2015: Princes At War

Princes at War, Deborah Cadbury

This is a pretty niche read.  I mean, *I* read it, but I think we’ve already discussed how I am a sucker for Britain between 1880 and 1950.  I read that Lord Berners book. I’ve read Thirkell till she’s coming out of my ears.  I know so much about the subtle agonies of a British vicarage (oh my lord do not be too high church, curate) that time travel would be a breeze.  Oh, except they’d hate me because I am an American, and a Catholic, and a parvenue (at BEST! I might just be a peasant).  My best hope would be to be a dreadful female don!! So, that’s a bit of a diversion, but the point is that I read this book, but you might not like it, though I gobbled it up.

It’s the story of four princes, all brothers.  One was Edward VII (the abdicator), one was George VI (Queen Elizabeth’s dad, the The King’s Speech one - not as dreamy in real life as Collin Firth, I’m afraid), Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (the dull one), and Prince George, Duke of Kent (the sexy one). It mostly focuses on their wartime activities (hence the title), but also delves into the abdication crisis which is so interesting.  Anyway, if you are in for that it’s pretty good, and despite access to official royal papers (and thus, I assume vetted by the Queen’s staff), pretty gossipy.

Here are the take-aways: Edward VII, later Duke of Windsor, was the worst.  He abandoned his throne for Wallis Simpson, and then spent the rest of his life trying to regain status, maybe for her sake, but to no end.  She was a viper and he effed up his life.  BUT, he was totally willing to get in bed with the Nazis to try to get back on top, so thank God for England that his bad judgement came out early with this abdication and not during the war.

George VI (aka Bertie) was totally not ready to be king (stammer, etc - you saw the movie), but rose to the occasion like a champ. And it turned out that he and his lovely family (the Queen Mum, Elizabeth and Margaret) were what England needed during the war. He took it all very seriously, and you leave with the impression that the Royalty isn’t all bad and at least they try hard.  Which is a BIG concession for this (small r! small r!) republican (seriously I am a die hard Dem tho).

The other two tried their best to help and did so reasonably well.  They were kind of filler.  The real dirt is the Wallis Simpson being a Nazi bitch stuff which is A No. 1.

Should you read it? It’s not really important - I mean, Winston Churchill was important, the Royalty is pretty much gravy.  But it’s interesting, and I respect them a wee bit more than before, except for the Windsors, who were the worst.  For gossipy history, it seems well sourced and accurate.  I would say, if you already like that period, it’s a decent library book at least.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017