Dirty Bertie : An English King Made in France
Edward VII was an English King made in France.
The 'black sheep' son of Victoria and Albert, he first fell in love with France as a teenager in 1855. Trained by Emperor Napoleon III (Bonaparte's nephew) to be a fun-loving playboy, young Bertie (as his family called him) had soon perfected a skill for shameless adultery that was to shape his whole life.
An habitue of Paris at its most louche and colourful, Bertie visited the same cabarets and brothels as Toulouse Lautrec, and moved in the same theatrical circles as Degas and Sarah Bernhardt. But when France threw out its Emperor, he also formed close friendships with the country's frustrated monarchists and its new revolutionaries. His almost constant presence in Paris during the last three decades of the 19th century ensured that Britain and France were never alienated despite their huge political differences. In fact, it was almost entirely thanks to his diplomatic skills that Britain and France signed the historic Entente Cordiale of 1904, the agreement that has ensured we haven't gone to war again in over 100 years, however tempting this may have been.
Edward VII: world-class Champagne drinker, serial adulterer, oui. But this entertainingly unorthodox biography also portrays him as probably the most widely-respected European diplomat that Britain has ever had, being either a friend or relative of every head of state in Europe. In fact, if Bertie had smoked fewer cigars, eaten less foie gras and stayed alive for longer, he might even have kept us out of World War One. Only Dirty Bertie -- half Anglo-Prussian prince, half Parisian playboy -- could have done it.