What Winston Churchill once described as 'the old world in its sunset' had never been captured more brilliantly than at the funeral of King Edward VII in May 1910. This was the occasion of the celebrated Parade of Kings, when over 50 royal horsemen - a swaggering cavalcade of emperors, kings, crown princes, archdukes, grand dukes and princes - followed the slowly trundling coffin through the streets of London.
Here was a moment of supreme monarchical glory. Republican envoys, no matter how powerful the countries they represented - even France or the United States - were firmly relegated to the end of the procession. Who, seeing this collection of royalty clattering by, could doubt that the institution of kingship was flourishing? Nothing could better have symbolised the extraordinary early 20th-century flowering of European monarchy than this spectacular parade.
Never since the days of the ancien régime of pre-revolutionary France had monarchy seemed so firmly entrenched. Instead of diminishing in number, royal thrones had multiplied, and the second half of the 19th and the early years of the 20th centuries had seen the setting up of half a dozen new monarchies, so by the year of Edward VII's death there were more monarchs in Europe than there had ever been. Without counting the rulers of the kingdoms and duchies that went to make up the German empire, there were 20 reigning monarchs - with a crowned sovereign in every country except France and Switzerland (and even France had restored the monarchy four times in the 19th century).