George V: Never a Dull Moment

Harper. Dec. 2021. 560p. ISBN 9780062567499. $35. BIOG
With this latest work, historian Ridley (Buckingham Univ.; The Heir Apparent) writes a biography of England’s King George V (father of Elizabeth II), who is perhaps most notable for his lack of notoriety. Other biographies have depicted him as a conservative king with a prosaic life, avoidant of scandal and devoted to his mundane hobbies of stamp collecting and game shooting. But Ridley investigates the truth of this reputation and looks extensively into George V’s personal and political life, including a deep dive into his relationships with his wife Mary and their children. Ridley also considers the king’s measured responses to the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the rise of socialism and republicanism in English and Irish politics. Ridley’s assertion, that George’s ordinary nature was not mere dullness, isn’t fully convincing, but she makes an effective argument that George’s moderate personality and skillful management were precisely what was needed to steer England through the early 20th century.
VERDICT This detailed and weighty biography will most appeal to those with a grounded interest in British history and rulership. Readers interested in women’s roles in the monarchy will particularly appreciate the attention paid to Queen Mary and her importance in supporting multiple aspects of George’s reign.
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