Edward the King
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Acorn Media.
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This British mini-series, originally airing in 1975 as Edward the Seventh, is far from being miniature in any way. At 13 episodes, running 50 minutes each, Edward the King rivals the length of any season of a British drama, charting the major events in the life of Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (1841-1910), known to his family as Bertie, and later, to the world, as King Edward VII of England after his coronation in 1902.
Edward the King is epic in scope, but intimate in nature. Subdued performances, and writing catered more toward character studies than melodrama, downplay the grandeur one expects from historical dramas about the British royalty. It begins with the royal family of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as they give birth to their first son, Albert Edward. Although they are confronted with such international problems such as whether or not to acknowledge the Confederacy as a separate nation from the Union during the American Civil War, the focus is more on family issues, like Bertie’s inability to cope with the strenuous education outlined by his father and later his affairs and unwillingness to behave as is seen fit for a royal. This, of course, is only the beginning, as the series follows Bertie later in life through the death of his parents and into position as King of England.
As Bertie ages, different actors are, or course, required to fill the role. These transitions can be a little disorienting, but all the actors pull their weight, bringing their own individual nuances to the role. I am personally fond of the performance of Charles Sturridge, who played Bertie as a teenager, getting a chance to play off both Prince Albert and Queen Victoria as the son they never let have a life and viewed so harshly as a disappointment. Sturridge has since gone on to successes as a writer and director in film and television. The series also features Felicity Kendall of BBC’s Rosemary and Time as Bertie’s sister, Princess Vicky.
The 4-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes; commentaries with actors Timothy West, Annette Crosbie, and director John Gorrie; two featurettes; and a photo gallery with commentary by the stars and director.
Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic in Chicago, IL.
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