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‘You have a nice country, I would like to be your son’

Bee Wilson: Prince Bertie, 27 September 2012

Bertie: A Life of Edward VII 
by Jane Ridley.
Chatto, 608 pp., £30, August 2012, 978 0 7011 7614 3
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... was be himself and his people adored him. In the end, like his mother, he gave his name to an age. Jane Ridley’s absorbing new biography shows that Victoria was horrified by her eldest son almost from the moment he was born. As a baby, he looked ‘too frightful’ and was ‘sadly backward’. The queen compared him unfavourably with his older sister ...

The Hierophant

Michael Ledger-Lomas: Servant King, 10 March 2022

George V: Never a Dull Moment 
by Jane Ridley.
Chatto, 559 pp., £30, November 2021, 978 0 7011 8870 2
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For King and Country: The British Monarchy and the First World War 
by Heather Jones.
Cambridge, 576 pp., £29.99, September 2021, 978 1 108 42936 8
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... household’s advice that he produce a ‘mythological’ George, the modest father of his people. Jane Ridley’s new biography pushes back against the idea that nothing lay behind the imposing façade of George’s kingship. She not only suggests the discreet charm of her subject’s character, but argues that he was ‘the founder of the modern ...


Gillian Darley: Lutyens, 17 April 2003

The Architect and His Wife: A Life of Edwin Lutyens 
by Jane Ridley.
Chatto, 524 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 7201 0
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Edwin Lutyens, Country Houses: From the Archives of ‘Country Life’ 
by Gavin Stamp.
Aurum, 192 pp., £35, May 2001, 1 85410 763 1
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Lutyens Abroad 
edited by Andrew Hopkins and Gavin Stamp.
British School at Rome, 260 pp., £34.95, March 2002, 0 904152 37 5
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... as just another prolix revivalist architect of no great note. Lutyens’s great-granddaughter Jane Ridley’s biography has been eagerly awaited, in the hope that it would clarify his selective account, make amends to the influences that Lutyens denied and the family he forgot, and above all answer the question, how did this apparently largely ...


John Bayley, 23 May 1991

The Oxford Book of Friendship 
edited by D.J. Enright and David Rawlinson.
Oxford, 360 pp., £15, April 1991, 0 19 214190 2
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... full nature,’ observed Edith in a glowing obituary in the Nineteenth Century. One suspects that Jane Austen took a more robust view and belonged to a generation which did not see sacrifice as a part of friendship. Two passages from Emma, in the same context, make plain the unwisdom of Emma in cultivating Harriet Smith. ‘How can Emma imagine she has ...

Something about Mary

Diarmaid MacCulloch: The First Queen of England, 18 October 2007

Mary Tudor: The Tragical History of the First Queen of England 
by David Loades.
National Archives, 240 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 1 903365 98 8
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... start. Mary’s arrival was indeed much more spectacular than Elizabeth’s: she replaced Queen Jane Grey; and because Queen Jane lost, we forget what an astonishing achievement that was. Jane had a good claim to the throne, not just because Edward VI had ordered that she should succeed ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson, 22 May 2003

Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... with Neuromancer (1984) – hammered out some sturdy templates for pop-cultural dystopianism. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) got there first with the look: the ominous gadgetry, the endless neon and rain. But Gibson – ‘very much under the influence of Robert Stone’, as well as Thomas Pynchon and William Burroughs – was among the first to ...

Rolling Back the Reformation

Eamon Duffy: Bloody Mary’s Church, 7 February 2008

... to Catholicism. They included Thomas Harding, a one-time ardent evangelical, and chaplain to Lady Jane Grey’s father. Harding’s much publicised return to Catholicism at the end of 1553 elicited from Lady Jane a bitter tirade as she awaited execution in the Tower, for having become so soon the ‘vnshamefast paramour of ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... Picturedrome on Wortley Road. Here were Alexis Smith, Eve Arnold, Charles Boyer, and Tarzan’s Jane (and Mia Farrow’s mother) Maureen O’Sullivan. The four of us from Beyond the Fringe had been invited as a unit and Dudley Moore had been prevailed on (may even have volunteered) to play the piano. With Coward in the room this was perhaps foolhardy and ...

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