Kenneth Rose informs the reader in the prologue of this scrupulously researched biography of King George V, that his subject was born out of the direct line of succession to the throne, had only received the limited education of a nineteenth century naval officer, and was further handicapped by his ingrained conservatism; he tells us: "He was indifferent to science and politics, to history and the arts; he spoke scarcely a word of any foreign language. Public ceremonial affected his nerves and entertainment his digestion. Few could regard his accession with enthusiasm, or even confidence." Reading this, right at the beginning of the biography, one would be forgiven for wondering whether George V would be an interesting enough character to justify the book's 500+ pages; however, Kenneth Rose, who has used material drawn from fifty archive collections, including extracts from the King's diaries, has written an in-depth and very interesting biography which shows that George V surprised his detractors, and how, under the direction of two experienced private secretaries, he applied himself to the role and learnt how to become a successful constitutional monarch and a dutiful, respected and popular king.
Mr Rose shows a good understanding of his subject and, having been allowed special access to information about the King's private and public life, he has been able to produce a well-rounded portrayal of George V, and a biography which, although full of political drama, is also interspersed with some amusing anecdotes, making this both an informative and an enjoyable read. The author also takes time out from the factual information he presents, to explain in detail (as far as he is able) how the outlook and personality of his subject affected his response to the difficult decisions he was required to make, and how he also had to put personal feelings aside, especially when he had to deny asylum to his cousin, Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who were later executed by revolutionaries. I must admit that initially I wasn't hugely interested in reading a biography about George V, but having read and enjoyed Jane Ridley's biography of his father, Edward VII (The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII) and looking forward to reading Philip Ziegler's biography of his son, Edward VIII (King Edward VIII), I felt I should really learn more about George V, and I am very glad that I now have. A deftly-crafted, meticulously researched and very well-written account.
"I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien" was George V. 's comment when the Writer H. G. Wells wrote about Britain's "alien and uninspiring court", alien in a sense of Germanic. In 1917 he felt it better to give up his German titles and named the dynasty Windsor instead of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. George V is often remembered as the "look-a-like" with the last Czar; they were first cousins as their mothers were sisters. A dark part of this reign was his decision to withdraw the initital invitation of his government to grant asylm to the Imperial Family. This was due to his fears of branded as too Germanic for the "German last Empress".
George V (1865 - 1936) became king in 1910. His reign was dominated by WW I and here he proved to be the leader needed: steady, dutiful, reliable and devoted. Only the second son of the future Edward VII, with no prospect of a throne he acquired only the limited education of a nineteenth-century naval officer, he grew up indifferent to science and politics, history and the arts, his views staunchly conservative, and his favorite-and principal-occupations partridge shooting and stamp collecting. Well, one can call that "uninspiring". But at the age of twenty-six, with the death of his older brother, he found himself in direct line of succession to the throne-a role for which he felt "ill-equipped both by temperament and training. He did not only inherited his brother's position but his bride. Mary of Teck became his wife and an impressive Queen Consort. Their love and mutual understanding was deep, however hardly expressed in person but in writing. In his role as a father he was however apparently less successful: "My father was frightened of his mother. I was frightened of my father and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me." The Queen did not make up for it as she could never forget that the cildrens' father was as well their sovereign. George's relationship with his heir, Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor deteriorated over these years and he said "After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in twelve months". Indeed he did. Inspite the odds of his personal disadvantage by the silver jubilee of his reign in 1935, he had become a well-loved king, saying in response to the crowd's adulation, "I cannot understand it, after all I am only a very ordinary sort of fellow."
Kenneth Vivian Rose Rose is an award winning writer, having won the prestigious Whitbread Book Award in the biography category in 1983 for his book on King George V. This indeed the classic biography on the King and one of the best biographies. Rose writes with candor and objectivity, but with a deep respect for his subject and gives the reader the most convincing, insightful, and vivid portrait. It is an immensely readable biography that suits George V. It is fair-minded biography. I only found it a bit weak on the man George.
All in all, this is the book to read about George V.
Kenneth Rose is a naturally talented biographer with an extraordinary ability to reveal not only his subject's life story, but also the most intimate details of their character - the essence of a good biography. The author is also a passionate monarchist, so brings a unique knowledge and love of this subject to deliver the most interesting and authoritative work on King George V.
What makes this particular account so powerful is that Rose's painstaking research provides a level of detail seldom found in any biography let alone a royal one. He knew many members of the late King's inner circle personally, while his connections with other members of the Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, allowed him unique access to information that might otherwise never have been made public. The result is a fascinating portrait that has stood the test of time. Its impact is undiminished despite the fact that it was originally published more than 20 years ago.
It helps that Rose is also a great raconteur. The book is chock-full of wonderfully observed and frequently amusing anecdotes that enable the reader to truly understand not only King George V but equally the period and historical context that shaped his view of the world and his impact as King. In summary, biographies can sometimes be dry and uninspiring. Not this one;. It is genuinely a rose among thorns and a book that entertains as well as educates.
This edition of "King George V " was sold as used with some shelf damage. It arrived ahead of the given schedule and was beautifully packed. The book was as new - no marks, scrapes or discolouration anywhere. It was perfect and a huge saving on a hard-copy. The text was a little small but the lighter days arrived virtually at the same time as the book and I rapidly became used to it. The content of the book was as good as the article which I read in the "Telegraph" at the time of Kenneth Rose's death was very accurate. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it.