Compared to two recent biographies of Edward VII (Pearson's Edward the Rake and Brook-Shepherd's Uncle of Europe), Hibbert's is decidedly the most complete, judicious, and convincing. Hibbert avoids Pearson's tendency to linger over Edward's repetitive social calendar, though he does not neglect highlights in the King's excessive dalliance with clothes, sport, food, and women. Like Brook-Shepherd, the author considers seriously the controversy surrounding Edward's role in foreign affairs but feels that Edward's reputation as a prime mover was exaggerated. His policy views were inconsistent and his grasp of detail spotty; his immense charm and tact, his delight in assuming responsibilities so long denied, and his intimate contacts with royal families made him appear a far more effective mediator than he really was. Hibbert's account of Edward's generally miserable childhood is revealing. The boy's barely average capacities were severely overtaxed by relentless parents determined to cast a monarch from resistant clay, and he was thundered at throughout his youth. Hibbert records the years of waiting while his mother ruled, the reign as king and social arbiter. (""As a class we did not like brains,"" wrote Lady Warwick.) In all, a delicately illuminating portrait of a likable, limited king doing his best with the tag ends of royal privilege.