Vita Sackville-West described Edwardian England as ‘a world where pleasure fell like a ripened peach for the outstretching of a hand’. One hand that would certainly have been greedily outstretched was that of Edward VII, whose extravagant, pleasure-loving nature in many ways defined his kingdom, as Richard Davenport-Hines demonstrates in this entertaining book in the Penguin Monarchs series.
Edward’s relentless pursuit of pleasure was a reaction to the stern treatment meted out to him by his parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Victoria hated the whole business of childbirth, principally because it deprived her of the sensual pleasure of her sex life with Albert. Albert, who had not