Their Private and Public Lives
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 Smooth but shallow dual biography of the king and queen who succeeded Victoria on the British throne, by Hough (coauthor, The Battle of Britain, 1989, etc.). King Edward VII was 60 when, in 1901 and at the height of the British empire, he and his Danish wife, Alexandra, began their ten- year reign. The eldest son of Queen Victoria, Edward (known as ``Bertie'' in the royal family) was always a disappointment to his mother. At an early age, he failed to show aptitude for the regime of studies drawn up by his Prussian father, Prince Albert, and his spontaneous, fun-loving manner seemed far removed from the concept of austerity and duty that Victoria believed could alone save the British monarchy from the real threat of republicanism. So Edward was given no responsibilities and spent most of his life in sporting and social interests, as well as in love affairs. His wife had to endure not only this but the Prussian bias of both Victoria and the government, especially when Prussia seized Schleswig- Holstein from her native Denmark. Yet Edward turned out to be a very successful king. He was no intellectual, but he understood people, never forgot a face, and combined regal dignity with bonhomie. Trilingual in French, German, and English, his great achievement was to facilitate Britain's new alignment with France before WW I. Hough's account is well researched and a pleasure to read, as we learn details of Edward's daily life and of the limited extent of royal power. The author's portraits of Edward and Alexandra, however, lack depth and psychological subtlety--e.g., in the matter of Edward's habitual infidelities and Alexandra's feelings about them. An adulatory study of the British royal family before it became a soap opera. (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09793-X
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


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