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Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  487 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews

This book tells the story of four sons of King George V during the period that the monarchy faced the greatest threats to its survival in the modern era – the crisis of the abdication, and the nationwide threat to Britain of the Nazis, inside and out. The threat of world war echoed the war within the royal family. Played out against the cataclysm of the Second World War th
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2015)
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Sep 16, 2015 Nancy rated it it was ok
A quarter of the way through the book, and the author has yet to say anything interesting or important. This is a potted history of Britain during the Second World War from a royal perspective, further marred by pedestrian prose, errors, and the author's partiality. This wasn't even the trashy fun I anticipated. Abandoned.
I really enjoyed this. I didn't know a ton about the Duke of Gloucester or Duke of Kent going into this, but the sibling dynamic stuff was FASCINATING.

Cait, you should definitely read this one.
Sep 08, 2015 CaldoHendo rated it really liked it
Earlier this summer, only two months after Kate Middleton gave birth to her second child, The Sun published pictures of the Queen making a Nazi salute in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in 1933, to predictable controversy. Also in that photo was her uncle, David, later Edward VIII, long known for his admiration for Hitler. Some thought it was tasteless of the newspaper to publish the photos, although The Sun made it clear that it had no intention to smear the Queen. Its reasoning was that it ...more
May 15, 2016 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rebecca by: Glenda
King Edward VIII/the Duke of Windsor (the Abdicating King), his great "love affair" with Wallis Simpson, and Prince Albert/George VI's reluctant ascent to the throne were first introduced to the general public in The King's Speech. The film took some historical liberties, although the soul of the first part of the story was intact. If, of course, you leave out the fact that there were two more brothers witnessing this unprecedented break in the monarchy--the Princes Henry and George, who seemed ...more
Jul 12, 2015 Joy rated it really liked it
King George V did his sons no service when he tried to train them to be tough. With his brutal tongue and by turning them over to harsh public schools, he crushed out any kingly qualities they had.

Cadbury doesn't mention the evidence described by Andrew Morton that the oldest son Edward VIII never wanted to be king. She goes along with the conventional view that he was forced to choose between the throne and "the woman he loved". Fortunately when Edward escaped the throne, George VI stepped forw
Jul 02, 2016 Allie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book focuses on the relationships between the four sons of King George V of England and concentrates mainly on the years between1936 - 1952. The eldest was David, who originally became Edward VIII, then abdicated and became the Duke of Windsor. Second son, Bertie, was Duke of York then became George VI. The other two brothers were Henry, Duke of Gloucester and George, the Duke of Kent.

Although i've read biographies of Wallis and Edward, I found this book fascinating. Much of the book centre
Sep 04, 2015 Bfisher rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The author provided a good sense of the bleak prospect Britain faced during the period after the fall of France, when the survival of the existing polity was very doubtful. The closest analogy I can think of is the counterfactual of a France under Louis XIV having conquered Europe and preparing to invade Britain to restore James II to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. This book conveyed the fear in the mind of King and government of the possibility of Britain conquered by the Nazis, ...more
Jun 21, 2015 Jean rated it liked it
Would have been aided by better editing (mostly to remove instances of repetition) and a bit prone to "it's possible" sorts of statements to ratchet up the scandal. But it can't be denied that it's an interesting read. Even taking Cadbury's assertions about the Windsors with a large grain of salt, one can't escape the conclusion that at best they were spoiled, incredibly self-centered and not very bright. The insights into Churchill and George VI were quite interesting, and I didn't know ...more
Jul 20, 2015 Arlene rated it it was amazing
Fascinating story of the royal family during WWII; I was moved to tears by some of the accounts of the war and horrified by the Duke of Windsor's attitudes and actions. Definitely a great read for anyone interested in WWII or just somebody who read or saw The King's Speech. It shows how the man who didn't want to be king grew into his role as he obeyed the call of duty.
Sep 02, 2015 Caroline rated it really liked it
Poor George VI. 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way', Tolstoy once wrote - but the British royal family during WW2 was definitely uniquely unhappy. Unexpectedly becoming king when he felt constitutionally unsuited and incapable is one thing - that's happened before. Becoming king when his predecessor was still alive and had in fact given up the throne for an immensely unsuitable woman, causing a constitutional crisis on the way, and was subsequently ...more
I really recommend this book, however, I admit that a key reason for my recommendation is the fact that I agreed with the author's characterization of two of the people at the center of the story - the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I have always been extremely skeptical of anyone who tries to paint their story as a fairy tale love story. There is nothing fairy tale-ish or loving about a conniving woman who tricks a gullible fool into believing she is worth loving and worth sacrificing the role he ...more
Jul 09, 2015 Flewts rated it it was amazing
This book is about the relationships between the four sons of King George V of England, and focuses on the time frame of 1936 - 1952. The eldest is "David," who became Edward VIII and gave up his throne for "the woman I love" and became the Duke of Windsor. The next oldest, Albert, aka Bertie, became George VI upon his brother's abdication. The other two brothers are the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent.

As a history major, I found the information in this book fascinating. I'm not sure how
Dec 22, 2015 Mardia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Technically a thorough look at the British Royal family during WWII, but I simply couldn't get over the over the top airbrushing of the royal family and British colonialism. The refusal by the author to go into any sort of real depth regarding the anti-Semitism of the time period (something that surely the royals reflected, the Duke of Windsor in particular) is jarring and does a disservice to the narrative. Given that Edward VIII was such a supporter of Hitler, it's a huge gap in the narrative ...more
Mary Louise Sanchez
Apr 14, 2015 Mary Louise Sanchez rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author, of the Cadbury candy family, did extensive research in the personal diaries of King George VI to flesh out the story of how he reluctantly became king, and the stories of his three brothers, the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), the Duke of Glucester, and the Duke of Kent during WWII. It was fascinating to learn more about how the British monarchy was transferred to the father of Queen Elizabeth II when her uncle abdicated because of the woman he loved and what happened to the Duke of ...more
Jun 26, 2016 Charlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read about the four sons of George V in the run up to and during World War II. Clearly very well researched, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Nice illustrations.
Edward VIII clearly did the country a favour to abdicate when he did, selfish to the end. Bertie came into his own during the war but paid a heavy price due to his health and early death. Interesting to read about the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester as I knew less about them. Overall, a very good book and would recommend it to
Jim McIntosh
Mar 27, 2015 Jim McIntosh rated it really liked it
A good overview of King George VI and his brothers the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII), the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. Mostly dawn from the king's war diary, it concentrates on the king's rise to fill his role during WWII, and the increasing petiness of Windsor and his wife, Wallis Simpson. I hadn't known much about the two younger brothers nor the circumstances of Kent's tragic death, so I found the book most interesting.
Aug 14, 2015 Rose rated it really liked it
4 royal brothers (former Edward VIII later the Duke of Windsor, George VI, George Duke of York and Henry Duke of Gloucester)before and during WWII. While it is nice to learn more about the two younger princes, the real meat of the book is the appalling (even treasonous) behaviour of the Duke of Windsor, always rumoured but confirmed by recently released documents. Nice selection of photos.
Kristin Reinert
Jul 11, 2016 Kristin Reinert rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it. It covers a time period that was not familiar to me.
Frances Johnson
Nov 02, 2015 Frances Johnson rated it really liked it
For those interested in military history and the British Royals.
Annika Hipple
Deborah Cadbury has an interesting story to tell, and she has clearly done extensive research, poring through archives and the personal diaries of King George VI and other key figures. Her portrayal of George VI, the reluctant king who came to the throne after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, is compelling and highlights how the king's strong sense of duty, integrity, dignity, and responsibility for the people of his empire enabled him to rise to the occasion and become the royal ...more
Dianne Landry
Nov 07, 2016 Dianne Landry rated it liked it
Like everyone else, I knew the story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. I also know about George VI but I knew nothing about his other brothers, the Dukes of Ken and Gloucester.

I found this book interesting enough to hold my attention as it went into the story of the four brothers and their roles in WWII. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody who was not a real history buff.
Oct 19, 2016 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
I listened to this as an audiobook. The narrator was good. I was unaware of much of the history between King George VI and the Duke of Windsor, as well as just how crummy the Duke and Duchess behaved and how crappy they were in general. I did enjoy the success story of King George VI, and enjoyed learning the history of his rule during and after the war and how he succeeded despite all the things stacked against him.
Dec 01, 2016 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, unfilmed
A well written book that tells (part of) the history of the Second World War, seen from the perspective of an internally divided British Royal Family. It changed at least my views on the Duke of Windsor, King George and Winston Churchill and it was hard to lay down. Recommended for royalty watchers and history buffs alike.
Sep 24, 2016 Bkwormmegs rated it really liked it
An interesting window to a very specific piece of WWII history. It's a narrow window - this is not a broad overview of the war or British society and is not meant to be.

This is the history of four brothers of the British monarchy during the war. The famous Windsor who abdicates his throne, the sober serious next in line, and the two Dukes, one a playboy and one a military man.

The friendship that develops between Churchill and the king is covered nicely, and I learned more about (and liked bett
Mar 01, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it
Firstly, I received this ARC via a Goodreads giveaway.

An accessible, eminently readable, book covering the years before, during and after WW2. The focus, as can be inferred by the title, is the Royal family of the time, specifically, the 4 surviving sons of King George V. The title and ARC cover blurb are somewhat overstated, as is often the case, to be titillating. But the book stands on its own merits of solid writing and research. Which, to my mind, is far more satisfying.

The book is not a go
Jun 03, 2015 Lynn rated it really liked it
Today’s post is on Princes at War: The Bitter Battle inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII by Deborah Cadbury. It is 356 pages long including notes and is published by PublicAffairs. The cover has the King George VI and his three brothers all in military dress. The intended reader is someone who is interested in history, War World II and the British royal family. There is no sex, mild language, and no violence in this book. The story is told from the third person perspective ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-history
Princes at War describes a period of great peril for the British monarchy. It covers a time in which the strains on the monarchy, from within and without, were feared to bring down the institution. The book begins with the unprecedented abdication of the throne by Edward VIII in December 1936. The Duke of Windsor, as he is now known, gave up the throne to marry the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, when it became clear that neither the country, nor the Church of England would allow him to have the ...more
Sep 18, 2016 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Part of the reason I bought this book was because I did not know much about the Duke of Kent, and in particular the circumstances related to his accidental death. Due to the lack of documentation, it turned out that there is not much more to know than the bare details. But it was also very interesting to learn about the excellent work undertaken by the Duke of Gloucester, both in Europe during the war and later in Australia.
After reading Andrew Morton's "17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-Up in History" I had no appetite to finish this book.
KJ, Madame Librarian
This was a very interesting read, and I wish I could have given it five stars. I had no idea just how far down the rabbit hole Wallis and David went. It also gave me a healthy new respect for Queen Victoria's reproductive and matchmaking prowess. Holy crap. Despite enjoying the book very much, there were a few things that really got my goat.

It lost its first star because, despite having a background in psychology, the author spends exactly 0 time talking about how the princes grew up. Prince Joh
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The Duke of Windsor 1 5 Aug 27, 2015 10:11AM  
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Deborah Cadbury is an award-winning British author and BBC television producer specialising in fundamental issues of science and history, and their effects on modern society.
After graduating from Sussex University in Psychology and Linacre College, Oxford she joined the BBC as a documentary maker and has received numerous international awards, including an Emmy, for her work on the BBC's Horizon s
More about Deborah Cadbury...

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