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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 12 April 2014
This book grew out of the author’s original book ‘Dearest Affie’ published in 1984 and reissued in 1995. Given new sources and research, the author has rewritten the original work and this has now been published as the current book.

Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh and later Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha was the fourth child and second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, born in 1844. Eager from a young age to learn the mechanics of objects, he was desperately keen to join the Navy and at the age of 14 he sailed aboard the HMS Euryalus as a young cadet. In 1866 he was made a Captain.

Alfred was also a keen stamp-collector and photographer and taught himself the violin (a fact which later listeners could credit, as he was apparently not as good at it as he might have liked to believe). By the age of twenty five he had set foot in all five continents, and he was to marry the daughter of a Tsar of Russia. But he was only 17 when his beloved father died. He had been from a young age considered heir to his disreputable Uncle Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha whose own marriage had remained childless and whose death in 1893 made Alfred the Duke. Alfred seems to have a slightly strained relationship with his mother, particularly after Albert’s death.

His role as Captain took him on numerous voyages and visits to various countries, and this part of his life makes for very interesting reading, as I had no idea he had been to so many places or taken part in so many events overseas. Sadly, in 1899 in the midst of celebrations of Alfred and Marie’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, their only son Alfred, unhappy and unbalanced, and in the grip of venereal disease, shot himself. Sent away to recover from his wounds, he died a few weeks later. In 1900 Alfred himself died of cancer of the larynx, just short of his fifty-sixth birthday.

This book succeeds admirably in bringing a real ‘human-ness’ to the story of a royal Duke whose life is little known, and of whom this is the only existing biography. Reserved, practical and all his life a ‘good Englishman’, Alfred on balance led a somewhat sad life. His years in Saxe-Coburg he found dull and his marriage was not particularly happy. He mourned the unhappy marriages of two of his daughters, and his financial affairs were not well handled. Rather a tragic figure, but I’m glad I could get to know more of the man behind the titles in this really interesting and engaging book.
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on 30 August 2014
Having read the original, I was so pleased John Van der Kiste added so much in this second edition. It is a thoroughly good read and I was sorry when I got to the end of it. As he said, so much information has now been released that he has been able to update his first effort. Alfred seemed to be happiest at sea where he was in a position of importance rising from cadet to Admiral of the Fleet, however, he was a very intelligent and conscientious sailor and one feels would have done just as well if he hadn't had such an auspicious parent such was his dedication to the Service. The Navy was the love of his life, not so his wife Marie who was a Russian Duchess and felt marrying Alfred was quite a comedown - she also hated England. Alfred became quite a bad tempered man, probably his heavy drinking didn't do much for his character. Eventually he had to leave the Navy and take up his inheritance as the Duke of Coburg and live in Germany with his family, he seemed to escape as much as he could from his wife, the marriage had soured and she certainly seemed to prefer life when he was out of the way.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 10 September 2016
This book grew out of the author’s original book ‘Dearest Affie’ published in 1984 and reissued in 1995. Given new sources and research, the author has rewritten the original work and this has now been published as the current book.

Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh and later Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha was the fourth child and second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, born in 1844. Eager from a young age to learn the mechanics of objects, he was desperately keen to join the Navy and at the age of 14 he sailed aboard the HMS Euryalus as a young cadet. In 1866 he was made a Captain.

Alfred was also a keen stamp-collector and photographer and taught himself the violin (a fact which later listeners could credit, as he was apparently not as good at it as he might have liked to believe). By the age of twenty five he had set foot in all five continents, and he was to marry the daughter of a Tsar of Russia. But he was only 17 when his beloved father died. He had been from a young age considered heir to his disreputable Uncle Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha whose own marriage had remained childless and whose death in 1893 made Alfred the Duke. Alfred seems to have a slightly strained relationship with his mother, particularly after Albert’s death.

His role as Captain took him on numerous voyages and visits to various countries, and this part of his life makes for very interesting reading, as I had no idea he had been to so many places or taken part in so many events overseas. Sadly, in 1899 in the midst of celebrations of Alfred and Marie’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, their only son Alfred, unhappy and unbalanced, and in the grip of venereal disease, shot himself. Sent away to recover from his wounds, he died a few weeks later. In 1900 Alfred himself died of cancer of the larynx, just short of his fifty-sixth birthday.

This book succeeds admirably in bringing a real ‘human-ness’ to the story of a royal Duke whose life is little known, and of whom this is the only existing biography. Reserved, practical and all his life a ‘good Englishman’, Alfred on balance led a somewhat sad life. His years in Saxe-Coburg he found dull and his marriage was not particularly happy. He mourned the unhappy marriages of two of his daughters, and his financial affairs were not well handled. Rather a tragic figure, but I’m glad I could get to know more of the man behind the titles in this really interesting and engaging book.
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on 19 January 2014
It was a very interesting biography plenty of obscure facts and not to much political jargon. I loved it because he is the least known son of Victoria and there are only scant references in all the other books that I have read ( and they are many) so it was super to have a whole volume about him. Sadly there were many spelling mistakes in the print .
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on 7 April 2015
There is an interesting mix of family gossip and context on a wider european political stage. However there was also too much uninteresting detail such as the precise changes to Naval uniform that Alfred suggested. The fact that he was involved enough to suggest changes was sufficient; I didn't need to know the number of buttons etc.. Occasional errors such as positioning Haslar creek in Portsmouth rather than Gosport were irritating, as were the constant spelling and odd grammatical errors that could easily have been avoided by more careful translation or editing/proof reading (eg. 'apparently found like in a Service town' instead of 'life'). But overall I did end up with an interesting if patchy overview of Victoria's son and an understanding of the machinations and connections of her wider family.
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on 30 July 2014
An interesting book. MANY SPELLING MISTAKES - letters left off words or wrong ones added. This book should not have gone to print left like that. The compositor.proof reader were not doing their job.

When the author is talking about two people it is sometimes confusing to know which person he is referring to. I have had to read several sentences/paragraphs twice to decipher which person he is referring to. In one paragraph he refers to the Duke and Duchess of York then further down refers to just "May" but does not clarify who May is. Knowing history I knew that he was referring to the Duchess of York (May being her nickname) but other people not knowledgeable about royalty wouldn't know.
When referring to certain people the author could have just reiterated shortly who they were and their relationship to Alfred.

Despite the above which was most annoying I found the book interesting.
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on 1 January 2014
I usually read very quickly but am struggling to get through this. Besides the many typos, missing and/or extra words, plus the somewhat shiny paper, the font is bad and the line spacing so close together that it is making it difficult to read. As for the content, some events are glossed over and then others which seem not that important are written about endlessly. I'll keep going but it has taken me five days to get through 1/4 of the book (and it's not very long) when normally a book of this length would have been finished days ago.
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on 20 November 2015
Interesting but infuriating. Worth reading if you can tolerate the lack of an index, and especially the apparent lack of editing/proof-reading: misspellings, words omitted and the wonderful sentence that talks about the kennelling of a "pack of bugles". Now that I'd like to see.
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on 13 July 2015
This is a very readable and concise account of the life of Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria's second son. I found this book a fascinating read - learning so much about this very well traveled yet (in these days) somewhat unknown royal. There are the tragic circumstances of his son's suicide (mirroring the Mayerling tragedy) and Alfred's interesting relationships with his Romanov in-laws. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out more about Queen Victoria's extended family - not just the usual books about Prince Albert and Edward VII etc. Well worth a read.
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on 2 January 2015
I find myself in agreement with those who have written largely negative reviews of the book. The proof readers did a terrible job, as there are many misprints. There are also times when the syntax of the sentences doesn't sound quite correct, and I wonder if this is also due to misprints or whether the author is writing in a language which is not his first. Having read, and much enjoyed, biographies of two other children of Queen Victoria - Louise and Leopold - I was disappointed with this one. This may be in part because, for me, Alfred is a much less engaging character than the other two, but I think that the author has not delved into his personality to any extent, preferring to concentrate on more external matters, as when he describes at interminable length the many ceremonies of welcome to which he was subjected during a visit to Australia, for example. It is said that he got very bored with them. I'm not surprised; I got very bored reading about them!. There must surely be many documents about Alfred as a ship's captain, but the book is vague about this important aspect of his life, limiting itself to saying blandly that his discipline was firm but fair. I would have liked to have the opportunity of judging this for myself. Are there, for example, extant punishment books from his ships? What were his views on flogging, which in the middle of the century was a lively topic of controversy?

Queen Victoria, with her monstrous solipsism, was the mother from hell, and the exchange of letters between her and the other two children referred to are very revealing of their character. Was she much less inclined to try to interfere in Alfred's life because of his very definite choice of career which she might have felt made him less susceptible to her nagging? I find that hard to believe. What I take away from my reading of the book is that Alfred was a somewhat rebarbative character and one whom I have not got to know very well.
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