Andrew Lownie’s book on Edward Windsor and Wallis Simpson makes a familiar topic “seem fresh again,” Marcus Field said in the London Evening Standard.
He does so by focusing exclusively on the couple’s life after the abdication, beginning its story with the “cold December night” in 1936 when the Duke, newly stripped of his status, set sail for the mainland from Portsmouth, said Ysenda Maxtone Graham in the Daily mail.
What follows is a tale of extravagance and resentment, played out in awe-inspiring venues: a Rothschild-owned castle in Austria, various French chateaux, the lavish Bahamian Palace where the couple lived during the Duke’s time as governor . Lownie does nothing to challenge the prevailing view that the Windsors are a ‘smelly couple’.
In fact, he goes further than most, suggesting that beyond mere admiration of the Nazis, the Duke was a willing participant in a plan led by Joachim von Ribbentrop to install him on the British throne after the war. finished. “Darkly compelling” and full of “breathtaking detail”, this is a “relentlessly damning portrait”.
Yet he fails to overcome a central problem, David Aaronovich said in The temperature – that is, “after the winter of 1942-43, when the possible total defeat of Germany became certain”, the Windsors just weren’t very important. From that point on, the book largely descends into anecdotes, as Lownie details the dinners the couple attended, the mansions they renovated, and the Duchess’s lavish shopping sprees.
Towards the end, to spice things up, he recounts some “sex chatter” – including the Duchess’s supposed penchant for threesomes – but none of that sounds particularly reliable. In the end, it’s a “sad” and sordid story – a damning indictment of Britain’s hereditary “unnecessary” ruling class.
Flashes 352pp £ 25; Bookstore of the week £ 19.99
Bookstore of the week
To order this title or any other printed book, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or contact a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5.30 pm and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm.