Edward VII, who gave his name to the Edwardian Age but was always known as Bertie, was fifty-nine when he finally came to power in 1901. He was king for the last nine years of his life.
The eldest son of Victoria and Albert, Bertie was bullied by both his parents. Victoria blamed his scandalous womanising for Albert’s early demise, and this richly entertaining biography reveals his power struggle with Queen Victoria as one of the stormiest mother–son relationships in history.
Denied any proper responsibilities, the heir to the throne spent his time eating (‘Tum Tum’), pursuing women (‘Edward the Caresser’), gambling, going to house parties and race meetings, and shooting pheasants. His arranged marriage to the stunning Danish princess Alexandra gave him access to the European dynastic network; but his name was linked with many beauties, including Lillie Langtry and Winston Churchill’s mother. The most romantic – and the most dangerous – of his mistresses was Daisy Brooke (‘Babbling Brooke’) and the most political and manipulative was Alice Keppel.
But contrary to popular belief, the playboy prince was also an instinctive diplomat: when he eventually became king he did a good job, especially in foreign policy. He further confounded his critics by reinventing the monarchy and giving it a new role for the twentieth century. This magnificent and exhaustively researched book – which draws on numerous new discoveries and primary sources – gives Bertie due credit while painting a vivid portrait of the age in all its excess and eccentricity.
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paints the story of Edward VII and his long, hectic life as Prince of Wales in vivid colours: no scandal is left unturned, and yet the depth and authenticity of the research make it clear that this is a serious, even magesterial work - Sunday Telegraph (Books of the Year)
the best biography was Jane Ridley's Bertie ... Surprisingly, a vast amount of new information, some of it truly eye-opening, surfaced in this beautifully prepared and serious book - Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)
A model of how royal biographies should be written... impeccably researched, with much new material, balanced, sensible, disrespectful without being offensive, funny, and a vivid portrait of one of Britain’s most underrated and understudied monarchs - Spectator (Books of the Year)
Is all about changing perceptions of the rakish heir to the throne who, his biographer insists, was less of a womaniser that commonly thought and came into his own as king - Sunday Times (Books of the Year)
Hugely entertaining from first page to last... It is also scholarly and revealing - Evening Standard (Books of the Year)
Captivating history, flamboyant storytelling and superb research at its very best ... peerless eye for detail - BBC History Magazine (Books of the Year)
Excellent - New Statesman (Books of the Year)
Startling - Spectator (Books of the Year)
I was hugely entertained... [a] wonderful biography - Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)
Ridley has written a marvellous biography. Her book is racy and pacy, filled with delicious descriptions of grand Edwardian shooting parties, cutting-edge fashion and, of course, a string of beautiful society women. But she is never trivial, and nor is her Bertie - Mail on Sunday
A fascinating and compulsively entertaining biography... Ridley’s research is woven through the book, often with considerable humour, illuminating not only the life of a king, but those of his family, friends and lovers... A vibrantly atmospheric portrait - Daily Telegraph
Profoundly learned and a cracking good read - Spectator
This is not only the best biography of King Edward VII (Bertie to his family); it’s also the best book about royalty ever published… Vivid, detailed and original - Independent
Richly colourful and wittily observed - Sunday Times
Brilliantly entertaining… Richly detailed, impeccably researched… Written with a light touch and full of human sympathy… A landmark royal biography - Sunday Telegraph
A magisterial, entertaining book that is unlikely to be bettered - Literary Review
A rollicking read - Sunday Express
A vivid portrait of the age - Lancashire Evening Post
Light in touch, humorous, perceptive and full of fresh judgements - Country Life
The playboy prince is reassessed in this colourful, exhaustively researched life - Sunday Times
One of the best books about royalty ever published - Belfast Telegraph
Erudite and enthralling - BBC History Magazine
Splendid - Guardian
Painstaking detail is matched by superb insight - Sunday Herald
Jane Ridley is a superb historian and biographer - Total Politics
Scholarly, sprightly and ironic, and brims with infectious enthusiasm - Intelligent Life
By this author
About the Author
Jane Ridley is Professor of History at Buckingham University, where she teaches a course on biography. Her previous books include The Young Disraeli, acclaimed by Robert Blake as definitive, while her most recent biography, a highly praised study of the architect Edwin Lutyens and his relationship with his troubled wife, won the Duff Cooper Prize in 2003. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Ridley writes book reviews for the Spectator and other newspapers, and has also appeared on radio and several television documentaries. She lives in London and Scotland.