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Edwardian Requiem: A Life of Sir Edward Grey [Hardcover]

Michael Waterhouse
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 April 2013
Best remembered for his portentous remark at the outbreak of the Great War, The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time , Sir Edward Grey was a consummate Edwardian politician and one of the most notable statesmen of an era abounding with them. Grey was the longest continuous serving Foreign Secretary of his or any age. It was a position he filled for more than a decade, under Campbell-Bannerman and then Asquith, during which time he battled relentlessly to protect and advance the interests of his country against the volatile backdrop of a Europe in which the balance of power was tilting wildly. Grey was full of contradictions. Deep in his heart he was a country-loving fisherman, a naturalist and ornithologist who preferred reading Wordsworth to giving speeches in his constituency and answering questions on foreign policy in the House. Yet he spent nearly thirty years in Parliament and only reluctantly become Foreign Secretary of a country that presided over the greatest empire the world had seen since Roman times. A peace-loving statesman who rarely left his shores, it fell to Grey to ask his country to go to war with Germany over a broken treaty agreement. Edwardian Requiem is the remarkable portrait of a complex and enigmatic statesman who presided over the twilight of old Europe.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback Publishing; First Edition edition (23 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849544433
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849544436
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Well-researched and highly readable... We should be grateful to Michael Waterhouse for reminding us of the substance of a man who is now best remembered for his gloomy remarks about the lamps going out all over Europe and not being lit again in our time... By this book, his light has been well and truly lit for some time to come. --Country Life

An admiring biography of the statesman-ornithologist...Waterhouse makes an excellent, if sometimes, over-emphatic case for Grey's achievements as a statesman... Most interestingly, he demonstrates how Grey was the first important British politician to build a "special relationship" with the United States. --The Telegraph

If you want to learn everything about this enigmatic and contradictory figure, who much preferred fly fishing and nature walks to the rough and tumble of the political world, get this comprehensive and illuminating biography. For [sic] Michael Waterhouse... really knows his stuff and has delved right under his subject's skin... The result is a fascinating study of an essentially unambitious man whose correspondence repeatedly reveals that he found politics and its machinations a right old drudge... Waterhouse, like others before him, believes that Grey, not surprisingly, had several affairs... a welcome bit of spice to a tale that might otherwise get bogged down by too much politics and diplomacy... This biography's great strength is that it reveals what really made the mysterious Grey tick and that is, after all, what should be the objective of every writer in this literary genre. --The Oldie

It is a well-researched and admirably fair account of a man who, for more than 15 years, played a critically important role in the formulation of British foreign policy. No Englishman could have prevented the 1914-1918 war. Grey got as close to it as anyone could have done, and Waterhouse should be thanked for reminding us of his existence. --The Spectator

Waterhouse is to be congratulated for presenting such a fully rounded portrait of a man unfairly accused of leading Britain into the most disastrous war in modern history...This biography makes clear how vital it is for any statesman to possess what Denis Healey famously described as hinterland . --History Today

This book... must rank among the finest political biographies of recent years. --The House

A good portrait of Grey the man. --New Statesman

This book provides a remarkable portrait of a double life... Grey's patient diplomacy in the cause of freedom is rightly and eloquently applauded in this important book which must rank among the finest political biographies of recent years. - --The House Magazine

About the Author

Michael Waterhouse has combined a business career with a lifelong passion for politics and the countryside, as well as writing and producing a number of critically acclaimed books and radio shows. He lives on the Isle of Wight.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
2.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The old order changeth 9 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As Michael Waterhouse reveals, Edward Grey (1862 - 1933) British Foreign Secretary 1905 - 1916 was a complex character: 'a veray parfit gentil knight' who dearly loved his wife, nonetheless who cheated on her and (probably) fathered two illegitimate children, a traditionalist but also - at least by the standards of his day - a political radical, a country lover who cordially detested 'town' but who spent the better part of his life - and his best energies - at the heart of politics. It was Grey, almost single-handed, who shaped British foreign policy over the decade leading up to the Great War, striving always for peace but at the same time to ensure that if war there must be, Britain should stand at a moral and material advantage. As we now approach the centenary of the war which eventually Grey could no longer prevent, for all his efforts, the time has come to revisit its political antecedents; all too easily obscured by remembrance of mud, blood and suffering in the trenches. 'The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.' said Grey to a friend, looking out from his office window above Horseguards on the evening on 3rd August 1914. The lights of that old Europe have never been relit, nor ever will be.

Nonetheless this is an account of Grey's life in the round, not merely of his political life, although that is bound to loom large. It is to the author's particular credit that he weaves all the strands so compellingly together: the fisherman, the bird-watcher, the dutiful husband, the paramour, the friend, the magnificently effective Secretary of State, trusted world-wide. (Save only in Germany!) We have here the man entire.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling and Pointless 1 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In looking at the inside cover blurb as to who the author is, the first question that would arise, (at least to me) is - how could someone seemingly so busy and not a writer/researcher or historian by trade - find the time to write a "serious" biography of such a large personality as Grey, his life overall and the complicated events of his time?

Of course the obvious answer is - he hasn't. And, oh-dear-me, how he hasn't.

This is - at best - the sort of book you would give to a first year undergraduate as a "starter'" so they could get general overview familiarity with who and what. Then you would direct them on to the more serious, informed, informative reading and research.

The "Acknowledgements" is barely 2/3 of a page and refers to 9-10 of the author's friends who helped him out.

Footnotes - totally non-existent. Not a one.

The "Select Bibliography" consists of barely just a 2 page long list of 2nd and 3rd hand sources, perhaps almost half of which are of the "personal memoirs" type written in the 1920s and 1930s. Quite a few of those books cited are furthermore not even really germane to the topic, such as reference to some general book about British foreign policy or Balkan events. EVERY book source cited is in the English language. There are no journals, periodicals or newspapers listed.

There is no work in, or reference to, e.g. the Public Records Office in Kew; UK Government papers or files; any person's personal papers; Foreign Office Files; War Office files.

No reference to, or noted use, of (Parliamentary) Hansard; or of any research or library archive.

The book is peppered with "quotations": as X, Y, Z said/wrote/reported...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Keeping the Lights On 21 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Edwardian Requiem
This is a story of Sir Edward Grey or as Prime Minister Herbert Asquith referred to him as “E.Grey.”
He was a man for his times. He was an excellent Foreign Secretary whilst Europe obeyed the norms of the Concert of Europe. But once a belligerent power decided it wanted to dominate Europe through war the position became untenable. It seemed as it says in that excellent BBC drama 37 Days that everyone depended on Edward Grey.
E Grey did not court the limelight, but he kept the lights of Europe burning until it sank into the abyss of the Kaiser’s small Balkan war which his Chief of the Prussian General Staff interpreted as a general European war.
This book therefore provides a thought provoking introduction to Grey and to his times. It is worth reading to understand the basic trend of events that led to the worst war in history and the diplomatic entanglements that ensured it would be a great war. If Grey had any failing it was possibly that he did not anticipate the consequences of war although he was no stranger to its effects. But it was no failing of his that Britain did not have a continental army and that the strategy relied on the navy which would safeguard the Channel and save Britain from invasion. However he initiated Anglo French staff discussions and naval deployments relieving Britain of safeguarding the Mediterranean. He also significantly and perhaps most importantly inaugurated what became known as the “special relationship.”
These precautions he initiated because Germany had an army of four million men and a navy that was rapidly becoming a competitor to British supremacy at sea.
Lloyd George suggested that if Grey had been tougher with Germany it might have been deterred. That, according to the author is unlikely.
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