KING EDWARD VIII
A fresh perspective on how an American adventure shaped the royal rebel
Author Ted Powell Publisher Oxford University Press Price £25 Released Out now
Edward VIII famously spent his life abroad after he abdicated the British throne in 1936. However, while the Duke of Windsor’s exile with his wife, the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, is well documented, Ted Powell’s new biography showcases Edward’s hitherto overlooked early odyssey in the United States.
King Edward VIII: An American Life explores how as a young Prince of Wales, Edward surfed in Hawaii, partied in New York, hobnobbed with Hollywood stars, and even learned to perform lasso tricks from a cowboy. While newspapers from Boston to San Francisco recorded it at the time, the revelation that Edward had torrid affairs with American women before he met Wallis may well shock British readers.
However, Powell is no monarchical mud-racker, sharing Jazz Age gossip simply for salacious thrills. The royal historian documents all this to offer a fresh perspective on Edward’s character, his brief reign, and his decision to abdicate. Through private correspondence and previously unseen sources, Powell makes a compelling case for Edward being torn between his obligations to the crown and his adoration for the American Dream.
The author explicitly claims King Edward VIII: An American Life counters the established view he was a shallow, pleasure-seeking Nazi sympathiser, which might be a stretch. Edward’s regrets about visiting Hitler’s Germany are detailed, but fears that he was mixed up (knowingly or otherwise) in Nazi plots – shared on both sides of the Atlantic, by Churchill and Roosevelt – are ignored.
Though Powell carefully avoids framing Edward and Wallis’s marriage as a Cinderella story, this remains too romantic a royal portrait to be the definitive word on the controversial king. Regal, Revealing, Romantic JP