England’s Queen Victoria hung on to her throne for over 60 years from the early 19th century to the beginning of the 20th. Her eldest son, and heir to the throne, Prince Albert Edward did not become King Edward VII until he was nearly as old as the length of her reign. Popular wisdom had it that his time as king would be unexceptional, but he proved everyone, including his mother, wrong. What history knows as the Victorian era gave way to the shorter, but no less historically important Edwardian.
The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley “rescues the man once derided as “Edward the Caresser” from the clutches of his historical detractors. Excerpts from letters and diaries shed new light on Bertie’s long power struggle with Queen Victoria, illuminating one of the most emotionally fraught mother-son relationships in history. Considerable attention is paid to King Edward’s campaign of personal diplomacy abroad and his valiant efforts to reform the political system at home.
Separating truth from legend, Ridley also explores Bertie’s relationships with the women in his life. Their ranks comprised his wife, the stunning Danish princess Alexandra, along with some of the great beauties of the era: the actress Lillie Langtry, longtime “royal mistress” Alice Keppel (the great-grandmother of Camilla Parker Bowles), and Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston.”