Friday, November 1, 2013

From Naughty Boy to Wise Monarch: The Heir Apparent by Jane Ridley

Queen Victoria was not pleased to be pregnant with her second child so soon after the first. This unfortunate start dogged Bertie, Albert Edward who later became King Edward VII, for the rest of their relationship. He was raised in a cold regimented way. Prince Albert thought he should be segregated from his peers and made to study on a rigorous schedule. He was constantly criticized by both parents. It's amazing that he didn't grow up to be a bitter man.

Instead of focusing on his ill treatment, Bertie hit back at Victoria in other ways. As soon as he was of age, he abandoned the domesticity treasured by his parents and became a gambler, man-about-town, and womanizer. His mother and sisters selected his bride, the lovely Danish princess, Alexandra. Although Bertie was fond of her, it didn't stop him from having numerous affairs with both lowly women and wives of his friends. Ridley hypothesizes that it was a way for him to express his rage with his mother and sisters.

The middle of the book focuses on his relationships with the various women in his life. It's a delightful gossipy read. Bertie comes across as very human and not quite the debauched satyr as he is often depicted.

The final chapters of the book are devoted to his rule. While it was only 9 years they were fruitful ones for Britain. Bertie turned out to be a hardworking monarch and structured the constitutional monarchy used in Britain today.

The book is extremely well researched with many quotations from letters from the principals as well as quotes from intimates of their circle. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It gave me a different view of the relationship of Victoria and Albert. Their treatment of the oldest son was in many way horrific. Ridley portrays Victoria as so wrapped up in wanting Albert to herself that she couldn't stand the competition from her children. From the quotations, it appears to be true, but it is different from the way I pictured their relationship.

I highly recommend this book if you're interested in the history of Britain specifically the Victorian Era leading to the reign of Edward VII.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.