The prequel to The Crown: the first truly candid portrait of George V and Mary, the Queen's grandparents and creators of the modern monarchy
The lasting reputation of George V is for dullness. His biographer Harold Nicolson famously quipped that 'he did nothing at all but kill animals and stick in stamps'. The flamboyance and hedonism of his father, Edward VII, defined an era whose influence and magnetism are still felt today. The contrast between the two could hardly be greater.
But is that really all there was to King George, a monarch confronted by a series of crises thought to be the most testing faced by any twentieth-century British sovereign? As Tommy Lascelles, one of the most perceptive royal advisers, put it: 'He was dull, beyond dispute -- but my God, his reign never had a dull moment.'
George V navigated a constitutional crisis, the First World War, the fall of thirteen European monarchies and the rise of Bolshevism. The suffragette Emily Davison threw herself under his horse at the Derby, he refused asylum to his cousin the Tsar Nicholas II and he facilitated the first Labour government. How this supposedly limited man managed to steer the Crown through so many perils is a great story. But with it comes a riveting portrait of a royal marriage and family life that lets us see George, Mary and their children more fully and clearly than ever before, with Queen Mary emerging as an important figure in her own right. Under the couple's stewardship, the Crown emerged stronger than ever. George V founded the modern monarchy, and yet his disastrous quarrel with his eldest son culminated in the existential crisis of the Abdication only months after his death.
Jane Ridley has had unprecedented access to the archives, and for the first time is able to reassess the many myths associated with this dramatic time, and take us right into the palaces Elizabeth I was born into. She brings us a royal family and world not long vanished, and not so far from our own.
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'A model of how royal biographies should be written' Philip Ziegler, Spectator
'The best book about royalty ever published' Piers Brendon, Independent
'Magisterial' Antonia Fraser, Sunday Telegraph
'Peerless' BBC History
A 21st-century [biography] was overdue . . . and nobody could do it better than the immensely experienced Jane Ridley . . . The Windsors have always been emotionally handicapped, and in this respect George V was their prize exhibit
Superb . . . a perfectly candid portrait of our present Queen's grandfather: demythologised, certainly, and with spades called spades, but not trivialised, and not denied full credit for the massive amount he achieved . . . Ridley's convincing thesis [is] that George V was the true begetter of modern constitutional monarchy . . . this book makes it clear we were lucky to have him
There have been few monarchs quite as discreet and inscrutable as George V . . . There's much to enjoy here about George's nerdy, hypochondriacal and rather humourless character. Yet, as Ridley portrays with great fairness, he somehow managed to be a king loved and revered by the people . . . Ridley has a wonderful ability to push the story along, luring us with salient details . . . riveting . . . Never a dull paragraph
A magnificent new life -- wonderfully funny, from its winning subtitle onwards, and full of human sympathy and understanding . . . an evocative and touching portrait of a surprisingly impressive man
A truly inspirational new biography of George V