on 26 September 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 This was possible due to the fact that the author had unlimited access to hitherto thousands of unpublished or censored documents and letters-a thing she explains in a long chapter at the very beginning of the book.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!
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!
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.
By the end of his life, Bertie appears as a conscientious and hardworking king. He was uncle to both the German Kaiser and the Russian Tsar, and worked hard behind the scenes to try to maintain peace in Europe.
I found this biography interesting: I'd previously only read about the scandalous aspects of Bertie's life (the mistresses and the self-indulgent lifestyle). This book sets a framework for his life and a context for his actions. It seems to me that as king he did the best job he could in the circumstances.
on 3 September 2012
I couldnt put this book down, Ridley has gained access to the private letters between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Bertie), to reveal what can only be described as the worst mother / son realtionship we have seen in a long while! Its amazing to think that so much scandal went on in Victorian Britain. Its one of the most interesting books i have read in years. Must buy and must read
on 19 November 2013
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.
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.
on 5 April 2016
Excellently written covering the life of an often overlooked monarch . Terrible childhood emotionally, aimless hedonistic adult life and then Edward the Caresser becomes a really progressive modern monarch rescuing the institution from possible consequences of Queen Victoria's years of neglect of the role. Jane Ridley's history is both fact filled yet a very lively story that moves briskly and grabs your attention. This is a wonderful way to enhance knowledge or(in my case) to rectify a gap in my historical reading. Love it
on 2 October 2012
This new biography of Edward VII is a must read for anyone interested in 19th and 20th century British history. From it we learn much of the story of Queen Victoria's children, not just Bertie. Though AE signed up in many ways for the formality of the Victorian court, he was also pretty good at escaping the gilded cage when he wished to. Jane Ridley has produced many fascinating insights into Bertie's life and loves, his marriage to the long-suffering Alix, and his children. All is set against the background of great events in Europe and beyond, involving heads of state most of whom Edward was closely related to. The final part of the book offers a new and convincing vision of Bertie's achievements on the throne. Not to be missed.
on 19 June 2015
The Edwardian era is named after him, but apart from that history has generally not given king Edward 7 the credit he deserves. He has often been portrayed as a scandal prone womanizing gluttonous bounder. There is no denying he had affairs and enjoyed a good multi course dinner and only avoided major legal embarassements due to his position. He did however also make important contributions to European history and British foreign policy during his short reign, and as this biography shows he was actually an intelligent and likeable character. Well written and researched, this biography is good value for Money and bertie is quite good Company if you like biographies.
on 17 October 2012
Jane Ridley has done a marvellous job with this book. It is everything Claire Tomalin's Dickens should have been, but wasn't. We get the salient detail, the pivotal historical points but, far more importantly, we get the man. It is a tribute to Ms. Ridley's skill that the reader is never entirely sure whether the author approves of her subject - but she doesn't restrict herself to a railway timetable of his comings and goings, rather she chooses those moments that reveal something about the man. She is also ambivalent about Victoria. In the early part of the book she judges her severely but, later, as he grows to manhood, we catch revealing glances of the more thoughtful side of this not so cerebral Queen.
We learn about the Kaiser and how the intermarriage of all Victoria's children into the European Royal families turned out to be less of a blessing and something of a handicap for governments wrestling with a growing sense of nationalism.
A fabulous book that, despite it's packed itinerary, reads more like a novel than a biography.