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Born April 29, 1868, Alice Frederica Keppel (born Edmonstone) was a British society hostess and a longtime mistress and confidante of King Edward VII. Born in Woolwich Dockyard, Kent, Alice’s father was the Dockyard superintendent and a retired admiral in the Royal Navy. His grandfather was a former governor of the Ionian Islands.
The youngest of a brother and seven sisters, Alice grew up in Duntreath Castle, home since the 14th century of the Edmonstone family, direct descendants of the Royal House of Stuart. The castle was a wedding gift from King Robert III of Scotland to his daughter, Mary Stewart, Princess of Scotland, when she married her fourth husband in 1425, Sir William Edmonstone of Culloden.
Alice married the Honorable Lieutenant Colonel George Keppel, son of the 7th Earl of Albemarle, in 1891. He was four years older than Alice and served as a private in the British Army. The couple had two daughters, but George’s lack of money led Alice to engage in business with wealthier men so they could maintain their London society lifestyle. His first affair was with Ernest Beckett, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe. Alice’s husband once said of his adventures: “I don’t care what she does as long as she comes back to me at the end.
Alice would become one of the best-known society hostesses of the Edwardian era. In 1898, then 29, met Edward, Prince of Wales (56 at the time), heir apparent to the British throne. Soon after, she became his mistress and visited him regularly. The relationship lasted until her ascension to the throne in 1901 and until her death in 1910. Alice was known as one of the few people around her who could ease her mood swings.
Edward’s wife, Alexandra from Denmark, actually liked Alice quite a bit and was tolerant of the affair. She preferred Alice to Edward’s other mistresses, including Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick. Through his association with royalty, the king made it possible for friends to create endowments to help Alice stay financially secure. He also got a better paying job for her husband.
After Edward’s death in 1910, the Keppels left Britain. Claiming it was for the education of her children, the move is believed to have been due to Alice’s role in society changing after the King’s death. In 1936, when Edward VII’s grandson, Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorceé, Alice would have said: “Things were a lot better in my day. “
Alice died of cirrhosis of the liver in September 1947 in her palace in Italy. Her husband died two months later. It was said that he couldn’t live without her, having been married to her for the past 56 years.