Entertaining and different, this is an enjoyable study of a flawed yet characterful Prince of Wales seen through the eyes of the women in his life. Edward Vll, who gave his name to the Edwardian Age and died in 1911, was King of England for the final 10 years of his life. He was 59 when at last he came to the throne. Known as Bertie, the eldest son of Victoria and Albert, he was bullied by both his parents. Although Bertie was heir to the throne, Victoria refused to give him any proper responsibilities, as a result of which he spent his time eating, betting, and womanising.
Bertie's numerous mistresses included the society hostess Daisy Brook ('Babbling Brook'), Lillie Langtry and Alice Keppel. When Bertie finally became king, he did a good job, especially in foreign policy. This colourful book gives Bertie due credit, while painting a vivid portrait of the age in all its excess and eccentricity, hypocrisy and heartbreak.
©2012 Jane Ridley (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Carole Boyd is one of my favourite narrators, and she does another brilliant job here in bringing this detailed biography to life. She's particularly good at conveying the rather cloying love of Alexandra, Bertie's long-suffering wife, and all the numerous relations. I never felt lost about who was speaking or being discussed.
As for Edward, I felt very sorry for him. Not particularly clever, he was nonetheless a man of great charm with an innate understanding of others, and it's a pity that he had to wait until he was 60 before he was permitted to do a job. Filling the empty void with house parties, shooting and mistresses must have palled, as it certainly did for me by the end of the book. "Too late", he said when he was finally hailed as King, and I heartily agreed with him. One criticism I have of the book is that I thought his children were hardly mentioned at all - quite an achievement given that he had six of them! Altogether, though, a very interesting and engaging listen and one that's rounded out my understanding of an intriguing man.
I found this book both fasinating and informative, well written and easy to listen to. History has made Bertie a poor follow up act to Queen Victoria and much has been made of his affairs, which this book covers in some detail. But it also enlightened me to what a true statesman he was in his knowledge of European foreign policy ( well he was related to most of the royal families by blood or marriage after all) and could forsee the First World War, although he died four years before it began.
Couple of interesting facts: he was reluctant to see his mother on her deathbed as he had never seen her in bed before and his passion for wearing military uniforms something he shared with his nephew the Kaiser.
As a republican l found more than enough evidence in this audio book to confirm my prejudices m sure royalists will claim the same, therefore a balanced view and a good listen
Wonderfully absorbing account of the life of a complex man. Once I'd got over the fact it's read by The Archer's Linda Snell I was totally captivated by the story of a Prince and King I went from pitying to disliking and back again... several times.
This 'story' - because the facts that are the lives of the British Royal Family are far more like stories than a real work of fiction would dare to mimic! - is brought to life by the narration.
It is interesting to hear the details of this man's life meticulously rolled out by the author, and the era through which he lived - largely in the shadow of his mother - is really brought to life, at least from the perspective of Bertie's 'class'. But the book is made even better by the narration by Carole Boyd, la Snell in The Archers. Brilliant.
I knew very little about Edward VII before listening to this excellent biography. It is well narrated and easy to listen to. I thoroughly enjoyed learning so much about a fascinating King who reigned during such a pivotal period of modern history.
A well written book , very interesting, and excellently narrated.How the playboy Prince with all his indiscretions became a much revered King...so whilst historical in context also has relevance today!
Why do we have this love affair with the royals or at least are so keen to know more of their lives? Well my interest is mostly in historic royals and you can't get better than this biography. I had seen Jane Ridley interviewed on TV on a couple of royal bio programmes. She was so interesting & her enthusiasm infectious, so I just had to have this book. I have not been disappointed. Carol Boyd is an excellent narrator who makes the characters live.
I love history, crime and thrillers, biographies and almost anything by the BBC.
Considering that Queen Victoria and Edward V11 kept voluminous diaries spanning over half a century I just don't know how the author of this book managed to construct a highly readable and enjoyable work. It must have taken years of work to plough through the wealth of material. This is a stunning achievement and through this story of one man you learn about the historical events of the time, the social mores, the mind set of the time and how the society evolved throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The first part of the book which deals with Bertie's childhood is really chilling and one wonders how he survived such ill treatment and emotional deprivation. If Charles Dickens had known of it he would have written a marvellous novel - full of melodrama. Victoria comes across in many ways as a monster but she also had a rather grim childhood. When poor Bertie can 'only' speak two languages by the age of six he is of course considered a 'slow learner' as his older sister is by that age begging for Latin lessons and of course is a brilliant student. I'm sure she was the pride and joy of Albert but I expect other people would have hated this little paragon!
Had Victoria been more trusting towards Bertie he might have been able to contribute far more in a worthwhile sense but all his life Victoria is interfering and dominating both in his public and private life. Edward was almost driven to a life of constant partying and pleasure seeking activities. His wife Alexandra is an adorable character and her early problem with deafness must have been such an isolating and terrible handicap. It sounds as if she did have a wonderful sense of humour and some of the quotes in the book are very amusing.
Another character is Bertie's nephew the Kaiser Wilhelm who is wonderfully portrayed by Carol Boyd in her narration. His sanity is questionable and it must have been hard for the extremely intelligent Vicky to produce this ghastly son!
This is a stunning book and I will be reading and re-reading it as the story is so rich and covers so many political and personal crises of this large family that it would be hard to take it all in on just one read. Carol Boyd does an excellent job and her narrating skills are peerless.
I haven't read the print version so can't compare. But the narration is outstanding. Carole Boyd gives each character a distinctive voice and remains plausible as a narrator throughout.
So many. The book was a revelation to me. I always thought 'Bertie' to be rather a specious individual, no more than a playboy Prince who reigned for a few years and made no mark. I totally misjudged his contribution to the power politics on a role stage leading to the First World War. And I was unaware of his support and promotion of numerous hospitals and legislation intended to improve the lot of the poor. So meant memorable events.
Not yet, but I enjoyed her narration and remember her as a Radio and TV actor.
I found a number of events touching; the death of Queen Victoria is well accounted as is the death of the King. His I'll humour was entertaining.
A thoroughly enjoyable account of a life well lived. A very different person to the one I thought he was. A man of substance whose contribution to change in both the Monarchy and world events is underrated.
"cannot fault this audiobook"
I hesitate to use the word 'perfect', but I really can't fault this audiobook. This biography is as good as any I have read: informative and entertaining from start to finish, painstakingly researched, and beautifully written. At the end, I almost felt I had known Bertie and experienced some of the claustrophobia of the court, counter-balanced by the freedom which came with money and position at the top of the social ladder. It is expertly read by Carole Boyd who has just the right voice for this genre. Her voices for the various characters, her facility with accents, and correct pronunciation of foreign words and names are very impressive. Bertie, Ridley and Boyd - perfect combination.
"Jolly Good Historical Read!"
I love the historical bits from the UK; their history totally out-swags the USA. I enjoy being able to relate to the modern fact that Bertie was Elizabeth II's Great Granddaddy. Though it is non-fiction the listening was among the best ever from Audible.
I liked that one views Victoria's reign from an altogether different perspective when focused on her son's point of view.
I enjoyed the character of Bertie's wife Alexandra the best, but all the voices were wonderful - I guess I did not realized one person did all the parts. Nice!
Great book! It really leaves no unanswered questions about his life; it was so EXTREMELY thorough and well researched! Very impressive work.
I would love to read a biography of George V written by the same author, it would feel like a natural continuation.
"I cried when I finished"
This is one of those books I couldn't bear to put down. The writing is brilliant, the performance perfection itself, and the story mesmerizing. Gossip, history, fun, and enlightenment are all here, and Carole Boyd is absolutely dazzling in her rendition, mastering flawless pronunciation in several languages and acting worthy of an award. I recommend this book to all who enjoy history, biography, and the theatre of the ear.
"A charming pleasure-seeker who did the job his way"
The reign of King Edward VII ("Bertie" to his family) was expected to be a disappointment by most. But he would have not have been shocked by this verdict, it was one he had been hearing for most of his life. A gambler and a philanderer, his bad behavior was not only whispered among the upper class, but also ended up as fodder for the unwashed masses when he ended up in court a few times. His most horrible crime was that he was not the carbon copy of his late father Prince Consort Albert, an offense that Queen Victoria could not forgive.
This is an excellent, thorough book on the life of future King Edward VII. It is also very even-handed on the good and bad aspects of the man himself.
In some ways, it's extraordinary that he did as well as he did. Prince Albert had high expectations for his children, especially Bertie, the heir. He devised a rigorous education for them. His oldest child, the Princess Royal Victoria, excelled while Bertie did not. Of course, this must have been the fault of poor strange Bertie, not the teachers and certainly not Prince Albert's program. In response to this failure, his education became more difficult, not less. and leaving him little free time, not that he would have been allowed to socialize with boys his own age if he did have free time.
As a young man away from home, his male friends introduced him to a "loose woman" who became his mistress. An aghast Prince Albert hurried to confront his son about his behavior. Prince Albert's health declined soon afterwards, leading to his death.
The fractious attitude of widowed Queen Victoria towards Bertie became a constant problem. Heartbroken by the loss of her beloved husband, Queen Victoria always blamed Bertie's dissolute behavior for Albert's death. Her punishment of him was of the most unproductive kind. For years, she forbade him any involvement in governmental affairs even after he expressed an interest, essentially making sure her heir was unprepared for his eventual responsibilities. It also gave him lots of free time to engage in the type of profligate lifestyle that his father had been determined to curtail. Bertie knew his mother was disappointed in his present behavior, but also knew that no penance he could do would have earned her forgiveness and healed the relationship. Queen Victoria even had Bertie and his new wife, beautiful, sweet Alexandra of Denmark spied on by the staff, to try to make sure both followed her directions. Not a perfect husband to Alexandra, he nonetheless backed her over the Queen during the war between her home country of Denmark and Germany (favored by the Queen) and the diplomatic problems that it caused.
Though not officially allowed in governmental affairs, Bertie stepped into the royal role that his reclusive mother refused to fill after Albert's death: the social role. Always impeccably dressed Bertie and Alexandra performed almost all of the public functions as representatives of the royal family. They were a glamorous pair, probably a big contrast to the stiff and stolid Victoria and Albert. Infidelity in an upper class man was still acceptable as long as there was discretion and a devoted wife at the side. Bertie's letters to mistresses are surprisingly mundane - no husband would read these lines and grab a pisol. His unwelcome court appearances were the result of getting dragged into the limelight by the indiscreet misdeeds of others in his circle. He was open-minded for his time: he welcomed successful Jewish financiers into his social circle and he did not discriminate among race (though he opposed women's rights).
His accession to the throne happened late in life. By then, he was aware of his own strengths and weaknesses. His interest in foreign relations, convivial manner and good relationships with the royalty of other contries (many of them relatives) were put to the good use on behalf of England. Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm's forceful, intrusive manner was annoying to the quiet Russian Tzar Nicholas II. King Edward VII told the Tzar that he had no wish to offer unsolicited advice like Wilhem. He had been a help to the young Tzar years earlier at the death of Tzar Alexander II (Alexandra's sister was the Tzarina). He and Alexandra comforted the grieving family, and performed all of the traditional Russian mourning rituals as members of the late Tzar's family (even kissing the lips of the rapidly decaying body), gaining the respect of the Russian public. King Edward VII's personality, his ability to put people at ease, and his shrewdness of the public impact of social behavior were his biggest assets and he made use of them in his reign.
"Complete and detailed story of a remarkable king"
One of the best.
His relationship with his parents.
She accurately portrayed the various voices.
Waiting to be king
"An Important End to a Dissipated Life"
What struck me the most about this book was the inequality of time spent on Bertie's turn as a dissipated Prince of Wales and the time spent detailing what was by most accounts a successful and important reign as King. I realize this is largely because he spent the majority of his life as the Prince of Wales and only the last decade as King. And I understood the author's intent - to show how the huge blunders and small catastrophes of his early wasted years, shaped him into the king he became. But it still seems to me that the reader walks away with a far better understanding of what made him a terrible husband, questionable friend and embarrassing representative of the royal family, than what made him a successful monarch.
All of that said, this was an informative, well researched biography of a man at the center of a stage, but more importantly of the time period in which he served and many of the secondary characters who surrounded him that we know little about. The characterizations of the prime ministers and senior governmental officials that served Victoria and then Edward was fascinating. She also gave a very balanced account of his wife Alexandra and his many mistresses, I thought. And even when Bertie was shown at his worst, the author used other key people in his life to show that no matter how poorly Bertie was behaving, his mother, his nephew, every member of the Churchill family and a few of his mistresses were worse.
Near the end of the book the author that King Edward's parenting skills definitely gave credence to the generally held belief that the British royal family makes terrible parents. And I know we are often doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents, but I thought that the saddest aspect of the book was how uninvolved he was in the lives of his children. After the example of his parents, one would think he might have tried to compensate. But the only child the book spends any time on was his heir who Edward obviously disliked and who he believed was as wasted a human being as his parents thought Edward was. His obvious grief at his sons death made his treatment of him when he was alive all the more pitiable.
If you are interested in the prelude to and the reasoning behind World War I, this biography of the central figure of the Edwardian age, the uncle of Europe, this book is definitely worth reading. If you are more interested in the gossip and torrid behind the scene details of court life, this book is worth reading. In the end, the most interesting aspect of the book is that it manages to be two books in one. A tell-tell biography full of salacious gossip, rumors and fact, and a fascinating look at Europe before the war that shaped the 20th Century.
Well written and well read window on Victorian and Edwardian history well worth the time and expense!
"Good listening, gossipy, relaxing"
Sound research, hgighly entertaining
Autobiography of Henry V111 by Margaret George
I would if I had 50 hours! But I could listen to it more than once
A good satisfactory "read"
Haven't read the print version.
This is a completely new take on Edward VII. The book got wonderful reviews in Britain. I can see why.
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