The People's King: The Story of the Abdication of the First Modern Monarch by A Susan Williams - review by Geordie Greig

Geordie Greig

To Lose A King

The People's King: The Story of the Abdication of the First Modern Monarch

By

Allen Lane The Penguin Press 384pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

WAS EDWARD VII really such a rotten egg? That is the question this revisionist biography asks of the king who abandoned his throne and country for the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Susan Williams sets out the case for him as a modernising, considerate monarch who was far more in tune with his time and his subjects than any previous king. To use Alastair Campbell-style jargon, she wants him repositioned 'the people' s king', alongside Diana, 'the people's princess'. Diana's legions of admirers saw her as misunderstood, charismatic, politically astute and caring for others more than herself, and Edward was similarly perceived.

It is a large claim to make, as Williams acknowledges in her preface: 'I shared most of the conventional - and unflattering - opinions about him and Wallis Simpson.' But then 10 I and behold, this clever academic at the Universitv of London, whose previdus books include Ladies of InJuence, Women and Childbirth in the Twentieth Century and The Children of London, experienced a Damascene moment when she turned her skds to roval research. I had barely scratched the surface of my research before I realised that the truth was rather different. As I watched a newsreel of Edward VIII's

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