Bestselling biography of the enduringly fascinating Wallis Simpson
One of Britain's most distinguished biographers turns her focus on one of the most vilified women of the twentieth century. Historian Anne Sebba has written the first full biography by a woman of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.
'That woman', as she was referred to by the Queen Mother, became a hate figure for ensnaring a British king and destabilising the monarchy. Neither beautiful nor brilliant, she nevertheless became one of the most talked-about women of her generation, and she inspired such deep love and adoration in Edward VIII that he gave up a throne and an empire for her. Wallis lived by her wit and her wits, while both her apparent and alleged moral transgressions added to her aura and dazzle.
Based on new archives and material only recently made available, this scrupulously researched biography sheds new light on the character and motivations of a powerful, charismatic and complex woman.
"I hope to humanize rather than demonize" the woman for whose sake King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne, writes Sebba (Jennie Churchill: Winston's American Mother) in this controversial biography that was a bestseller in Britain. The author, using interviews, previously unavailable letters, and media accounts, explores how Simpson, a spunky Southern belle, changed her life after two divorces and numerous love affairs on two continents, seized the heart of then prince of Wales, and weathered the wrath of the royals and the hostile British press. Two startling speculations concerning Simpson's medical and psychological state attribute her sexual fierceness and flirtatiousness to a possible form of hermaphroditism and the need to emphasize her femininity. Sebba discloses the tremendous pressure from the royal family and high society on the new king to place English tradition above his bond to the American divorc e with her dubious background. Sebba details the life after the abdication, in which the duchess proved herself a resourceful survivor. This accomplished biography is smart, eloquent, and unafraid to go beyond the myth of the duchess of Windsor
Customer ReviewsSee All
This was a biography to read right to the end. The tone was fairly dispassionate but felt objective throughout. Much of the story is well known but the author presents new insights gleaned from the letters of Wallis to her second husband, Ernest Simpson. Anne Sebba also accepts the views that Wallis Simpson was aware of her gender confusion, although little factual information was offered, other than Wallis did not expect to have children and had large hands; perhaps a symptom of AIS, but not in itself definitive! The nature of the relationship between David and Wallis was also discussed, but not really enough for the reader to understand the total obsession on his part which developed rapidly and was sustained for a life time.
Wallis does not emerge from this book as a monster; we see her as an single minded, ego-centric achiever, who was overwhelmed when her "brief" affair with the Prince of Wales, became the stuff of national history. But she was survivor enough to make the best of the marriage and create the aura of glamour which persists to this day.
This book is an excellent and informative read, despite the fact that Wallis, her charisma and the nature of her relationships remain somewhat illusive!