We all know people (do we not?) who claim to have been conceived from the hot salty tears dripped onto their mothers' laps by the infantile Prince of Wales (subsequently Edward VIII, and then Duke of Windsor). Personally, I have never quite believed in the fertility of tears, but then it is impossible to know precisely what to believe about this extraordinary man and his equally extraordinary wife. He certainly enjoyed weeping onto laps, but they were not always women's; nor, I suppose, was it his intention on these occasions to conceive a royal bastard. When his brother, the King, refused to grant Wallis entitlement to the initials HRH, Edward collapsed with emotion and, testifies his secretary and equerry, Sir Dudley Forwood, put down his beautiful head with its golden hair in my lap and sobbed helplessly. His heart was broken . . . I never saw such agonised grief, even from the bereaved.'
At heart, as Charles Higham's intriguing new recension of his 1988 biography strongly implies, Edward (or David, as he was known to his circle) was a severe case of arrested development. Like his childhood contemporary, Peter Pan, he wanted 'to be a boy forever' - an ambition in which he