EDWARD VIII: The Biography of the Duke of Windsor by Frances Donaldson
Kirkus Star

EDWARD VIII: The Biography of the Duke of Windsor

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This is no King's Story for the matron magazines, but a vigorously open, wholly fresh and responsible study of the career of the late Duke of Windsor -- for several unsettling months, King Edward VIII. This biography not only closely encircles an elusive and contradictory personality, but by ""strewing the ground with clues for others to pick up"" suggests new approaches to some recent Western history (including controversial political scandal) and the institution of the British Crown. David's father, George V, and Queen Mary, reflecting perhaps the upper caste mores of the day, were not the best of parents -- the King, a martinet, given to ""gusts of wrath""; the Queen distant. The children's cultural background and political training were meager. Whether this, plus an education that was dull, rigid and even brutal, contributed to the Prince's lifelong revolt against authority, is a question. What is certain is the Prince's immense charm as a young man both with the masses and individuals. But along with this charm went an often remarked upon ""sadness,"" an absolute confidence in his own opinions, a near hysterical determination to have his own way, and further, an abhorrence of male authority and slavish dependence on women. As for Mrs. Simpson (the author presents a meticulous record of the affair and events surrounding the abdication and marriage) one can search somewhere between a reliably reported remark by the lady suggesting that it was out of her hands because the love-smitten King would follow her anywhere, or Harold Nicolson: ""Mrs. S. is a nice woman who has flaunted suddenly into this absurd position. . . the P. of W. is a mess."" During the crisis David exhibited a towering stubbornness, and Prime Minister Baldwin, so commonly scored as not sympathetic, was actually very much so. Among the tantalizing sidelights on the abdication and aftermath: the tentative formation of a ""King's party""; the continuing dialogue between the King and representatives of Germany; evidence that the Nazis planned to use David like a Petain as restored king once Britain capitulated, while the then Duke of Windsor kept those communications open. But the years of exile during which the ""superficial brightness wasted for lack of hard use"" were also years of a decidedly happy marriage. A stunning work of fully documented scholarship, cunning speculation and style. Hardly the last word on Edward VIII but probably the brightest and best.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1975
Publisher: Lippincott