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Extremely well-written biography.,
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This review is from: Bertie: A Life of Edward VII (Hardcover)
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. He married early to the beautiful Danish princess, Alexandra, and they had six children, five of whom survived to early adulthood. Bertie and Alix certainly had a troubled marriage, made all the more difficult by Bertie's roving eye and appreciation for a pretty face and a well-turned leg. Ridley does a good job at pointing out that many of the women Edward was reported to have bedded were really friends, in the platonic sense. Of the "dozens" of children Edward has been thought to have fathered "on the side", Jane Ridley can only find on definite child born to Edward and a mistress. But whatever the truth of Bertie's amorous activities, he was also known as a gambler and drinker. His "crowd", the Marlborough Set, was charged with keeping the Prince of Wales "busy" and "entertained" in those long years as Prince. Scandals abounded and much of the Prince's time was kept up with getting he and his friends out of trouble.
Jane Ridley writes not only about Edward, but also about his family and his friends. She does a great job at keeping everyone straight, from lady friends to fellow members of European royalty. She gives a very good overview of English and European politics and Bertie's place in it and influence on it. Her book is superb reading.