May 22, 2012

Wallis and Edward VIII

That Woman: The
 Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. Was she the scandalous woman who nearly toppled the British monarchy? Or rather, was she the fulcrum to lead to a long-considered idea by King Edward VIII? And, just what bound them together?

It seems, per my Goodreads review below, that she was at least not fully blameful. And that the future King George VI and Queen Mary (the "beloved" Queen Mum of so many later years) certainly had little cause for that.

At the same time, while Edward wasn't "pro-Nazi," Britain was surely better served with George on the throne.

Anyway, "That Woman" tells far more, in a generally sympathetic manner:

That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. by Anne Sebba

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting, thought-provoking, and perhaps a bit envelope-pushing on the psychologizing. It is, overall, a "sympathetic" bio of both Dutchess of Windsor Wallis Warfield Simpson, and to the degree he is covered, the Duke, the former Edward VIII.

Sebba is by no means the first or only person to note the "mannish" appearance of Wallis. She speculates this was from in utero, an androgen sensitivity disorder. She speculates that Edward, who reportedly had very little body hair, may have had some sexual identity issues, too, as well as the emotional neglect he appears to have suffered from his parents.

From there, Sebba says that perhaps both had adult sexuality issues that led them to feel, in their own ways, sympatico with each other.

That is all the "speculative" part. It may well be true, but there's no way of knowing for sure.

Otherwise, Sebba doesn't totally reveal whether she thought Wallis was treated shabbily by the rest of the royal family, but leans that way. She also seems to indicate that the constitutional crisis could have been better handled by some parliamentary leaders who were "concerned" but not, at least at first, totally against the marriage. Interestingly, the idea of a morganatic marriage was floated to prime ministers of some of the dominions, who nixed it.

Otherwise, though, it appears the royals were in general petty and shabby, even if Wallis' brashness drew such reaction.

And, as for Princess Mary's complaint that her husband Albert (Bertie), who became George VI, was so unprepared for the throne? Sebba notes that more than once, well before meeting Wallis, Edward had hinted that he would some day advocate, and likely sooner rather than later. Also, George V said, not too long before his death, that he wouldn't be surprised if Edward bollixed everything up within 18 months, and if he abdicated.

Point? Mary, George VI and other royals had no business blaming Wallis for the abdication; it was likely to happen anyway. Indeed, Sebba shows that Wallis saw the likely denouement quicker and more clearly than Edward, and in fact, begged off, even as the divorce proceedings from husband No. 2 were in midstream.

So, even if you don't see eye-to-eye with Sebba's psychosexual speculations, this is still a good read otherwise.

And, it may have been an "interesting" form of love, but love of some sort it was.

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