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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 4 January 2014

"Bertie: a life of Edward VII" by Jane Ridley

Three stars: Good.

This is an authoritative and lively biography of King Edward VII. He was born the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and named Albert Edward but called Bertie. His mother was a controlling and domineering woman who adored his pious father and had little love left for her children. What was worse, Bertie's elder sister Vicky was an academic genius who so outshone him in the classroom that he seemed to be a dunce.

An important moment in his life came when he discovered sex. This was his 'Fall'. His parents were horrified. Shortly afterwards Prince Albert died and Victoria blamed her son (rather than the state of the drains in the royal residences). So he was thick and morally suspect. Even after his wedding to Princess Alexandra he continued to enjoy the favours of the noble and not-so-noble ladies who fell for him; he was surrounded by mistresses and scandals.

He surprised everyone when, after a very long wait for his mother to die, he succeeded to the throne and became a surprisingly good king; Prince Hal made good.

This is a thoroughly researched biography (she debunks many of the claims for royal bastards) and it is well written so that it keeps going. Perhaps the nicest touch is the author's occasional flashes of humour, for example when she notes that one of Bertie's favourites, a courtesan nicknamed Skittles, has a blue plaque on the same street as Florence Nightingale and sardonically comments "Both women did much of their work in bed". There are interesting insights: the only way that Bertie could gain access to Foreign Office documents is when someone found a duplicate key to the red boxes and gave him it but there were initial problems because you had to insert the key in a certain way before it would turn properly. There are also lots of interesting connections with famous people, from the father of Alice In Wonderland, to the mother of Winston Churchill.

However, it remains a competent biography of a man whose life was not so very interesting. Most of his life was spent in dinner parties and country house shoots. Unless one is an ardent royalist there is not much that is exciting here.

Interesting with flashes of humour. January 2014; 477 pages


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