The Shadow Queen: A Novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
Broadway, 2012 (2012)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ebecca Dean paints a remarkably sympathetic portrait of Wallis Simpson (so often villified for her disruption of England's monarchy, and as a Nazi sympathizer) in
he was born Bessie Wallis Warfield to a wealthy and prestigious family (with connections both to British royalty and to Pocahontas) in 1896. But her father's early death left Wallis and her flighty mother without resources and dependent on the good will and financial support of her grandmother (who disapproved of her mother) and her uncle Sol (who lusted after his sister-in-law).
hen Wallis is ten, Uncle Sol offers to adopt her and make her his heiress if she will have no further contact with her mother - she refuses. At school she makes a lifelong friend of Lady Pamela Denby, daughter of an English duke. She resents her mother's marriage to Free Rasin, who '
hasn't any pedigree
' but is good to both of them. And she falls in love with John Jasper who heads off on a grand tour of Europe and is in London when World War begins.
ut after her debutante coming-out ball, Wallis is shattered by a letter from John Jasper who is making a '
marriage of necessity
' to Pamela, with whom he had a brief fling. She flees to her cousin Corinne in Florida, where she falls hard for - and eventually marries - Win Spencer, a senior flying instructor, who turns out to have a drinking problem and to abuse her. Despite her family's disapproval, Wallis divorces him.
n Washington, Wallis reconciles with Pamela and John. She has a relationship with an Argentinean diplomat - and when he marries someone else, she accepts a request by naval intelligence to act as a courier, taking sensitive papers to China. On her return to America, she meets Ernest Simpson, partner in a law firm - they marry in London. Wallis begins to entertain Virginia style, and there the Prince of Wales walks into her life.
, Rebecca Dean portrays a driven and intelligent woman, with high expectations of what life should offer her, and many disappointments along the way - a woman who knew how to attract and hold male interest and who used that knowledge to her advantage. It's a fascinating read.
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