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Bertie: A Life of Edward VII [Hardcover]

Jane Ridley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
RRP: 30.00
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Book Description

30 Aug 2012

Edward VII, who gave his name to the Edwardian Age but was always known as Bertie, was fifty-nine when he finally came to power in 1901. He was king for the last nine years of his life.

The eldest son of Victoria and Albert, Bertie was bullied by both his parents. Victoria blamed his scandalous womanising for Albert's early demise, and this richly entertaining biography reveals his power struggle with Queen Victoria as one of the stormiest mother-son relationships in history.

Denied any proper responsibilities, the heir to the throne spent his time eating ('Tum Tum'), pursuing women ('Edward the Caresser'), 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. The most romantic - and the most dangerous - of his mistresses was Daisy Brooke ('Babbling Brooke') and the most political and manipulative was Alice Keppel.

But contrary to popular belief, the playboy prince was also an instinctive diplomat: when he eventually became king he did a good job, especially in foreign policy. He further confounded his critics by reinventing the monarchy and giving it a new role for the twentieth century. This magnificent and exhaustively researched book - which draws on numerous new discoveries and primary sources - gives Bertie due credit while painting a vivid portrait of the age in all its excess and eccentricity.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (30 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701176148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701176143
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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))

"the best biography was Jane Ridley's Bertie ... Surprisingly, a vast amount of new information, some of it truly eye-opening, surfaced in this beautifully prepared and serious book" (Philip Hensher Daily Telegraph (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))

"Is all about changing perceptions of the rakish heir to the throne who, his biographer insists, was less of a womaniser that commonly thought and came into his own as king" (Sunday Times (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))

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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 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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8 of 8 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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7 of 7 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Royalist Or Not Great Read 19 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am by no means a royalist. I once had a very vivid dream about Edward and shortly afterwards this book went on sale, on the strength of the content of my dream (which I won't go into here) I bought this.

It was an absolutely enthralling read which covers in-depth analysis of his relationships with women, and more so his mother, Queen Victoria. You can completely understand his incapability to relate to women due to how he viewed and how his mother treated him.

This book tells explicitly of his relationship with his siblings, his wife, Alex and how his short tenure as King, still impacts the world today. He turned the monarchy on the road to something modern and moved it forward in great strides. This is a man who ostensibly prevented wars due to his diplomatic relations.

As a man Edward is much misaligned in people's judgements highly misunderstood. Bertie was a more amiable but complex man than anyone gives him credit for.

True British history, but at the same time, a classic read of love, betrayal, adultery, insightful read to the royals at that time. Painful, sorrowful, and occasionally joyous, this book details greatly, a life that was brought to circumstance with some often gut wrenching consequences.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A life of Edward Vll
Arrived in very good condition and by return. Interesting Life. Thoroughly enjoyed the read. Have recommended it to other friends
Published 1 day ago by Hazel Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Excellent, Excellent
I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in history. Easy to read, thought provoking. I really came to love Bertie and I did not expect to, history is finally treating him... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Sue Mcconville
4.0 out of 5 stars A hard life.
Very well written. He has always appeared as irresponsible but this book puts a different light on his life and makes it easier to understand.
Published 22 days ago by AG
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down.
From the first page to the last, this was absorbing and gripping. I agreed with Bertie that he succeeded to the throne too late in life. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John H. Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Exemplary
Exemplary biographical writing. Jane Ridley sets new standards with her original approach. She has gone back to source material and questioned received opinion.
Published 1 month ago by keith boyfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Bertie: A Life of Edward V11
I have always been drawn to this king although much is written about his life as the Prince of Wales and the poor relationship he had with his mother. Read more
Published 2 months ago by lai
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I have finished this book yet, but am so enjoying it. I didn't know too much about this particular period of the monarchy, it is not too heavy a read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mrs. S. R. Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Packed with interesting facts
Edward the Seventh's life story done through painstaking research. The time span covers from 1841 to 1910. A vast number of characters brought to life over this period. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Catherine Nelson C Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars Teddy VII
Bought this because of T V programme about his life.A very interesting man. So will enjoy reading this lively book.
Published 3 months ago by Mr. Robert Nickson
5.0 out of 5 stars A kings life
A readable book, not yet finished but one can see how our modern monarchy developed, and a revealing portrait of Victoria and her reign. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Johnw
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