Biography / Nonfiction

The Heir Apparent by Jane Ridley

Book Cover (The Heir Apparent)Ridley is a British history professor who has written other books about Victorian England.  The Heir Apparent is the definitive biography of King Edward VII — for whom the Edwardian Era (1901 – 1910) was named.  It is exhausting in its detail, as Ridley seems to quote from every letter she found.  (Many of them didn’t even survive!)  But the reader learns several things from the work.  Chief among them is the back story of Queen Victoria, who was disappointed in her first-born son and thought him unfit to rule.  Because “Bertie” (as he is affectionately known) had no official duties, he spent a lot of time entertaining women.  The reader learns all about Bertie’s  mistresses, but Ridley also states that there is no evidence to confirm much of the gossip about him.  (So, was he a playboy or not?)  She also outlines Bertie’s family tree and shows how most of European royalty was related by marriage.  (Those family ties, however, were not enough to prevent the outbreak of war in 1914).  Bertie himself married Princess Alexandra of Denmark, and his sisters married the Duke of Hesse and the Czarevich of Russia.  His nephew, William, was more commonly known as Kaiser Wilhelm!  (He and Bertie were not on the best of terms.)  As I read the book I couldn’t help but compare Bertie’s situation with that of Prince Charles.  Will he also have a short reign after waiting decades to assume the throne?

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