The young Edward seemed to have it all. Handsome, courtly, wistful, his slight form, blonde hair and blue eyes were the stuff of fairy tales, the Prince who might have been pursuing Cinderella. Ziegler's fine biography must surely reveal the real, the definitive Edward. He puts the tapestry of Edward's life before you, but that tapestry begins to unravel as Edward reaches adulthood. Hopelessly ill-educated- Oxford not withstanding- Edward is a strange case of arrested development, too long a teenager. Even his letters are riddled with exclamation points and he babbles on like somebody sixteen. When he discovered sex he never looked back but seemed to prefer older married women- perhaps he was really looking for a mother. He soon developed into a womanizer playing the field for all it was worth, but his two great loves were Freda Dudley Ward and Mrs. Simpson.
Running through all of Edward's correspondence is a self-pitying whine which given his enormous largesse is hardly comprehensible. He constantly bemoans his wretched childhood with his martinet father wielding the whip. George V was a strict disciplinarian but highly supportive of his son. When Edward's little brother Johnnie died at thirteen of complications of epilepsy, Edward wrote his mother a cruel letter implying the little boy was better off dead. Queen Mary was terribly hurt by her oldest son's callousness but callousness is a part of Edward's character- he hurt many people and stepped on people he no longer wanted in his life.
Freda Dudley Ward had been the Prince's mistress some fifteen years and she was one of the people he shut out of his life by telling the switch board operator to block her calls. He did not tell her himself but he had met Mrs. Simpson and Freda became a throwaway. If ever there was an idee fixe, it was Mrs. Simpson to Edward. Perhaps a man so idolized around the world, a rock star for whom was prepared "a monstrous banquet of pleasure" would inevitably be forever spoiled to the point that he cared for no one's opinion except his own.
Author Ziegler has Wallis pegged as "shallow and greedy." "Even men she didn't want she didn't want anyone else to have." Perhaps because of the humiliation of her impoverished childhood money and material possessions came to mean everything. Edward had never met a person so un-awed by his position. Wallis neither respected the office nor the man and the Prince, used to being "swaddled in a protective cocoon" and no doubt a masochist, fell like a sack of potatoes and figuratively threw himself at Wallis' feet for life, happy in his surrender. That he should consider the harsh, domineering, often rude woman as the perfect woman really does boggle the mind and as long as their story is told probably will boggle many more minds down the road. What Wallis Simpson actually had that would precipitate the abdication is not a matter discussed in detail by Author Ziegler for the simple reason he is as much in the dark as the rest of us. But the fact she was plain and angular, about as far from the softly feminine Freda Dudley Ward as you can get, didn't figure in the equation. He wanted to be horse-whipped and she obliged him.
Ziegler's discussion of the Abdication crisis may leave you breathless, it was a brouhaha of immense proportions. Edward, however, proceeded on his merry way. He had to wait six months before he could wed Wallis which threw him into one of his dark depressions. Married and on the loose, the British government was at loggerheads about what to do with Edward. The Duke and Duchess' ill-advised visit to Nazi Germany which included private meetings with Hitler has suggested to many historians that Hitler wished to have Edward re-instated as king of a the newly fascist Great Britain. Author Ziegler suggests that Edward was less pro-Nazi than anti-communist and hoped Russia and Germany would slug it out.And he actually believed he had a role to play in reconciling England and Germany.
Edward was installed as the new governor of the Bahamas in Nassau more or less a ploy to plunk Edward where he could do no harm politically or otherwise. Both Duke and Duchess loathed the Island, but they did make some headway in relieving poverty; however the murder of a local magnate, Sir Harry Oakes, erased the slate. The Duke made some crucial errors in investigating the sensational murder and when their tour of duty was finished in the Bahamas he spent the rest of his life trying to secure a suitable job for himself. The last two decades of his life saw the pair drifting aimlessly from one watering hole to the next, as many have said, parasites.
In his last paragraph Author Ziegler sums up his feelings about Edward. His remarks actually brought tears to my eyes:
"the greatness of the sacrifice he made for her, the fortitude with which he battled for her over the thirty six years of their marriage, the steadfastness of his love until the day he died, are matters which should not be forgotten when any final judgment is assayed of the life and character, if not the reign, of King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor."
Whether the Duchess deserved such devotion is not our call. Don't miss this wonderful biography, which surely portrays the real Edward, his character laid before you with both compassion and strict adherence to the facts.