A spirited historical lesson that traces how the fallout from the abdication crisis of Edward VIII in 1936 ultimately aided England in its finest hour.
What if Edward VIII, the pro-German Duke of Windsor, had not abdicated to marry twice-divorced Wallis Simpson and instead compelled his country to accept appeasement with Germany? British author Cadbury (Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers, 2010, etc.) explores the many layers involved in the abdication crisis of 1936, which ceded the British crown to the seemingly least prepared of the four sons of George V, George VI, aka Bertie, who revealed himself in the subsequent crisis of war the most suitable and stalwart of all. Not only was Bertie plagued by the famous stutter, but he always played second fiddle to his older brother—the dazzlingly charming and smart David. Bertie had little confidence in himself, living “with the constant unspoken reproach of failing to live up to people’s expectations of royalty.” Even Winston Churchill, a great friend of David, wondered if the monarchy shouldn’t skip over the other two sons and settle on the youngest, the Duke of Kent (Prince George), who was most like his oldest brother, dashing and capable. Nonetheless, the coming clash with the Nazis would sift the dynastic wheat from the chaff: While David and his new bride wallowed in France, traitorously visited Hitler, curried favor with high-ranking Nazis and seriously entertained fantasies of being replaced on the British throne once the Germans conquered Britain, the other three brothers plunged into the war effort. Wonderfully sympathetic to George VI in his defining moments (while excoriating the Windsors), Cadbury weaves an engaging portrait of a king resigned to his fate yet honorably resolute, gaining the cooperation of his two loyal brothers, Gloucester and Kent, and keeping his wayward brother at arm’s length and out of trouble.
A lively tale of monarchical machinations, more familiar to American readers since The King’s Speech.