If, like my mother-in-law, you don’t enjoy books about the generation of British and European royals who were Queen Victoria’s children because Queen Victoria was so “beastly” to them, stay away from this biography of Prince Albert Edward/King Edward VII. Victoria is a mother who – knowing that her letters could well be preserved for posterity and made public – wrote to her daughter Vicky, Bertie’s sister, “The nose…is becoming the true Coburg nose, and begins to hang a little, but there remains unfortunately the want of chin which with that very large nose and very large lips is no so well in profile.”
And that’s the problem. Queen Victoria glowered over Prince Albert Edward’s life for so long that much of what we see of him is filtered through her dour presence and influence. Because of this perhaps, I felt that Bertie was always “off stage” or behind glass in this book. But don’t get me wrong – it is an intricate and readable book and a must in any library about 19th/20th century British and European royals. Ridley credits Bertie with restoring the glamour to the British monarchy and with having had a greater influence on foreign diplomacy than he is usually granted – particularly with respect to the Entente Cordiale.
Portrait by John Henry Frederick Bacon of Edward VII’s coronation