Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Royal Roundup - two newish books.

I have let my pile of books get too high, thus, creating a backlog of books to be reviewed. I am now on a tear to win the battle, and get through the ever dwindling pile of books.

British history professor Jane Ridley began work on her biography of King Edward VII in 2004.  She wanted to focus on the king's relationship with women, especially his wife, Queen Alexandra, and his mistresses.  She began her research at the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, delving into Edward's papers.  Jane Ridley spent five years at Windsor, the first biographer since Philip Magnus, whose biography of Edward VII was published in 1964, in more than fifty years to make use of the material.

 During that time, the Royal Archives obtained more of Edward's papers.  

Ridley was able to delve into Victoria's correspondence with her son, but what was missing was the correspondence between Edward and Alexandra.  In his will, Edward ordered all his correspondence be destroyed.  Alexandra did the same.  (This is why no comprehensive biography of Queen Alexandra, apart from the Georgina Battiscombe book, has ever been published.  A very small paper trail.)

She did come across a treasure trove of correspondence between Alexandra and her sister, Empress Marie of Russia in the Danish National Archives. Jane hired a translator and traveled to Copenhagen.  The letters written in Danish, offered new insight into Bertie's marriage and his relationship with Alexandra and others.

Bertie A Life of Edward VII was published by Chattos & Windus (£30.00).  Ridley has brought new life to Edward, offering a portrayal of a "party-going" prince who turned out to be an astute politician.  He was a philander with numerous mistresses (and at least one illegitimate child), for which Ridley provides detailed evidence.

This biography complements, but does not supersede Sir Philip Magnus' largely official biography, King Edward VII.  (Christopher Hibbert's Edward VII: The Last Victorian King is also a good biography.)

A definite must read, and put right next to Sir Philip's tome on your shelf.
Bertie A Life of Edward VII is a true historical treat.  The book is now available in the United States with the title The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince (Random House: $35.00)

Canada and the United States share a common history, traditions, and an open border.  But there are also numerous differences, too.  Canada has a single payer health care system, where no one is denied medical care, and Canada remains a monarchy.  Queen Elizabeth II is also the Queen of Canada.

Canadian journalist John Fraser has done the monarchy a great service with his new book, The Secret of the Crown (House of Ansani Press: $29.95C).  The subtitle of the book is Canada's Affair with the Monarchy.

This book offers readers a very good study of what the monarchy means and how it functions, as seen through the roles of the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor, as well as the continued popularity of the royal family.  I recommend that my American readers order this book to learn more about the country north of us, a true friend, with its own special charm and history. 

It in its own inimitable way, the monarchy has a role in Canada -- and that is something to celebrate.

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