Not since Giles St Aubyn snatched the papers of Edward VII 's private secretary, Francis Knollys, from under the nose of the Royal Archives more than twenty years ago has any biographer added appreciably to the story of Edward's long apprenticeship and shorter reign. Professor Stanley Weintraub has nevertheless been bold enough to write yet another life of the King, but he suffers from two initial disadvantages. He confines himself to the sixty years during which the Prince of Wales waited impotently to inherit the throne, offering no account of the reign of only nine years that enabled Edward VII to prove himself an active and often astute monarch. And he has drawn his material almost entirely from published sources, including newspapers, on both sides of the Atlantic.
During those sixty years, the Prince's interests were limited and are by now all too familiar: gambling, guzzling, whoring, shooting and tailoring. He was also, it must be said, an authority on stars and ribbons, on precedence and protocol. A master of urbane manners and tact, he was at home