Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son by John Van der Kiste

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Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son by John Van der Kiste

Category: Biography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A well-researched biography of a prince who seems to have been largely overlooked - and over-shadowed by his elder brother. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1781553190

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Prince Alfred was the second son of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. At the time of his birth he was second in line to the throne after his brother, the Prince of Wales and was generally known within the family as Affie. In his early teens he joined the Royal Navy - at his own request - and whilst his family and status was undoubtedly no disadvantage to him, he worked hard and had a genuine talent for the navy, eventually receiving his Admiral's baton and visiting all five continents in the course of his service. He was created Duke of Edinburgh (along with various other titles) by the queen. His marriage - to Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia - was not a happy union, with his wife being not well-liked in society and obsessed by her precedence. They had six children (one of whom was stillborn) but only one son - 'young Affie' who committed suicide at the age of twenty four.

Through his father, the Prince Consort, Affie was the heir to the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha - but Albert had insisted on his being brought up in England as he was also second in line to the throne and might have to step up if anything happened to his elder brother. Affie would not become Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha until he was in his fifties and the few years left to him would be poor in comparison to the life he had loved in the navy. The boredom of life in the duchy may well have contributed to his excessive drinking and he died an early death - pre-deceasing his mother by some six months. In an uncanny mirrioring of what happened to his father he would be laid to rest in his adopted country.

Biographies so often concentrate on a particular time in history, supported by information about what went before, but I found it easier to 'place' Alfred because of the author's forward links to the Mountbatten family and to Winston Churchill. There are fascinating appendices too, detailing the history of the Dukedom of Edinburgh, the subsequent life of Affie's widow and the sale of the contents of Clarence House (Affie's London home) amongst others. I did regret the lack of an index though.

Books about Affie' elder brother, the Prince of Wales abound, but Affie has been less-well served and John Van der Kiste does an excellent job of remedying this and also presenting a rounded picture of a man who might not have been perfect but who seems to have done his best and - whilst in the navy - succeeded beyond what might have been expected. Princes tend to be arrogant - a characteristic of Affie's which earlier writers appear to have stressed, but Van der Kiste presents a far more balanced view and breathes life into the man. I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

John Van der Kiste has also reviewed Bertie: A Life of Edward VII by Jane Ridley for Bookbag.

Buy Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son by John Van der Kiste at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son by John Van der Kiste at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son by John Van der Kiste at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son by John Van der Kiste at Amazon.com.


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