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 An empty account of an empty life, buoyed largely by speculation that Bessie Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson, the duchess of Windsor, although thrice married, was a virgin when she died. Drawing on the correspondence between the duke and duchess and many of the sources that supported his earlier works about the Windsors, the author (The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor, 1969, etc.) tries to define the woman who moved the king of England to give up his throne. Beginning at the beginning, Bloch speculates that Wallis Warfield's birth to a socially prominent family was not registered because of ``gender confusion'' resulting from genital flaws. As she grew up, according to the author, she developed ``a decidedly masculine appearance'' and ``a bossy personality.'' Be that as it may, she made her Baltimore debut with a thoroughly feminine demeanor and married a thoroughly domineering, heavy- drinking male, E. Winfield Spencer Jr. The marriage lasted five years, after which she traveled in Europe and China, where she was rumored to have picked up sexual ``arts.'' In London with her second husband, Ernest Simpson, she launched a social climb that led to her romance with the man who would become King Edward VIII. She, willing to be mistress or morganatic wife, protested mightily when the king planned to abdicate in order to marry her. She predicted rightly that she would be the target of England's disappointment. Spending the rest of her life successfully insuring that the former monarch would never regret his decision, her households, her wardrobe, her parties, and her persona were never less than perfect. Is the throne of England worth a lifetime with a woman renowned for her perfect grooming? Did her alleged masculinity appeal to the duke's rumored homosexual leanings? This book--in prose as flat as the duchess's chest--doesn't begin to probe those questions or convince the reader of her vaunted charm and wit. (130 photos, 30 in color)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15115-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1996


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