Pasternak (Lara: The Untold Love Story and Inspiration for Dr. Zhivago, 2017, etc.) seeks to “strip away decades of grotesque caricature” about Wallis Simpson (1896-1986).
The author offers a variety of thought-provoking arguments to counter the accepted wisdom about Simpson. Condemned as the woman who stole the king, Simpson’s biggest mistake was latching onto Prince Edward’s star; his own father said he was unsuited to be king, a sentiment echoed by others in positions of power. Regarding his kingly duties, he was faithful; he truly felt sorrow for his people as they suffered through rampant unemployment and perpetual hunger. The people loved him, but the establishment did not. Stanley Baldwin, holding all the cards as prime minister, played a sinister part in rejecting all attempts by Edward to retain his throne. He utterly rejected the possibility of a Morganatic marriage in which Simpson would have been titled but never become queen and any offspring could not inherit—though the last was irrelevant as neither party was capable of producing an heir. Edward was besotted with Simpson and called her many times a day and whined when she wasn’t with him; he was consistently needy and constantly sought the attention denied him by both his parents. He was a Jazz Age man, given to drinking, dancing, and generally latching onto other men’s wives. The author clearly shows how his love of American ways and cafe society turned most aristocrats against him. He was not bright, and when the couple showed an interest in fascism, it was only because it was the chic thing to do; he was too vacuous to take to any political creed. For all that was said about Simpson, Pasternak’s most illuminating point is that she knew how to soothe him and helped him understand the necessity of his duties; unfortunately, she was unable to curb his obsession with her.
The author provides a host of intriguing insights into a misunderstood woman. Those who have read other accounts will want to look at this other side.