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Bertie: A Life of Edward VII [Paperback]

Jane Ridley
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Oct 2013



Edward VII, who gave his name to the Edwardian era but was always known as Bertie, was fifty-nine when he finally came to power and ushered out the Victorian age. The eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Bertie was bullied by both his parents. Denied any proper responsibilities, the heir to the throne spent his time eating (which earned him the nickname 'Tum Tum'), pursuing women (which Queen Victoria held to be the reason for Albert's early demise), gambling, going to house parties and race meetings, and shooting pheasants. His arranged marriage to the stunning Danish princess Alexandra gave him access to the European dynastic network; but his name was linked with many beauties, including Lillie Langtry and Winston Churchill's mother. This magnificent new biography provides new insight into the playboy prince while painting a vivid portrait of the age in all its excess and eccentricity.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099575442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099575443
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Brilliantly entertaining. Richly detailed, impeccably researched. Written with a light touch and full of human sympathy. A landmark royal biography" (Anne Chisholm Sunday Telegraph)

"This is not only the best biography of King Edward VII; it's also the best book about royalty ever published. Vivid, detailed and original" (Piers Brendon Independent)

"Paints the story of Edward VII and his long, hectic life as Prince of Wales in vivid colours: no scandal is left unturned, and yet the depth and authenticity of the research make it clear that this is a serious, even magesterial work" (Antonia Fraser Sunday Telegraph (Books of the Year))

"Hugely entertaining from first page to last... It is also scholarly and revealing" (Miriam Gross Evening Standard (Books of the Year))

"A model of how royal biographies should be written... impeccably researched, with much new material, balanced, sensible, disrespectful without being offensive, funny, and a vivid portrait of one of Britain's most underrated and understudied monarchs" (Philip Ziegler Spectator (Books of the Year))

Book Description

An exciting new biography of Edward VII, the playboy prince who changed the monarchy, by prizewinning historian and biographer Jane Ridley.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively and stimulating! 26 Sep 2012
Professor Ridley has written a fascinating book about Bertie-one of the most besmirched kings of England. Contrary to popular belief, which regarded the king as an immature playboy Ridley makes it clear that Bertie, who was much disliked by his mother Queen Victoria, was a much better king than many others and played a very active role after he became king in 1901. True, as Ms. Ridley points out, Bertie was involved in many scandals which threatened the monarchy. However, Bertie matured in his thirties and this fact in itself led to a change in his Weltanschaaung.
The book is excellent because it has many and unknown facts about Bertie. This was possible due to the fact that the author had unlimited access to hitherto thousands of unpublished or censored documents and letters-a thing she explains in a long chapter at the very beginning of the book. Bertie is portrayed as a multi-dimensional character and so are the other personae that played a substantial part in his life, especially his neglected and much-suffering deaf wife Alix, who put up with her husband's eccentricities. How the various historians saw and depicted Bertie is the subject of yet another interesting chapter in this biography which should be regarded as one of the best books of 2012. Highly entertaining and highly recommended for professional historians and history buffs as well!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `I am King of ALL the people!' 6 Feb 2013
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
When Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, she was succeeded by her son Bertie, Prince of Wales - he was 59 years of age. He reigned as King Edward VII until 6 May 1910. Expectations of King Edward VII were low: his favourite pursuits were gambling, racing, seduction and shooting and his life to that point had been self-indulgent and scandal-ridden. It looked like Queen Victoria's verdict was correct: `Bertie (I grieve to say) shows more and more how totally, totally unfit he is for ever becoming king.'

By the time of his death, Bertie had proven himself a capable king. King Edward VII worked hard, and demonstrated his diplomatic skills. In 1904 he was largely responsible for the Entente Cordiale with France, which provided Britain with an ally in Europe. In 1909 at the height of a constitutional crisis over the Parliament Act (which, when passed in 1911, deprived the House of Lords of its absolute veto on legislation), he was described by Prime Minister Asquith as being `a very good listener and quite a clever man'.

Albert Edward, the second of Victoria and Albert's nine children, was born on 9 November 1841. He was known as Bertie within the family throughout his life. Victoria disliked him, and he did not win Albert's approval. He was not regarded as being intelligent - a phrenologist said his skull showed signs of abnormality - , and his childhood (as depicted by Ms Ridley) was awful. The discovery of Bertie's first escapade with a woman was followed by his father's fatal illness, and it seems that Victoria never forgave him for this.

His marriage (in March 1863) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark proved fruitful (they had six children) but he continued to have affairs throughout his marriage.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a real pleasure 1 Nov 2012
I once heart Jane Ridley talking in a BBC programme about Bertie and I was already taken by this. Often when reading this excellent book I heart Jane Ridley talking.

In my view it the the best account of Edwards VII' s life. She puts things more into persepctive. In the many biographies on Queen Victoria Bertie has a very difficult stand. Here things are looked at from his perspective. But be very clear: that is not at all a whitewash. Jane Ridley is not blind to his failings and flaws of his personality. Far from it. She is open in her assessments.I do not share all of them. But she offers them to the reader and one can draw one's own conclusion. One learns a hell of a lot about the whole period, his position in the family, his relationships, his views and his politics.

And on top: it is superbly written, very entertaining, but never shallow. I just wish every biography would be like this. Many thanks Jane Ridley for this book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well-written biography. 21 Dec 2012
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jane Ridley's biography of England's king Edward VII is a well-written, look at the life of Victoria's son. Ridley titled her book, "Bertie", which was the King's nickname. Ridley writes in her forward that she was going to write a book looking at Bertie through the eyes of the various women in his life; his mother, his sisters, his wife, his "lady friends" (many of whom were not actually his mistress in a physical way), and his daughters. But given access to some formerly unavailable archives at Windsor, she decided to write a more comprehensive biography. And she has written a very readable one, indeed.

Bertie, named Albert Edward, was Prince of Wales for far longer than he was King of England. In fact, he reigned for only nine or so years, ascending to the throne in 1901, at the age of 60. He died in 1910, succeeded by his (second born) son, George V. Edward's short reign had always seemed to me to be an addendum to his mother's reign of 63 years, but after reading Ridley's biography, I learned that the reign could be looked at as a "bridge" of sorts between the Victorian and Georgian eras. In particular, the relationship between Britain and Germany (or Prussia) under the later rule of Kaiser Wilhelm, Victoria's grandson and Bertie's nephew. Edward did much to keep the Kaiser under some sort of control in his relationship with Russia, France, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.

While much of Ridley's biography deals with Edward's public life as the "wastrel" son of the Queen, who was kept away from power during his mother's long reign, she certainly doesn't stint in her portrayal of Edward's private life. A disappointment from birth to his parents - Victoria and Albert - Bertie didn't begin to show his aptitude for public life til he was in his 20's or 30's.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
I enjoy biography - and would not otherwise have read "Bertie" - but it is rare to be quite so impressed. This long book is a page turner. The research is meticulous. Read more
Published 9 days ago by William Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by C. Wild
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly detailed and stimulating biography
'Bertie' is, from the start, obviously written by an academic. Jane Ridley has researched this book impeccably, with access to many of Bertie and Victoria's private correspondence. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Huw Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars A very well written and believable biography
I have nothing to add to what has already been written. The book succeeds in putting a much softer hue to his public reputation and makes a believable case. Read more
Published 2 months ago by HK
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
Excellent,a well researched book on perhaps a misunderstood man. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in 19th century history.
Published 3 months ago by lisa barnett
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking good read most enjoyable
This is an excellent book and a really good read, well researched and written and is most enjoyable.
I bought this book after seeing TV programme on Bertie Prince of Wales. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. I. J. Henderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
The research has been done form documents held in the royal collections so the information is brilliant and true. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jane H Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading if You are Interested in Human Character
Engaging, interesting and informative; sometimes it read more like a novel than a biography, sometimes more of a history. It was a good alround read.
Published 3 months ago by Richard Cherry
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read
Brilliant. Highly recommended. Well written. Informative. Easy to read and understand. A very clear picture of those times and the political situation.
Published 4 months ago by John A. Cullum
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening
Interesting book full of colourful detail which is now finally emerging about this rather overlooked King. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Desdemona
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