The monarch on the British throne in 1904 was King Edward
VII, known as Albert Edward before Queen Victoria's death in
1901. Mr. Deasy's mantelpiece in Nestor boasts a
picture of "the shapely bulk of a man in tartan
filibegs: Albert Edward, prince of Wales."
The dissolute ways of the prince come in for mockery in Cyclops,
and the king steps in to oversee the fight when his soldiers
attack Stephen in Circe.
"Filibegs" is another name for a kilt (Scots Gaelic féileadhbeag, from féileadh kilt + beag small). It is uncertain what hangs over Deasy's mantel: possibly a painting, but more likely a photo, since many photographs were taken of this royal personage in Highlands garb, and art prints of them were sold widely. Unlike the one displayed here, Deasy's comes from a time before Albert Edward's coronation. But it is recent enough that Dirty Bertie, as he was sometimes called, has assumed his distinctive "bulk." Over time, the man's waistline came to match his gargantuan appetites for food, drink, smoking, gambling, and sex. Edward was also a fancier of thoroughbred horses and an habitué of the racetrack, a fact which may well explain Deasy's having coupled "the princely presence" with portraits of "vanished horses."
In Cyclops, J. J. O'Molloy observes that "we
have Edward the peacemaker now," referring to the
king's efforts to establish peaceful relations with some of
his European neighbors. Gifford notes that this is "What the
French called Edward VII in the first blush of optimism about
the entente cordiale. It was also a title that he
coveted." In reply, the Citizen blusteringly alludes to the
prince's notorious sexual exploits: "Tell that to a fool. . .
. There's a bloody sight more pox than pax about that
boyo." Joe Hynes sneers at "the priests and bishops
of Ireland doing up his room in Maynooth in His Satanic
Majesty's racing colours and sticking up pictures of all the horses his jockeys
rode," to which Alf Bergan replies, "They ought to have stuck
up all the women he rode himself." J. J. wryly assures him
that "Considerations of space influenced their lordships'
The Citizen also takes aim at Edward's German origins, calling him "Edward Guelph-Wettin." Guelph, Gifford notes, was the family name of the House of Hanover, and "Wettin is the Prussian version of the Swedish Wetter, Prince Albert's family name. Queen Victoria dropped the name Guelph when she married Prince Albert." In 1849, at the tender age of 8, their son Albert Edward was created "earl of Dublin" during his mother's state visit to Dublin—a fact which likewise draws the Citizen's scorn.
In Circe, the looming presence of two aggressive
British soldiers brings King Edward into the drama, via
Stephen's thoughts: "(With elaborate gestures, breathing
deeply and slowly.) You are my
guests. Uninvited. By virtue of the fifth of
George and seventh of Edward. History to blame." George
V, Edward's successor, was crowned King after his father's
death in 1910. Stephen's wish to cleanse his mind of the
imperial presence—"(He taps his brow.) But
in here it is I must kill the priest and the king"—excites
the soldiers' wrath. It also makes the king spring to life: "Edward
the Seventh appears in an archway."
He has come to oversee the fight.
 Edward's "tartan filibegs" conform to a tradition that
began when King George IV became the first Hanoverian monarch
of Great Britain to visit Scotland. The visit had been
encouraged by Sir Walter Scott, who oversaw elaborate
preparations that included thousands of Lowlanders outfitted
in Highland dress. In How the Scots Invented the Modern
World (2001), Arthur Herman notes that the king had
said, "I dislike seeing anything in Scotland that is not
purely national and characteristic" (312). In 1822 that meant
clothes, weapons, and bagpipes consistent with the romantic
depictions of Highland life in Scott's novels. When the king
arrived in Edinburgh his flabby body was stuffed into the full
outfit: a kilt in the Royal Stewart tartan plaid with a sporran
pouch in front, flesh-colored plaid tights, the green sash of
the Order of the Thistle, and a bonnet with a jaunty feather.
Actual Highlanders usually wore the voluminous breacan an
féileadh or great kilt which wrapped around the entire
body, keeping people warm in the harsh climate. The Edinburgh
organizers opted instead for the sportier féileadh-beag,
which covered only the upper legs and sometimes attached
a short piece of plaid at one shoulder. The king's visit made
"filibegs" the expected thing in the popular imagination.
Something similar happened with plaid patterns. Most
Highlanders had never associated a particular tartan with
their clan; they wore whatever cloth was available, and
expressed their clan allegiance in battle with things like a
sprig of heather, thistle, or juniper. In the 18th century
Highlander regiments in the British army had opted for more
regularity, and after the king's visit in the 1820s people in
both the Highlands and the Lowlands became convinced that they
must have tartans that declared their familial descent. The
rest is familiar, and almost entirely bogus, history.
When Prince Albert purchased the Balmoral estate in
Aberdeenshire in 1852, Queen Victoria decided that the royal
family must wear tartan plaids whenever they retreated to
Scotland. Her son Bertie became one more fat, spoiled
Hanoverian stuffed into a Highland warrior's kit.