Andrew Lownie was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was Dunster History Prizeman and President of the Union, before taking his Masters and doctorate at Edinburgh University. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and former visiting fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, he has run his own literary agency since 1988. A trustee of the Campaign for Freedom of Information and President of The Biographers' Club, he has written for The Times, Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Spectator and Guardian. His previous biographies include lives of the writer John Buchan and the prize-winning Stalin's Englishman on the Cambridge spy Guy Burgess.
Author photo © Nina Hollington
Always compulsive, often jaw-dropping, and written in crisply readable style, Andrew Lownie’s Traitor King begins where most Edward and Wallis Simpson biographies end, for it explores the couple’s controversial lives from the Duke’s Abdication in December 1936. The author has no truck with any notion of the couple’s relationship being a “great love story”. Rather, with clarity and much evidence, the book reveals their controversies and flaws - extra-marital affairs, talk of illegitimate children, foolhardy tours of Germany, meetings with Hitler, manipulation of a murder investigation in the Bahamas. The list goes on. They’re both evidently, incorrigibly obnoxious and self-centred, with the Duke revealed as an arrogant, perilously bumbling figure who never grows up. Crucially, the author convincingly argues that in their relations with Germany, “the Windsors were not foolish and naïve, but actively engaged with the German intrigue”. Throughout readers are presented with astounding details about the couple’s decadent, self-absorbed daily lives - the arrogance of never paying bills, never tipping, and never thanking staff. Their lavish food and decor, the bespoke livery of their servants, their staged social gatherings - “with little else to occupy them, the devil was in the detail.” While the couple desired a permanent return to Britain, the Duke is horrified at the thought of ever having to pay tax, and interferes in politics, making an astonishingly ill-timed broadcast to America, and exchanging telegrams with Hitler as the world teeters on the brink of war. Though given a war-time liaison role, the Duke was considered a “serious security leak”, with Churchill believing his free movement on the continent to be a “real danger”. As a result, the Duke was offered as job as Governor of the Bahamas, which was “regarded as a hardship posting” and “so low in the pecking order that the appointment did not even carry a knighthood”. Their arrogance persists on arrival, as does their interference in the war. They insist renovations be made to the newly-renovated Government House in Nassau. They fly in hairdressers, send clothes to be dry-cleaned in New York. Wallis does, however, engage in public life as President of the Red Cross, and roll up her sleeves to serve bacon and eggs in a canteen for airmen. Such details abound in every paragraph. Controversy continues to engulf the couple throughout their lives, as this relentlessly gripping biography reveals with incisive gusto. Traitor King is an un-put-down-able must-read for anyone interested in the British monarchy and social history.
Why did Guy Burgess, 1st class Cambridge scholar and apparently one of the most British of characters, agree to work for a foreign power, of which he knew very little, as a student and continue to serve them as one of the Cambridge Spies for some thirty years before disappearing permanently to the Soviet Union as the net closed in? So accessible and at times reading like a who's who from 1920 to 1950, Andew Lownie’s biography of Guy Burgess draws on incredibly extensive interviews with more than a hundred people who knew Burgess personally and the discovery of hitherto secret files, to bring to life the many lives of one of Britain’s most notorious, fascinating, charming and and yet ruthless traitors. Whether you detest the idea of someone so intelligent, gifted and privileged undermining his own country in the wholesale way he did, or not, the book deserves to be read so people can see beyond the vilified stereotype and understand the effect that social, political and intellectual upheaval can have on an impressionable young man, with no moral compass and a deep-seated desire to be someone and to shape events. A message from the Author... I’ve been fascinated by the Cambridge Spy Ring since Andrew Boyle’s The Climate of Treason led to the exposure of Anthony Blunt in 1979. Why had these members of the Establishment betrayed everything to which they apparently subscribed? What did they betray and how did they get away with it? The most enigmatic, complex and , I discovered, the most important was Guy Burgess who is a gift for a biographer. I hope I have conveyed the paradoxes of Stalin’s Englishman and you enjoy the book as much as I’ve enjoyed researching and writing it. Like for Like ReadingA Spy Among Friends: Philby and the Great Betrayal, Ben MacintyreDeception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West, Edward Lucas
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER A Daily Mail Royal Book of the Year, 2021 'Darkly compelling...hundreds of eye-popping details...Gripping ... damning portrait of the Windsors' Daily Mail 'Book of the Week' 'Briskly written and compulsively readable...' - A.N. Wilson, TLS 'Meticulously researched' - Spectator 'Entertaining... convincing... timely. Urgent reading for royals' - Evening Standard December 1936. The King of England, Edward VIII, has given up his Crown, foregoing his duty for the love of Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. Their courtship has been dogged by controversy and scandal, but with Edward's abdication, they can live happily ever after. But do they? In Traitor King, bestselling historian Andrew Lownie draws on hitherto unexplored archives to uncover the dramatic world of the Windsors post-abdication. Lownie reveals a couple obsessed with their status, financially exploiting their position and manipulating the media. Filled with treachery and betrayal, this is a story of an exiled Royal and the Nazi attempts to recruit him to their cause. And of why the Royal family never forgave the Duke for choosing love over duty.
'Richly entertaining... impressively well-researched' Daily Mail, Biography of the Year The Sunday Times bestselling biography of the glamorous couple behind the modern royal family, the aunt and uncle of Prince Philip. DICKIE MOUNTBATTEN: A major figure behind his nephew Philip's marriage to Queen Elizabeth II and instrumental in the Royal Family taking the Mountbatten name, he was Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia during World War II and the last Viceroy of India. EDWINA MOUNTBATTEN: Once the richest woman in Britain and a playgirl who enjoyed numerous affairs, she emerged from World War II as a magnetic and talented humanitarian worker loved around the world. From British high society to the South of France, from the battlefields of Burma to the Viceroy's House, The Mountbattens is a rich and filmic story of a powerful partnership, revealing the truth behind a carefully curated legend. Was Mountbatten one of the outstanding leaders of his generation, or a man over-promoted because of his royal birth, high-level connections, film-star looks and ruthless self-promotion? What is the true story behind controversies such as the Dieppe Raid and Indian Partition, the love affair between Edwina and Nehru, and Mountbatten's assassination in 1979? Based on over 100 interviews, research from dozens of archives and new information released under Freedom of Information requests, prize-winning historian Andrew Lownie sheds new light on this remarkable couple. 'Painstakingly researched... genuinely enthralling' Observer 'A page-turner which is also a carefully researched work of history' Spectator 'A compelling new biography...superbly researched' Daily Express 'Incisive... strongly recommend' The Times
Winner of the St Ermin's Intelligence Book of the Year Award. 'One of the great biographies of 2015.' The Times Fully updated edition including recently released information. A Guardian Book of the Year. The Times Best Biography of the Year. Mail on Sunday Biography of the Year. Daily Mail Biography of Year. Spectator Book of the Year. BBC History Book of the Year. 'A remarkable and definitive portrait ' Frederick Forsyth 'Andrew Lownie's biography of Guy Burgess, Stalin's Englishman ... shrewd, thorough, revelatory.' William Boyd 'In the sad and funny Stalin's Englishman, [Lownie] manages to convey the charm as well as the turpitude.' Craig Brown Guy Burgess was the most important, complex and fascinating of 'The Cambridge Spies' - Maclean, Philby, Blunt - all brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers. In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years. Through interviews with more than a hundred people who knew Burgess personally, many of whom have never spoken about him before, and the discovery of hitherto secret files, Stalin's Englishman brilliantly unravels the many lives of Guy Burgess in all their intriguing, chilling, colourful, tragi-comic wonder.