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Edward VII, forgotten King but remarkable man!
on 7 July 2014
This is a very interesting, relaxing read. The title might seem a little trivialising but the content gives a very positive picture of a unique figure in British history. Oppressed by his narrow-minded father who was wholly supported by his mother, even after Prince Albert was dead, the prince, later King Edward VII, found his pleasures mostly in Paris and particularly enjoyed the tutelage of Napoleon III. The licentious Napoleon surrounded himself with like-minded admirers and cocottes of every persuasion. The young Edward was impressionable and built his own sexual gratification on French courtly preferences. His poor wife Alexandra was tolerated but seemingly ignored. Paris was there not only for its vice but also for its monumentally important culture.
To paint this dissolute picture, Stephen Clarke has given us a lively account of mid-nineteenth century France, its peccadillos and its continuous political uncertainty, hung between monarchy and republic. The political climate is shown to have been influential in making Prince Edward an outstanding diplomat, juggling with his Russian Czar cousin and his German Kaiser cousin in a series of alliances that were contradictory and unreliable. The case that had Edward lived a few years longer (he died in 1910), the First World War might have been avoided is a little tenuous but, nonetheless interesting speculation.
I have said enough to show potential readers that this book is not focused only on Edward's shocking behaviour but on a man who became King later in life, who loved the admiration of crowds, who revelled in pageantry and who a century ago did much to establish the British monarchy as the high profile tourist attraction it is today. Incidentally some of Edward's genes have been passed down to his descendants!
This is a good relaxing book that paints a fascinating picture as interesting for those who are observers of life in the past than those who would claim to be 'historians'.