Meticulously researched, juicily detailed, and delivered with all the page-turning pace of a thriller, this is a consummately revelatory read.
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.
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.
|Publication date:||19th August 2021|
|Publisher:||BLINK Publishing an imprint of Bonnier Books Ltd|
|Primary Genre||Biographies & Autobiographies|
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 and formerly served in the Royal Naval Reserve.More About Andrew Lownie