UNCLE OF EUROPE: The Social and Diplomatic Life of Edward VII by Gordon Brook-Shepherd

UNCLE OF EUROPE: The Social and Diplomatic Life of Edward VII

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Edward spent most of his life as Victoria's Prince of Wales and became King of England in his 60th year. This minutely detailed biography, suitable for serialization, upholds the notion that in Edward's decade-long reign, he manipulated all his princely kin into obeying the Pax Britannica. There were a great many such royal relatives, hence the tag ""Uncle of Europe."" Edward's nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, turned out least tractable: he sacrilegiously proposed to put the dead Victoria into her coffin himself, won yacht races from the English, and called Lord Salisbury ""protoplasm."" In fact he proved generally adept at stimulating British jingoism. Edward's dull queen, unprepossessing children and egregious wardrobe receive their full due. So does his mistress, Alice Keppel, whose husband was obliged to ""go into trade"" when Edward gained the throne, to subsidize Alice's increased expenses. Other characters include the Portuguese envoy, Luis de Soveral, who became Edward's alter ego and seems to have acted as a Foreign Office plant to keep the King's diplomacy on track. ""Bertie"" comes through as amiably protoplasmic himself; the sallies Brook-Shepherd terms masterpieces of tact and wit are unfailingly insipid, the purported diplomatic skills quite unsubstantiated. Somewhere beyond the chitchat, World War I's preconditions were established; but this remains a voluminous exercise in costume nostalgia and titled peekaboo.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich