A fresh per­spec­tive on how an Amer­i­can ad­ven­ture shaped the royal rebel

All About History - - REVIEWS -

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

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