EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES (1841-1910)

Edward, who became King Edward VII after Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, had a great love of the theatre as well as the other arts. At the opening of the Grosvenor Gallery on 1 May 1877, Wilde appeared when Edward, Gladstone, Ruskin, and Henry James were also present. In the following year, Edward asked to meet Wilde, observing epigrammatically: “I do not know Mr. Wilde, and not to know Mr. Wilde is not to be known“. He was soon a regular visitor, with various writers and artists, to the aesthetically decorated Thames House, which Wilde and Frank Miles shared. He even bought Miles‘s portrait The Flower Girl. Since Edward was then having an affair with Lillie Langtry, he was no doubt interested in Miles‘s drawings of the actress.

When F.C. Burnand, editor of Punch, amused audiences at the Prince of Wales Theatre in February 1881 with his play The Colonel, which satirized Aestheticism and Wilde, Edward was so impressed that he urged the Queen to see it in a command performance at Balmoral. Later that year, Wilde‘s hope for a production of his Vera; or, The Nihilists failed to materialize. Wilde scholars have generally agreed that, probably at the request of the Prince of Wales or those dose to him, the production was withdrawn because its subject matter - the assassination of a czar - might be discomforting to his wife, the sister of the new czarina. New evidence, however, indicates that Wilde was unable to find the required financial support for the production.

When Wilde‘s society dramas established his fame as a playwright, Edward attended at least three of them. He approved of Lady Windermere ‘s Fan. In the following year, he was delighted with A Woman of No Importance and reportedly said to Wilde: “Do not alter a single line.“ To which the playwright responded: “Sire, your wish is my command,“ which was followed by a later comment: “What a splendid country where princes understand poets“. Edward also attended the premiere of An ideal Husband, its plot involving corruption in high places - of particular interest, one presumes, to the prince.