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The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life Paperback – October 8, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0471485230 ISBN-10: 0471485233 Edition: Revised and Updated Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The disclosures here strain credibility. Bessie Wallis Warfield, an illegitimate child, was born in 1895 to a prominent Baltimore family. She grew up ferociously ambitious, married bisexual Navy officer Winfield Spencer in 1916, traveled to China where she supposedly acquired skills in erotic arts, took lovers, dealt drugs and spied for Russiaaccording to show-biz biographer Higham (Brando, etc.). After her divorce, she had an affair with Ernest Simpson who became her second husband in 1926, following his own divorce. In due course, she moved on to England and achieved her ultimate goal as "the woman I love" who cost the empire a king. We read of the lives of the Windsors, the duchess's alleged spying for the Nazis during World War II and other reprehensible behavior during the marriage that ended with the duke's death in 1972. There are also stories implying sexual deviance on the part of both the Windsors. The author discusses as well the duchess's fabulous jewels, which sold for record prices after she died at age 90 in 1986. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to the Star; Literary Guild alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this latest book about the Duchess, celebrity biographer Higham produces a breathless narrative that strains for sensation but is enlivened by a wealth of gossip, verified or not. Some bits of information come from anonymous informers; others from previously unavailable documents. Higham reports, although not always substantiates, stories of extensive espionage, an affair with Mussolini's son-in-law Count Ciano, and other heretofore unchronicled events. Although this book fails to provide a balanced account in a marketplace oversupplied with biographies about the Windsors, the new revelations will undoubtedly create a demand for this one. Literary Guild alternate.Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; Revised and Updated Edition edition (October 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471485233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471485230
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is the third book I have read about the Duchess.
Kathleen Bayoun
My main gripe is that the Kindle edition is just plain sloppy.
Germaine
The author obviously researched his subject extremely well.
AJK

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Stargazer on February 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
How History portrays Edward V111 and Mrs Simpson will probably vary somewhat - but this book from Charles Higham is an excellent starting point for history buffs.
With the passing of time, more and documents are being made available for perusal from a wide range of sources. The Governments of Britain,Germany, Austria and Italy for starters.
Then add Buckingham Palace letters and documents,and the views of FDR and the Whitehouse staff, Winston Churchill,Hitler et al.
The level of research can make or break a biography and this one succeeds because of Higham's thoroughness.
It has always been clear to me that the Duchess had no idea what she was embarking on when she became involved with Prince Edward.
She was vilified,loathed, shut off from the Royal family.
At various times during her life she experienced real despair and depression.
Their lives became empty and meaningless - just endless rounds of entertaining and being entertained.
Many of the upper class in England were Nazi sympathisers, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were no exception.
It was this allegiance that was the root cause of all their problems, as British and American spys kept abreast of their activities,their friendships and of course the notoriety they received when visiting Germany did not go unnoticed.
It was because of this concern they were in effect banished to the Bahamas and had their requests to travel abroad refused or at least severely curtailed.
The Duke seemed to forget the promises he made when he abdicated. He was born to be King and the reality of NOT being King was something he never managed to adjust to.
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73 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Dixie Swanson on July 18, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At the time, the "romance of the century" was seen through the lenses of love. Behind the scenes, however, Edward VIII of England was a weak man totally in the thrall of a domineering and dangerous woman, Bessie Wallis Simpson. (Thank heaven, she dropped the Bessie.) When he abdicated and became the Duke of Windsor, he and his Duchess became not only roving mooches, seeking out wealthy patrons to pay their way, they were Nazi collaborators. They could have lived within their means, except she had an insatiable desire to live like a queen -- including the jewelry to go with it.

Meticulously researched, this tells the story of how they fell into the thrall of Hitler -- even visitng him and giving the vile salute all over Germany. The Duke of Windsor was not unlike many Englishmen who had been through the horror of WWI. Anything was better than another war, even that horrid little man with the funny mustache. As well, many Brits were afraid that Hitler was the only thing standing between them and Communism, a bogeyman of epic proportions. Besides, he treated them like "royalty" so they were silly enough to fall for him, hook, line and sinker. They thought he's just expel the Jews -- no one really liked them anyway. Much better they go to America. (I kid you not, this is what they thought.)

This book not only details the romance, the abdication, the involvement with Nazis, but their petty and petulant view that she should have the HRH before her name. This went on until her death!!! Give it up, guys. Not gonna happen. She embarrassed a nation.

Personally, I enjoyed the book and am glad that he wasn't on the throne. He was a weak, insipid and dangerous man. Far better his stammering but clear headed brother -- George VI, Queen Elizabeth's father.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JAD on July 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
Having read other books by and about the Windsors, I picked this book up hoping to get some of the back-story the other books omitted. I got that, and Higham is to be commended for his dogged research in that regard. There are stories of secret dossiers and unsavory activities that more or less confirm not only was Britain better off without Edward VIII but also that the American Revolution was a mighty good idea. Having said that, I must point out that the writing in this book is very uneven. Some chapters or portions thereof are well-crafted. Others seem like first drafts that were rushed into publication with small regard for judicious editing. It makes for choppy reading. One goes along smoothly for a while and then it is as if one is off on some gravel paved road that winds through uncharted verbiage. The fact that David and Wally were not much more than cafe society meanderers and also rans in their later years makes the account of their lives post abdication crisis anticlimactic, to say the least.
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51 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Miawil on December 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
I ordered it without realizing this is the exact same biography on the Duchess of Windsor I read about ten years ago but the book seems to have been so updated with new facts it really is worth buying the newer version. She really was a tenacious and riveting woman...no wonder the King left his throne for her. I would have done the same. I find the authors writing to be very unbiased...he does not seem to approve of the politics or the activities of the Duke and Duchess very much, but he gives a very balanced presentation of the facts. Like most people born after world war 2, anyone who supported the Nazi's was automatically evil in my mind but this book caused me to reconsider such a snap judgement. The arguments presented for why so muchof the European elite and American elite supported Hitler are very sound. Fascism was just another right wing philosophy...most of the royals and aristocrats who believed in Hitler were not interested in committing genocide. Hitler went off on the rails on his own in that aspect.

In addition to being insightful and gossipy, this book made me revise some of my own opinions.
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Frequently Bought Together

The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life + The Last of the Duchess: The Strange and Sinister Story of the Final Years of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor + That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
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