Thursday, September 20, 2012


As a keen historian I have always been fascinated with the events leading up to the abdication of Edward V111 and beyond.     Discerning fact from fiction has always been a challenge.
And so it was with great interest that I have just finished reading 'That Woman' (ISBN: 978-0-297-85896-6) the first full biography of Wallis Simpson authored by Anne Sebba, one of Britain's most distinguished biographers.   Based on new archives and material only recently made available  this scrupulously researched biography sheds new light on the character and motivations of a powerful, charismatic and complex woman and asks: was this really the romantic love story of the century?
The book contains some really interesting tit-bits including the transcript of a telephone conversation between Simpson and the Duke of Windsor two days after the abdication recorded secretly by the Metropolitan Police who tapped her phone ...     
[Mrs S] If they don't get you this thing (presumably money) I will return to England and fight it out to the bitter end.  The coronation will be a flop compared with the story I shall tell the British press.  I shall publish it in every paper in the world so the whole world may know my story.   Your mother is even persecuting me now.   Look in all the Sunday papers to see what she has done .......
And also the revelation that with the Duke and Duchess spirited out of Portugal and on the way to the Bahamas where he was to serve as Governor for the remainder of the war, he was 'chaperoned' by a naval intelligence officer, Sir Peter Russell, who was issued with a pistol not simply to use it in any attempt to defend the Duke and Duchess but to use it against them in the event of a kidnap attempt.
Better dead than in Hitler's hands.
Compelling reading.   Recommended.


Anonymous said...

Winston Churchill remarked that the Duke went from First Lord of the Admiralty to third mate on an American tramp in one weekend.


The Veteran said...

I don't think Edward was ever First Lord of the Admiralty but he was appointed Admiral of the Fleet on 21 January 1936 so with that small correction I can see where WSC was coming from.

gravedodger said...

Edward V111 was the epitome of a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
He was a concern to politicians due to an exagerated social conscience and a very detatched attitude to his constitutional role.
Hitlers ambassador to the court of St James totally misread the Kings role in Westminster style government, and "David's" flirtations with the positives of a facist state must have contributed to Baldwin's and the Dominion leaders trenchant opposition to any suggestion that he could remain on the throne while married to a much divorced American Socialite. One irony was that Churchill who was regarded as a supporter of the King was himself the son of an American Jenny Jerome albeit sans the divorce angle and the "head of the Anglican Church" sensitivities.

The anecdote about the armed security person rings true for me as the Nazis had him in their plans for a post invasion government with some of the aristocracy openly supportive of facism.

On very small things history hangs.

Anonymous said...

did they drink in those days i mean did they need a liquor licencing authority then

Ray said...

Interesting, as I am presently half way through "King Edward VIII" by Philip Ziegler an authorized biography. Winston doesn't fair well and neither does Mountbatten seems to have been worse than helpful
Setting up the contining family feued which like most of these things revolved around money and Edward lying about his wealth so as to get more funds
A deeply flawed man who probably would managed as King but lacked the guts to do so

The Veteran said...

Ray ... the thread about money in Zieglar's book (which I read some time ago) is explored in some depth in this one which also highlights the lie told by Edward that you refer to ... that he was essentially pennyless (said he had income of 5,000 pounds) while failing to mention that he had investments of STG1m plus a ranch in Canada.

It was on that premise that King George granted him an annuity of STG25,000 from his own private funds ... Wallace fretted over the loss of this after Edward died.

Not sure that tacky is the right word.