He was known as Bertie in the family and he was the eldest son and heir of Queen Victoria, probably the whitest woman, not to mention the most morally pure to ever sit on the english throne. To everyone else he was the prince of wales. Later he was to be known as King Edward VII, of Great Britain & Ireland, defender of the faith etc etc. This BBC series is a re-enactment of his life and has tried to keep to historical accuracy as much as possible, although anglophile purists may find much to criticise. Due in part to his position poor Bertie was singled out early from his four brothers & four sisters for special treatment. His stern lutheran father Albert the prince consort had arranged a strictly academic upbringing for his eldest son which was totally unsuited to his personality. Albert however neglected to imbue his son with what he needed most at that time, fatherly affection. His mother as she so often did took her cues from her husband and was happy to leave their childrens education in his hands. Consequently following the early death of his father from typhoid Bertie turned his back on academia and swore he would never read another text book. At 20 he married the beautiful danish princess Alexandra of Denmark and was to father 5 children by her. Initially it was a happy marriage but soon Berties short attention span and wandering eye caused him to seek respite in the arms of other woman. Most notably among them Lily Langtry, Agnes Keyser, Alice Keppel and Daisy Brook. What his wife thought of these friendships can only be guessed at and she can not have been unaware of these liaisons. The prince of wales for reasons of decency and protocol made a point of only aligning himself with married women most of whom he would introduce to his wife. Divorced ladies were out of bounds and forbidden even in the royal presence. It was to say the least an ambiguous set of rules. His liaisons were an open secret and discretion was the watchword for members of his household. Royalty then was treated with more respect than it is now. Bertie was as immoral in many respects as his mother was amoral to the whole of the british empire. But despite these major flaws in his character he proved a hardworking and popular monarch for the short period that he reigned. At a time when relations with France & England were at their lowest ebb he toured there and his presence in Paris at such a turbulent time helped to initiate the diplomatic accords known as "the entente cordiale". Following death in 1911 he was sincerely mourned by his subjects and as his private secretary Frederick Ponsonby eulogised at his funeral,,,"we will all miss this wayward popular and in the end humane sovereign"
For me a thoroughly absorbing biographical portrayal of this very interesting personality. Timothy West, despite a close resemblance to Edward failed to capture his jovial character and avuncular personality so often remarked about in the contemporary diaries of the time. A shame really because then the series would have been doubly watchable. Helen Ryan although not quite capturing the famous beauty of Queen Alexandra does an adequate job as Bertie's long suffering wife. At Bertie's deathbed it was Alexandra who in a gracious gesture summoned several of the kings closest friends to say their final farewells to him. Francesca Annis also stands out here in her role as Lily Langtry a part she was to repeat in another tv series depicting one of the most famous of english courtesans of the time. Overall I give this a 7/10. Unfortunately not out on video or DVD.
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