Not a single person on Amazon.co.uk had reviewed this book and only one, on its American sister shop. That review was not particularly informative, so I made the mistake of purchasing this book. It was very disappointing! To me, Edwardians are people living in King Edward VII’s Britain, and he being king between 1901 and 1910, I wrongly assumed that it was this time period I was going to get to read about. We are talking “Downton Abbey” times, “Mr. Selfridge” times, “The Bolter” times, or getting in to Idina Sackville’s times anyways… But this is not what the book is about at all. When Albert Edward became king, he was really past it and all the people who Anita Leslie calls Edwardians, likewise. They were by 1901-1910, fat, old, boring people.
No, what she calls Edwardian times and Edwardians, spans Albert Edward’s lifetime! Who has ever heard of such a stupid idea? He was born 1841 and from the time Queen Victoria took over the crown till her day of death, we have the Victorian Era, not the Edwardian. But what you have to suffer through in this book, is Albert Edward’s life and alternative lifestyle. Like the one and only reviewer from the US said, Anita Leslie was the grand-daughter of Leonie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s mother Jennie’s sister. So, in a backhanded way, the book is really a book about her. She enters basically every chapter. She is Leslie’s main source for all information, all stories. In a way, the book is a version of, if you had been a child sitting on Leonie’s lap, and her telling you ALL the gossip of her day.
Hearing gossip, can be fun for a little while, but not for 340 pages of an ill-smelling book! It’s only available second-hand nowadays. May it never be re-printed! I think that if it had been a well researched book on Edward VII, it could have been somewhat interesting. IF one is interested in this disgusting man!? But I can’t even say that it is a biography on him. It’s more loose stories, where he is either involved or on the side lines. Likewise Leonie Leslie. What is described is the way he lived, making all his friends kiss up to him, splurge on him, giving him the sun and the moon, and he subsequently bankrupting a lot of them. His most famous mistresses are described. And some of his infamous friends. But nothing is described in detail, so it is just loose gossip, all of it.
As for the author’s grandmother, well lots is said about her and I must say that this is where I started to smell, a sour smell. She describes her grandmother as being loved by everyone in London, her having sooooo much influence, her being the unofficial mistress of the Duke of Connaught and his wife’s intimate friend, who could not function without Leslie… Since Leonie Leslie has not gone to history as anything, hardly anyone knowing who she was, I think that poor Anita Leslie, fails to see who was important back then and not. I think she has been brought up in the upper classes and doesn’t have a real clue about anything really. The proof of this is when she says that Britons forgave their beloved Albert Edward EVERYTHING, he was allowed to do whatever he wanted, no matter how scandalous, and they just adored him for being who he was. If you like to look at the world through a pink cloud, accept what she says, but I doubt that Victorian Britain felt proud of their Crown Prince and later King! They kept their Victorian values and NOONE in their right mind can agree that bedhopping is a great idea, nor spending money on luxuries when most of the nation is starving to death and ending up in the workhouses. Yes, he and his wife were glamorous alright, but the masses rarely look up to people who have done nothing to deserve it, who lives a scandalous life.
The book shows that what Albert Edward got up to, became his mates’ pattern of behaviour as well. I guess, that is how one learns about how bedhopping came about. But I would say that the title of this book is very misfitting. And Leslie really wants to push the idea that their way of life, was a great one, to be admired by us. She also wants us to strongly dislike Queen Alexandra, mainly because she was, in her view, boring. Instead of looking at what the poor woman had to face, she judges her on account of her not wanting to marry her daughters off. Two of them still got married but one remained unmarried, thanks to her mother, says Leslie. A couple of ideas just entered my mind: 1) What if Alexandra wanted to spare her beloved daughter the same fate as she had to go through. The man who did want to marry her daughter, was no prince, so holy unsuitable in those days, and he of course would not have been faithful. Why would he? 2) What if Alexandra did what my mother did? Punished the person that she dared to punish? My father cheated on my mother for 22 years and no doubt would have continued, had he not had an accident. She took his cheating out on me! Alexandra must have been equally unhappy and having a low self-esteem just like mother, thanks to the infidelity, so what says that she did not take her frustration out on her sensitive daughter, just like my mother did! The one weaker than herself?
I really regret having spent an entire week on this book! When I could have read something good instead. I thought it would be a good social history that would explain something of what Idina Sackville had to go through, during WWI, in her first marriage. The background to what happened to her and why. Not so! And when I think about it, I wonder what a person would do when reading this book, if they have not read all the books that I have, on many of these people. I have visited some of the country houses mentioned, have walked on guided tours, hearing about their scandalous lives, and have read books on many of them, as main characters in the books, or side characters. But I still had a difficult time to remember who was who… If one is a novice to the time period and top layer of British society at the end of the 19th Century, then one would be completely lost. Not a nice feeling to have when one is reading a book.