The crown in crisis Countdown to the abdication

Alexander Larman, 1981-

Book - 2021

A definitive account of the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 draws on archival material and interviews with the king's closest friends to detail the role played by the king's opponents and supporters and the resulting scandal at a time when war was imminent.

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New York : St. Martin's Press 2021.
Main Author
Alexander Larman, 1981- (author)
First U.S. edition
Physical Description
xviii, 333 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 295-297) and index.
  • Dramatis personae
  • Introduction
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1. The Royal Concubine
  • Chapter 2. 'The Most Modernistic Man in England'
  • Chapter 3. God Save the King
  • Chapter 4. 'Flatterers, Sycophants and Malice'
  • Chapter 5. 'Power Without Responsibility'
  • Chapter 6. 'The Most Serious Crisis of My Life'
  • Chapter 7. 'Something Must Be Done'
  • Chapter 8. 'A Clever Means of Escape'
  • Chapter 9. 'Make Britain Great Again'
  • Chapter 10. 'The Best Story Since the Resurrection'
  • Chapter 11. 'This Is a Bugger'
  • Chapter 12. 'Wherever You Go, I Will Follow You'
  • Chapter 13. Failing Tragically
  • Chapter 14. 'Pity and Terror'
  • Chapter 15. 'A Far Better Thing I Go To'
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgements
  • Permissions
  • Select Bibliography
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Historian Larman (Byron's Women) delivers a juicy account of the events leading up to and following British monarch King Edward VIII's abdication in December 1936. As German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop tried to forge an alliance with Edward, Larman notes, the British government was distracted by the "vexatious" king's affair with Wallis Simpson, a 40-year-old American divorcée. Viewed by royal courtiers as a "gold digger" with a "capacity for inspiring dislike," Simpson, who was still married to her second husband when she began her relationship with Edward, was rumored to have learned "specific sexual arts" while living in China in the 1920s. Larman delves into newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook's role in suppressing news of the affair and Simpson's impending divorce, and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin's attempts to dissuade Edward from marrying Simpson. Lengthy subplots, including a review of recently declassified MI5 files indicating that a July 1936 incident in which a man threw his pistol at Edward might have been orchestrated by Italian spies, add intrigue but disrupt the narrative momentum. Still, even dedicated royal watchers will learn something new from this comprehensive account of one of the biggest scandals in the history of the British monarchy. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

The abdication of Edward VIII (1894--1972) in 1936 plunged the British monarchy into a crisis unseen since the English Civil Wars. The abdication had many root causes but is primarily remembered for Edward's desire to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson. Many within the Royal family and Parliament hoped Edward would take his new role seriously and rise to the occasion; however, he was unwilling to give up his private, carefree lifestyle and take on the more public and demanding role of the monarch. Once it became clear Edward would be forbidden from marrying Simpson, he intended to abdicate. Journalist and historian Larman (Byron's Women), who gained unprecedented access to previously classified letters, memoirs, and files in the Royal Archives and British National Archives, paints an uncompromising portrait of Edward's brief and tumultuous reign, including a thorough look at his complicated relationship with Simpson and the extent of Edward's Nazi sympathies. Larman does an excellent job weaving together all the strands of the events and personalities of that unprecedented time. VERDICT Readers who enjoy British and royal history as well as fans of the Netflix series The Crown will greatly enjoy this insightful book.--Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An entertaining, multilayered study of the abdication crisis of 1936 and the many traitorous and sycophantic characters surrounding King Edward VIII. Employing an impressive amount of research via archival material, letters, MI5 dossiers, Philip Ziegler's definitive 1990 biography of the king, and numerous other sources, British historian and journalist Larman manages to shine new light on this scandalous and well-picked-over moment in British royal history. He even includes new revelations regarding the assassination attempt by George McMahon on July 16. As he notes, further research and newly declassified documents offer "a stranger and more complex narrative, in which a succession of half-truths and subterfuge give a glimpse into a febrile, paranoid time…in which anything--even a royal assassination--seemed possible." The author fully fleshes out the many historical characters who took sides during this tumultuous period, most of whom were flummoxed and/or enraged by the inability of the new king, a well-known hedonistic playboy, to extricate himself from association with the once-divorced and still-married American Wallis Simpson. Some of the most memorable include the Queen Mother, who shared her sadness with the king's decision-making and refused to offer a "maternal blessing"; and those who supported him--e.g., newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook and Winston Churchill, "whose attitudes toward the situation was summed up by 'let the king have his cutie.' " Over the course of this absorbing text, several salient points emerge: how incredible it was that the British press suppressed the scandal for so long when the American press was braying wildly; that Edward's venal, soulless character was so well established by the time he took the throne that nearly everyone, from his father to government officials to Simpson herself, sensed it was better he be gone rather than destroy the throne; and that Simpson had tried repeatedly to convince her forceful, cloying lover that she did not want him. Fun royal history, as Larman captures the era's delicious wit, spite, and malice. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.