cover image The Crown in Crisis: Countdown to the Abdication

The Crown in Crisis: Countdown to the Abdication

Alexander Larman. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-27484-7

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.)