Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, her son Edward (pictured right) came to the throne. Despite the fact that Edward VII only reigned until 1910, when he was succeeded by George V, the Edwardian era is generally considered to have ended with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, As Prince of Wales Edward was regarded as a playboy and a gambler. Following his marriage in 1863, he continued his frivolous lifestyle, and it was common knowledge among the aristocracy that he kept numerous mistresses. During his reign much of his time was spent hunting, shooting and yachting, and spending time on the continent, before returning to London for the Season.
By the end of Edward's reign, the British Empire was already in decline as both Germany and the United States challenged the hitherto dominance of Britain's major industries, coal, and iron and steel.
The Edwardian era brought with it great change, previous Victorian values were cast aside as more modern lifestyle emerged in Britain. Whilst Victoria had shunned society, Edward led a fashionable elite with few responsibilities and even fewer morals. The British class system was very much in evidence, and it was very much a period personified by the upstairs, downstairs, way of life. The upper classes embraced leisure sports, which led to the rapid development of new fashion. Whilst the lower classes were segregated from the aristocratic and mercantile society, with few luxuries afforded to them.
The period was characterised by its own unique architectural style, fashion and way of life, and was strongly influenced by Art Nouveau. In literature novels and short stories became very
popular whilst musically phonographs, playing waxed discs, became available to the better off. There was an increasing interest in watching live performances. The lower classes were able to listen to military bands, who played in public parks in the summer. The old Victorian Music hall remained popular, but found itself in competition with New Drama in the theatres.
It was also a time of innovative technology. The first transatlantic wireless signals were sent by Marconi, the Wright brothers took their first flight, and by the end of the era Louis Bleriot had crossed the English Channel by air, and automobiles were common. First Roald Admundsen and later Scott's teams reached the South Pole. In 1908 the Summer Olympics were held in London. Sport became immensely popular during Edwardian times, tennis and yachting with the wealthy, and soccer with the lower classes.
Also at this time women began to gain more recognition. Emmeline Pankhurst political activist and leader of the British Suffragettes movement was recognised as having achieved women's suffrage in Britain. On 4 June 1913 another British suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, fanatically dedicated to her cause, staged a dramatic protest at the Epsom Derby, throwing herself in front of the King's horse, Anmer. She was very badly trampled and died four days later on 8 June.
The Edwardian period is often regarded as a romantic Golden Age of long summer afternoons, garden parties and big hats. Later the Edwardian age was viewed with irony, as a mediocre period of pleasure between the the great achievements of the Victorian age, which preceded it, and the great catastrophe of the war which was to come after. Which view you took no doubt depended, to a large degree, on whether your were wealthy or poor.
**********************************To watch a video clip of late Victorian and Edwardian times click the link below;
(Launch in stand alone player and full screen mode)