EDWARD THE RAKE: An Unwholesome Biography of Edward VII by John Pearson

EDWARD THE RAKE: An Unwholesome Biography of Edward VII

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Not really unwholesome at all, that is, it's not a downstairs keyhole-view of the bearded mammoth bounding in the boudoir. Pearson has instead undertaken the not inconsiderable task of offering a chronology of the Prince/King's long- and short-term affairs, involvement in scandals which ended up in court (he was firmly rescued from unkind or public testimony by mother Victoria), and Edward's progress in a social round of gormandizing, sport, incognito nightlife tourism, and enjoyment of sledgehammer practical jokes. Although gluttonous, a lecher, and a Philistine, Berrie was extremely popular with his friends, an excellent host, a fond father and despite all, he deafly loved Alexandra, a simple soul apparently content with her role as sacred mother and ""wife above reproach."" The author ventures the opinion that Bertie's sex drive might have been a sublimation of his frustrated lust for power, and although this speculation is tossed off in a tongue-in-cheek aside, it is certainly true that Victoria gave the Prince no major royal duties. In society Bertie evolved a ""curious power structure. . . he was ruling his own private pleasure kingdom."" He introduced the bowler hat, the undone bottom button on the waistcoat, the dinner jacket and lawn tennis, and the smart society sexual games where ""impropriety had never been maintained with such propriety."" His rakish public image was gradually accepted, and when he finally became King he unwittingly effected ""the effortless transition from the still strong personal monarchy of Queen Victoria to the cosmetic monarchy of Britain today."" Bertie's activities today seem rather tiresome--so undoubtedly was Berrie--but Pearson presents his subject with a light heart and due irreverence. An amusing overview of the age, the style and a prince left too long at the post.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich