in the fashionable resorts of Germany or Austria; in October, he'd go deer hunting in Scotland; he'd spend the winter at Sandringham if not hosting shooting parties, he would be attending them. A month on the French Riviera would be followed by three months in London for the Season...
It was during this period that the British Empire was at its height. When George V took the throne in 1910, it was estimated that a fifth of the world map was coloured pink - part of the Empire, and that one in four people on the planet were subjects of King George. But it was also the moment at which the Empire began to crumble - and the portents were already there. By 1900, Britain's outputs of coal, iron and steel had been surpassed by those of Germany and the United States, and by 1914, although Britain's share of world trade in manufacture remained the largest of any country, there was now fierce competition, again from Germany and the United States.
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