In Brief

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 plays a role in Circe, making sure that his soldiers play fair when they attack Stephen.

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"Filibegs" is another name for a kilt (Scots Gaelic fēileadhbeag, from fēileadh 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." "Considerations of space influenced their lordships' decision," J. J. wryly assures him.

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.

JH 2016
King Edward VII. Source:
King Edward VII at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, photographed by his wife Queen Alexandra, published in 1908. Source: Wikimedia Commons.