The King and the game law violation

KingEdwardVIIHe wasn’t king then, but he would be soon enough, King Edward VII, a model of fin de siécle English uprightness. But apparently his past contained a blemish — as a member of a shooting party, he may have shot an owl, a wild bird that was just becoming a protected species in Britain.

Edward was a famous sportsman and bon vivant, whose extremely long wait for the throne had been characterized by somewhat sub-kingly behavior at times.

Certainly, Englishmen can tolerate a lot of carousing and gambling in their leaders. But animal cruelty crosses a psychological line — even if, as seems likely in this case, the shotgunning of the ill-starred owl was entirely inadvertent.

Had such a story come to light, it would have been ill-received by the famously animal-happy British public.

The episode occurred when a well-meaning society photographer had the dead bird stuffed, took a picture of it and sent it to the Prince of Wales, as he was then.
A plaque on the wooden base tellingly gave away the identification of the guilty marksman: “Shot by HRH Prince of Wales on the 23rd Sept 1896 at Wynyard Park.”
But John Phillips’ ‘gift’ to the future King spectacularly backfired and, instead of being well-received by him, it ruffled the royal’s feathers.

via How King Edward VII shot a protected owl – and covered it up – Telegraph.

The owl-related photograph and correspondence is up for auction. Photographer Phillips clearly thought he was chummy with the then-prince, but the frosty note he received from a royal flunky straightened him out in a hurry.

His abject, crawling apology apparently failed to restore him to Edward’s good graces; he got a second, equally cold and distant, flunky-penned brush-off. He had to console himself by making a scrapbook of the owl photo and correspondence — the very thing that’s now on an English auctioneer’s block.

If you’re a commoner, it is never quite friendship you have with a king.

One thought on “The King and the game law violation

  1. Seaforth Highlander

    Thank you for this story, that brought up memories I want to share. Here comes the story.
    A prominent member of the House of Hanover (aka Windsor, these days) partook on a shoot for driven pheasants in the Scottish Highlands.
    After a rather liquid lunch (and quite likely a well lubricated and long evening to start off the shooting break) the first drive of the afternoon produced good flights of testing birds. The guest of honour had been placed in the centre of action, and when the house peacock took to flight (righteously upset by the ruckus caused by all these commoners deployed as drivers together with their dogs) and came flapping over the Big House, this hard-to-miss target was elegantly taken by the somewhat inebriateted aristocrat. Words are that his native loader muttered a complimentary ‘Good shot, your Highness’ in a subdued but noticably sarcastic voice, when the male Pavo cristatus bombed to the ground.
    The Lady of the Manor was rather distressed on hearing of the demise of her cherished ornamental animal, but consoled herself with the knowlegde that the bird was taken by a person high up in the succesion of the throne.
    The Master, he bought the drivers many a drink having lost an obnoxious bird for an epic story.
    At least that’s what a friend told me.

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