Alice Keppel

Alice Keppel (born October 14, 1869, died November 22, 1947) was the most famous of the mistresses of King Edward VII. She was the great-grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall,

Alice Keppel's grandfather, a Lieutenant-Colonel John Whittle Parsons, had been the Governor of the Ionian Islands at a time when then were British. He had married a local Greek girl there, and the couple later returned to his home in Scotland.

A daughter of this marriage, Mary Elizabeth Parsons, married one Sir William Edmonstone, 4th Baronet, who had entered the Royal Navy at a young age. Sir William was 31 when he married Mary Elizabeth.

Alice was the youngest of 9 children (8 girls and one boy) of Sir William Edmonstone and Mary Elizabeth Parsons. Alice (nee Parsons) Keppel was born October 14, 1869, in Scotland at Duntreath Castle, Loch Lomond. And grew up here at Duntreath Castle, the family home since the 15th century.

On June 1, 1891, she married the Hon. George Keppel, a son of William Coutts Keppel, 7th Earl of Albemarle. She was 22 when she married, he was 26. Within months of marrying, she is said to have taken a wealthy lover. Her first daughter was born in 1894, and the father was rumoured to be Ernest William Beckett, the future Lord Grimthorpe.

Early in 1898 she met Edward Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), then aged 56. She was 29, and within a matter of weeks Alice was his official mistress. She appears to have been adept at keeping everyone happy, and she was very discreet. Through it all she managed to preserve her own reputation and her marriage to Colonel Hon. George Keppel. The Prince's wife, Alexandra of Denmark, the Princess of Wales, is said to have preferred her descretion, to the Prince's previous mistress, Daisy, Countess of Warwick. And the Duchess of Sutherland, Daisy's half-sister, remarked that the Prince, was "a much pleasanter child since he changed mistresses".

Alexandra was apparently grateful that she kept the Prince in a good temper. However she was (I guess, obviously) not altogether happy with the situation, and was particularly upset with annual Alice's annual appearance at the Cowes regatta. It is always mentioned that Alice had a command of bridge was particularly appealing to Prince Edward.

The Keppel family moved house, from Wilton Crescent to 30 Portman Square where their second daughter, Sonia (Camilla's grandmother), was born in 1900.

It is difficult to judge whether George Keppel tolerated or condoned her being a royal mistress, but according to one of their daughters theirs was a marriage of "companionship of love and laughter"

Apparently when in Baden, a Grand Duke is said to have asked George " Are you related to the king's mistress?", an insult which he is said to have ignored. He went into business in the employ of Sir Thomas Lipton.

In 1910, when Edward VII was on his death bed, and he asked for Alice's presence. Queen Alexandra reluctantly allowed her to be present whilst he was still conscious. However, when the king lost consciousness, she hissed to the doctor, "Get that woman away."

After the king's death, the Keppels sold up in England and spent two years travelling in the Far East. On their return they bought a new house at 16 Grosvenor Street. During the First World War (1914-1918) she helped a friend, Lady Sarah Wilson, run a hospital in Boulogne.

Towards the end of the war her daughter, Violet, became involved in a love affair with Vita Sackville-West, something just not done in those days. To avoid inevitable scandal Violet was "married off" to Denys Trefusis. In a series of moves, Violet threatened to divorce Denys, Alice cut off her daughter's allowance and this eventually brought an end to Violet's and Vita's affair.

In 1927 the Keppels sold their Grosvenor Street house and moved out of England. They bought the Villa dell'Ombrellino, near Florence, Italy where they lived, with the exception of returning to the UK during the Second World War, for the rest of their lives. Alice Keppel voiced her opinion that "things were done much better in my day" when the abdication of Edward VIII was announced over his intention to marry Wallis Simpson,

In 1940 the Keppels returned to England and went to live with their daughter Sonia in the country. However she decided that she preferred "bombs to boredom" and they moved into rooms in the Ritz Hotel in London for the rest of the war. It was during this time that somewhat surprisingly Alice together with her daughter Violet, paid a visit to Queen Mary.

In 1946 they were able to return to their house in Italy, but Alice was by now terminally ill. She died aged seventy-eight in November 1947. Her husband George died two months later.

So Camilla would never have known her great grandmother, being born 17th July 1947. Alice Keppel 's daughter Sonia Keppel (Camilla's grandmother) was born after her mother became involved with Edward, but most historians believe she really was fathered by Alice Keppel's husband. (Sonia was said to have a strong resemblance to George Keppel (though that probably does not mean anything), and the king never treated her like his daughter, and it was Violet that her mother took to visit Queen Mary during the war.) But if Sonia was the king's daughter, that would make Camilla and Charles the somewhat remote relations of second cousins once removed.

Alice Keppel great granddaughter Duchess of Cornwall

Alice Keppel's great grand-daughrer the Duchess of Cornwall