From Publishers Weekly
When the Duchess of Windsor died in 1986, the lease of her Paris villa, near the Bois de Boulogne, and its contents had to be disposed of. Along came Mohamed Al Fayed, the Egyptian-born owner of Harrods, "the international businessman and philanthropist" who had already bought and refurbished the Paris Ritz. This sumptuous selection of photographs from the collections of the ex-king and his duchess, flanked by others of the restored house actually owned by the city of Paris, is a dual biography of the expatriate pair with the harsh edges softened, and a public relations exercise for Mohamed Al Fayed. Voyeurs of English royalty will be transfixed, as many of the photos are unfamiliar and often brilliantly reproduced, although in no sense historically significant. The text, by the author of lives of Cecil Beaton and Greta Garbo, retells the familiar tale of the aging playboy king who relinquished his crown for the ambitious, twice-divorced American. Their prewar fling with the Nazis and their lengthy life in exile are handled with loyal tact. Following the social seasons and migrations with Wallis and Edward, punctuated by their brief meetings with such postwar figures as President Nixon and Generalissimo Franco's son-in-law, proves dull viewing, especially when accompanied by lifeless prose. The net effect, emphasized by the 400 illustrations, is one of expensive but uninspired lives.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Royalty lovers never tire of accounts of the fabled duke and duchess of Windsor--he
the British king who, in 1936, abdicated the throne to marry her
, an American divorcee. And now comes this splendidly engrossing book. In 1986, the duchess of Windsor died, 14 years after the duke; their Paris mansion and all its contents were purchased by a wealthy Egyptian businessman, who restored the property to the shine it had when its famous occupants were in their prime. In the restoration process, a lidded bathtub was opened to reveal a cache of 10,000 personal photographs; a selection is now published in this oversize volume. Additionally, other photos found in the house, as well as newspaper clippings kept in scrapbooks, are reproduced across these arresting pages. Vickers' discerning textual accompaniment follows the lives of the duke and duchess from their very disparate upbringings through their controversial marriage. For all popular European history collections. Brad Hooper