Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson - Greg King

I've long been fascinated with British royal history.  I was up at 4:30am on April 28, 2011, parked on the couch with fresh chocolate chip scones and glued to the telly as the heir to the throne married the charming commoner.  I wrote a research paper on Princess Diana's childhood in middle school.  I wrote another one on Anne Boleyn in high school.  One of my favorite blogs is What Kate Wore.  I have an old VHS recording of a 4 hour documentary on the wives of Henry VIII that I taped off PBS and have watched more times than I care to admit.  I just finished watching through both series of David Starkey's Monarchy on Netflix. Then I watched the through the docu-drama The Queen. I read books like this one.  

When I came across Greg King's biography of Wallis Simpson, I was naturally intrigued.  Simpson is a personality that I knew very little about until lately.  I first learned of her existence thanks to my favorite podcast: Stuff You Missed in History Class.  After that, she popped up again in the brilliant, Oscar-winning film The King's Speech at which point I was thoroughly pleased with myself that I knew a little of her back story. Then this book presented itself as a great opportunity to delve deep into the lives of Wallis Simpson and David, Duke of Windsor and former King of England.

King gives a very detailed look into Simpson's life.  Her early life in America and her first two marriages were subjects I knew virtually nothing about.  However, it is once she meets the Duke that her story really comes alive and find its focal point.  The section regarding all the politics of David's abdication from the throne was a little dry for me, but extremely informative.  The following chapters discussing their married life together were my favorite part of the story.  Reading about their fabulous parties kept bringing my mind to Downton Abbey.  

King is very clearly a strong supporter of Simpson, as one would expect from a biographer.  The Royal Family is displayed in a very cold light.  I do believe that some of this is justified; the family treated Simpson terribly, even to the very end.  However, I also took King's tone with a grain of salt.  Simpson did, after all, catastrophically disrupt the order of things, and it seems natural that there would be at least some hard feelings there.

All in all, I found the read delightful, if a little slow at times.  If lots minute details tend to bog you down, I wouldn't recommend this.  For me, though, the love of British royalty far overshadowed any concerns with their being too much information.

Pages: 510
Genre: Nonfiction, Historical, Biography

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