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THE CROWN IN CRISIS by Alexander Larman Kirkus Star


Countdown to the Abdication

by Alexander Larman

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-250-27484-7
Publisher: St. Martin's

An entertaining, multilayered study of the abdication crisis of 1936 and the many traitorous and sycophantic characters surrounding King Edward VIII.

Employing an impressive amount of research via archival material, letters, MI5 dossiers, Philip Ziegler’s definitive 1990 biography of the king, and numerous other sources, British historian and journalist Larman manages to shine new light on this scandalous and well-picked-over moment in British royal history. He even includes new revelations regarding the assassination attempt by George McMahon on July 16. As he notes, further research and newly declassified documents offer “a stranger and more complex narrative, in which a succession of half-truths and subterfuge give a glimpse into a febrile, paranoid time…in which anything—even a royal assassination—seemed possible.” The author fully fleshes out the many historical characters who took sides during this tumultuous period, most of whom were flummoxed and/or enraged by the inability of the new king, a well-known hedonistic playboy, to extricate himself from association with the once-divorced and still-married American Wallis Simpson. Some of the most memorable include the Queen Mother, who shared her sadness with the king’s decision-making and refused to offer a “maternal blessing”; and those who supported him—e.g., newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook and Winston Churchill, “whose attitudes toward the situation was summed up by ‘let the king have his cutie.’ ” Over the course of this absorbing text, several salient points emerge: how incredible it was that the British press suppressed the scandal for so long when the American press was braying wildly; that Edward's venal, soulless character was so well established by the time he took the throne that nearly everyone, from his father to government officials to Simpson herself, sensed it was better he be gone rather than destroy the throne; and that Simpson had tried repeatedly to convince her forceful, cloying lover that she did not want him.

Fun royal history, as Larman captures the era’s delicious wit, spite, and malice.