Prince Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, was, according to his biographer, ‘extraordinarily secret about archives and resistant to any sort of biography’ – but then he had a great deal to conceal. Mistresses, racing, shooting, gambling, overindulgence in food and huge cigars characterised Bertie’s life, even after he succeeded his mother as monarch at the age of fifty-nine. Chapter headings such as ‘The Aylesford Scandal’, ‘Lillie Langtry’, ‘Prince Hal’, ‘Prince of Pleasure’ and ‘Scandal’ feature in the first two parts of the book. Even after he became king, there is ‘King Edward the Caresser’, a pun invented by Henry James.
Jane Ridley blames his parents, and particularly his mother, Queen Victoria, for giving him such a horrible childhood that such self-indulgence was a natural reaction. ‘The House of Hanover, like ducks, produce bad parents – they trample on their young,’ the royal librarian told Harold Nicolson. Resentment and dislike of