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The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince [Kindle Edition]

Jane Ridley
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW AND THE BOSTON GLOBE

This richly entertaining biography chronicles the eventful life of Queen Victoria’s firstborn son, the quintessential black sheep of Buckingham Palace, who matured into as wise and effective a monarch as Britain has ever seen. Granted unprecedented access to the royal archives, noted scholar Jane Ridley draws on numerous primary sources to paint a vivid portrait of the man and the age to which he gave his name.
 
Born Prince Albert Edward, and known to familiars as “Bertie,” the future King Edward VII had a well-earned reputation for debauchery. A notorious gambler, glutton, and womanizer, he preferred the company of wastrels and courtesans to the dreary life of the Victorian court. His own mother considered him a lazy halfwit, temperamentally unfit to succeed her. When he ascended to the throne in 1901, at age fifty-nine, expectations were low. Yet by the time he died nine years later, he had proven himself a deft diplomat, hardworking head of state, and the architect of Britain’s modern constitutional monarchy.
 
Jane Ridley’s colorful biography rescues the man once derided as “Edward the Caresser” from the clutches of his historical detractors. Excerpts from letters and diaries shed new light on Bertie’s long power struggle with Queen Victoria, illuminating one of the most emotionally fraught mother-son relationships in history. Considerable attention is paid to King Edward’s campaign of personal diplomacy abroad and his valiant efforts to reform the political system at home. Separating truth from legend, Ridley also explores Bertie’s relationships with the women in his life. Their ranks comprised his wife, the stunning Danish princess Alexandra, along with some of the great beauties of the era: the actress Lillie Langtry, longtime “royal mistress” Alice Keppel (the great-grandmother of Camilla Parker Bowles), and Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston.
 
Edward VII waited nearly six decades for his chance to rule, then did so with considerable panache and aplomb. A magnificent life of an unexpectedly impressive king, The Heir Apparent documents the remarkable transformation of a man—and a monarchy—at the dawn of a new century.

Praise for The Heir Apparent
 
“If [The Heir Apparent] isn’t the definitive life story of this fascinating figure of British history, then nothing ever will be.”The Christian Science Monitor

The Heir Apparent is smart, it’s fascinating, it’s sometimes funny, it’s well-documented and it reads like a novel, with Bertie so vivid he nearly leaps from the page, cigars and all.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“I closed The Heir Apparent with admiration and a kind of wry exhilaration.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Ridley is a serious scholar and historian, who keeps Bertie’s flaws and virtues in a fine balance.”The Boston Globe
 
“Brilliantly entertaining . . . a landmark royal biography.”The Sunday Telegraph
 
“Superb.”The New York Times Book Review


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Long-lived Queen Victoria had an era named after her, as did her long-waiting heir when he eventually succeeded to the British throne. Edward VII was an absolute style icon and knew how to enjoy a good party and a robust liaison with a pretty—and willing—woman. The term “Edwardian” thus became associated with high fashion and high living. The title of Ridley’s biography of King Edward is appropriate to the popular sense of the monarch, that his life was defined by his many years as the indulged and indulgent Prince of Wales. But significant research stands behind the author’s more judicious understanding of the man, that the “dissipated prince evolved into a model king.” Barred by his mother from any participation in royal duties out of her obsessive conviction that her son was not of sufficiently solid material to follow her on the throne, Bertie turned, in compensation, to hot pursuit of pleasure, garnering a reputation for playing not only hard but even scandalously. Nevertheless, upon the old queen’s demise in 1901 and his own accession, Edward rose to the occasion to be Britain’s first constitutional monarch as we define that role today, modernizing the monarchy and making it stronger. A top-notch royal biography for all active British-history collections. --Brad Hooper

Review

“If [The Heir Apparent] isn’t the definitive life story of this fascinating figure of British history, then nothing ever will be.”The Christian Science Monitor
 
The Heir Apparent is smart, it’s fascinating, it’s sometimes funny, it’s well-documented and it reads like a novel, with Bertie so vivid he nearly leaps from the page, cigars and all.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“I closed The Heir Apparent with admiration and a kind of wry exhilaration.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Ridley is a serious scholar and historian, who keeps Bertie’s flaws and virtues in a fine balance.”The Boston Globe
 
“Brilliantly entertaining . . . a landmark royal biography.”The Sunday Telegraph
 
“Superb.”The New York Times Book Review

“A top-notch royal biography . . . The title of Ridley’s biography of King Edward is appropriate to the popular sense of the monarch, that his life was defined by his many years as the indulged and indulgent Prince of Wales. But significant research stands behind the author’s more judicious understanding of the man, that the ‘dissipated prince evolved into a model king.’”Booklist (starred review)

“[A] marvelously rich biography of Edward VII . . . Readers both general and specialized will delight in Ridley’s work; it raises the bar for royal biographies to come.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“A highly readable, definitive biography of Queen Victoria’s son, the ‘black sheep of Buckingham Palace,’ who matured into an effective monarch . . . [A] top-notch life of the king . . . There is no shortage of biographies of Edward VII, but this thick, lucid and lively history deserves pride of place on the shelf.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“[A] splendid new biography.”—The Guardian
 
“Profoundly learned and a cracking good read.”—The Spectator
 
“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.”—The Mail on Sunday
 
“Ridley’s definitive biography is a remarkable achievement. Entertaining, readable and illuminating, this much-anticipated reappraisal of a fascinating life is a brilliant tour de force.”—Bridlington Free Press
 
“Bertie, as he was universally known, couldn’t do anything without it being commented on and often distorted. Though the gossip columnists had plenty of material to work with, they only told part of the story. [Ridley] does an excellent job of redressing the balance.”—Financial Times

Product Details

  • File Size: 6490 KB
  • Print Length: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (December 3, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DAD3ACO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,830 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarship That's Meant To Be Read November 4, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's difficult to imagine the time and effort that Jane Ridley devoted to her book The Heir Apparent, a long and painstakingly detailed biography of King Edward VII of England. The author has a career-long commitment to studying the history of Great Britain and its monarchs, and delving into archives that had been untouched for a century or more must have been extremely exciting. The author, I'm sure, found her work especially satisfying since discovery of new documentation was due, in good part, to her efforts to make the biography as accurate and complete as possible. When the portrait that emerged from her decade-long study of this massive collection of forgotten or previously ignored sources came to constitute a substantial revision of long-standing assumptions about the role and importance of Edward VII, I'm certain that Ridley was thrilled. She had created something genuinely new: a picture of early 20th Century England that differed significantly from other interpretations.

The eldest son of long-reigning Queen Victoria, the youthful Edward VII, then known as the Prince of Wales and nicknamed Bertie, showed little promise as a prospective British monarch. Insofar as his future required disciplined intelligence and scholarly cultivation, the transition from the high-sounding but devoid-of-duties Prince of Wales to the demanding role of King in a constitutional monarchy seemed a move that Bertie was sure to bungle. Ignorant and ineffectual monarchs are commonplace throughout European history, but the proud Victoria had hoped to produce something much better.

Ironically, the length of Victoria's reign and her lack of confidence in Bertie both contributed to turning him into a womanizer, hard-luck gambler, world-class glutton, and general purpose do-nothing.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Misunderstood And Underestimated Monarch October 28, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
King Edward VII's reign lasted only 9 years, but it is usually remembered as a sort of Golden Age of British eminence, a time when two-fifths of the world was ruled from London and the seas were dominated by an all powerful Royal Navy. King Edward VII's popular image is well suited for that conception: a large, powerful, domineering man, self-confident and vain, a roue who moved from one mistress to another as well as a statesman who maintained the peace. Jane Ridley's new biography of the King validates many of these conceptions, but with the help of some new material calls others into question.

It is easy to be appalled by the circumstances under which Edward VII spent his boyhood. He was raised under an exhausting and unimaginative regimen which did not suit him, and was continually reminded by his parents Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of how much depended on him and how disappointed they were that he did not live up to their expectations. He might have grown up a bitter and badly warped personality, but instead he became a kindly, if sometimes thoughtless individual who loved fun and games. His mother refused to allow him to play any role in government, meaning that he had to fill his days with amusements. He was married at a young age to the beautiful Princess Alexandra, and he indulged himself with a series of romantic affairs and a number of semi-official mistresses, including Lillie Langtry.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging account November 1, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Albert Edward, the future king Edward VII, seemed a most unlikely candidate for a successful monarch. An "heir apparent" for longer than anyone except Prince Charles, he did not ascend the throne until he was fifty-nine. Even his mother, the redoubtable Queen Victoria, thought him an unworthy successor and blamed him for the death of her beloved husband, Albert. Bertie, as he was know to the family, preferred to leave the inhospitable and monastic life of Buckingham Palace to spend time drinking, gambling and enjoying a long series of mistresses. And yet, he proved to be most effective upon becoming king, counting among his successes strengthening the defence of the realm while improving relations with Britain's allies.

In this meticulously researched and very well written history, Ms. Ridley made excellent use of her unrestricted access to royal archives at Windsor Castle. What emerges is not only a delightful biography of Edward, but also an engaging glimpse of the era in which he lived. This is truly living history.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written. Couldn't put it down. November 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
he Heir Apparent - A Life Of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley

What a wonderfully written biography. I had heard of the "Edwardian Period" but being from America, I was not really clued into what Europe was like at that time in history. Edward's story was captivating and revealing. I got a true sense of how difficult it is to live the life of a future king. Much of what this "heir apparent" experienced in childhood, how he chose to live his life and the privileges/difficulties he endured helped mold him into a king worth remembering. It made me want to learn more about the history of the English monarchy and it reminded me that much of what we see today (of "the firm") can be traced back to the reformation efforts of King Edward VII. Well done Ms. Ridley! Your eighty-nine steps up to the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle were worth the effort.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read.
Published 11 days ago by kay bills
4.0 out of 5 stars Life of a playboy who beams king of England
A very detailed life of Edward VII, He was indeed a playboy and his indiscretions are covered in great--almost too great--detail. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Groba
4.0 out of 5 stars Author's hatred for Bertie's parents steals a star from this book
This is a pretty good book. It serves as a useful corrective to biographies of Edward VII that treat him as a fluff-brained, under-educated, party animal. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Marcy L. Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it. Much new information and detail (for me
Enjoyed it. Much new information and detail (for me, anyway!). Very readable and gave me a new appreciation for Bertie and new insights into his upbringing.
Published 28 days ago by NLJ
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent!
Well worth reading. Filled with detail to really "flesh out" the king and present him, his complicated relationships, and politics of his time in a very readable book.
Published 1 month ago by Otiesmom
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyed this read...but at short sittings. Very in depth.
Published 1 month ago by taoesque
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, well put together, a must read-not-put-down book ...
Informative, well put together, a must read-not-put-down book.
If one looks forward to a well written historical book about the British Royal Family, this is it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Peter Benjamin
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Boring in many chapters.......not exactly an interesting book!!
Published 1 month ago by Gerry Rathmann
3.0 out of 5 stars An Eye-Opener About the Royals
Very enlightening about his youth and a big eye-opener about his mother Queen Victoria. I never knew she was such a witch. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nancy
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written & Comprehensive
A lot that has appeared in earlier books but some new information too.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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