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Bertie: A Life of Edward VII | [Jane Ridley]

Bertie: A Life of Edward VII

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

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  •  
    Flatbroke 05-10-13
    Flatbroke 05-10-13 Member Since 2001
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    "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.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robyn 06-01-13
    Robyn 06-01-13
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    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cathy 03-31-13
    cathy 03-31-13

    Middle School teacher with a 100 miles round-trip daily commute; which I could never maintain all these long years without audible books.

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    "Jolly Good Historical Read!"
    Where does Bertie: A Life of Edward VII rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked that one views Victoria's reign from an altogether different perspective when focused on her son's point of view.


    Which character – as performed by Carole Boyd – was your favorite?

    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!


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simone 12-13-12
    Simone 12-13-12 Member Since 2006

    Join me on GoodReads too!

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    "Impressive!"

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen 01-14-13
    Kathleen 01-14-13
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    "Complete and detailed story of a remarkable king"
    Where does Bertie: A Life of Edward VII rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Bertie: A Life of Edward VII?

    His relationship with his parents.


    What about Carole Boyd’s performance did you like?

    She accurately portrayed the various voices.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Waiting to be king


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. D. Portnoy Sarasota, FL USA 04-22-14
    J. D. Portnoy Sarasota, FL USA 04-22-14 Member Since 2012

    Bookman Old Style

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    "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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas San Diego, CA, United States 06-25-13
    Thomas San Diego, CA, United States 06-25-13
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    "Great Biography"
    Would you listen to Bertie: A Life of Edward VII again? Why?

    Well written and well read window on Victorian and Edwardian history well worth the time and expense!


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nora Pocatello, ID, United States 07-29-14
    Nora Pocatello, ID, United States 07-29-14

    12 n \\\\ Born and grew up in Scotland. No species of book I do not love. Favorite genre History, thrillers, biography, memoirs etc

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    "Good listening, gossipy, relaxing"
    What did you love best about Bertie: A Life of Edward VII?

    Sound research, hgighly entertaining


    What other book might you compare Bertie: A Life of Edward VII to and why?

    Autobiography of Henry V111 by Margaret George


    Have you listened to any of Carole Boyd’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I would if I had 50 hours! But I could listen to it more than once


    Any additional comments?

    A good satisfactory "read"

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine Winchester, MA, United States 09-14-12
    Christine Winchester, MA, United States 09-14-12 Member Since 2009

    lusal

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    "Superb!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Bertie: A Life of Edward VII to be better than the print version?

    Haven't read the print version.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    This is a completely new take on Edward VII. The book got wonderful reviews in Britain. I can see why.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 11-27-14
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 11-27-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Well researched but gossipy in tone"

    The gossip drove me crazy. A good book, but you have to be interested in all the gossip that always surrounded Bertie. The narration enhances the gossipy tone.

    Don't make the mistake I did when choosing the book. There are two Berties. One was the great grandson of Queen Victoria, but this one is her son!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 12 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Chappers
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    2/17/13
    Overall
    "Excellent narration"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Katherien Watt
    12/24/12
    Overall
    "Bertie - the untold story"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Peter John Morrison
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Bertie"

    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

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Denise
    5/29/13
    Overall
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    Story
    "Informative and interesting"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Nicholas
    GRANGE OVER SANDS, United Kingdom
    12/18/12
    Overall
    "excellent book and reading"

    It's a surprise to realise that Linda Snell is reading this to you, but don't let that put you off - an excellent performance (although her Kaiser Wilhelm is a little camp) and the book, as all the amazon reviews agree, is well written and informative.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Deborah Wyman
    10/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting and unexpected"
    What did you like most about Bertie: A Life of Edward VII?

    I didn't know much about Edward VII but felt well informed after listening to this book. He certainly lived life to the full and there is not a boring moment here.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Bertie's life was a real life drama with more than a hint of eccentricity.


    Have you listened to any of Carole Boyd’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    The performance was excellent.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. As with other biographies I have read I wanted to listen to it in small sections so I can absorb the information and think about the person's life.


    Any additional comments?

    Definitely give this a go if you want a fascinating biography. One of the more interesting monarchs in my opinion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Christina M. Croft
    England
    1/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliantly perfomed!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Bertie: A Life of Edward VII to be better than the print version?

    I very much enjoyed the reader's ability to adopt appropriate accents and differentiate between the characters.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Princess (later Queen) Alexandra was captured perfectly.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I enjoyed the books but felt quite angry at what I perceive to be a very unjust portrayal of Prince Albert and Princess Alice.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a really interesting book, filled with amusing anecdotes and packed with information. I believe that Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were treated too harshly (particularly Prince Albert) and also that Princess Alice was dismissed somewhat glibly as a sort of control-freak (as was her father). Nonetheless, I would recommend this book for the wealth of information about the eponymous 'hero'.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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