An in-depth biography of the notorious Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, the American divorcée whose marriage to King Edward VIII cost him the throne.
Already a bestseller in the UK, the latest work by biographer Sebba (American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, 2007, etc.) pulls no punches in revealing the secrets of its subject. Born in 1896 in Pennsylvania, Bessie Wallis Warfield was raised by a single mother dependent on the charity of her less-than-generous family. Even by virtue of shortening her name, Sebba theorizes, Wallis proved herself to be self-created and controlling. Though funny and smart, she was neither brilliant nor beautiful. Much of the book focuses on her romantic and sexual life, including a claim that Wallis most likely suffered from a disorder of sexual development, or intersexuality. It's impossible to know definitively, but Sebba's extensive research has led her to conclude that Wallis may have been born genetically male, but developed outwardly as a female, or, alternatively, that she was a pseudo-hermaphrodite. Wallis herself claimed never to have had intercourse with either of her first two husbands. She was still married when she met Edward, whose obsession with marrying Wallis prompted outrage across England and led him to abdicate his throne. She was granted a second divorce, and the two married in 1937 after two years of waiting. Derisively referred to as "that woman" by the Queen Mother, Wallis is depicted, in grand detail, as cunning yet "irresistible" for her charismatic "personal sparkle."
Salacious and consuming, this well-researched biography will appeal to readers interested in British political and women's history.