The Edwardian era or Edwardian period of British history covers the brief reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is sometimes extended to refer to the start of the First World War. The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 marked the end of the Victorian era. Her son and successor, Edward VII, was already the leader of a fashionable elite that set a style influenced by the art and fashions of continental Europe. Samuel Hynes described the Edwardian era as a "leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag."
The Edwardian period is sometimes portrayed as a romantic golden age of long summer afternoons and garden parties, basking in a sun that never sets on the British Empire. This perception was created in the 1920s and later by those who remembered the Edwardian age with nostalgia, looking back to their childhoods across the abyss of the Great War. The Edwardian age was also seen as a mediocre period of pleasure between the great achievements of the preceding Victorian age and the catastrophe of the following war. Recent assessments emphasise the great differences between the wealthy and the poor during this period and describe the age as heralding great changes in political and social life. Historian Lawrence James has argued that the leaders felt increasingly threatened by rival powers such as Germany, Russia, and the United States. The sudden arrival of world war in summer 1914 was largely unexpected; only the Royal Navy was prepared for war.