By (Author) : Jane Ridley
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.