Kate Lawrence's Reviews > That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

That Woman by Anne Sebba
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Apr 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: biography
Read from April 05 to 11, 2012

The story of Wallis Simpson and her relationship with Edward, the king who gave up his throne to marry her, continues to fascinate, 75 years after they were married. The author gives us the facts and the speculation, being careful to distinguish between them. Even after looking at all the documentation, including some new material, Sebba admits no one can "explain the inexplicable:" how a middle-aged woman who was not beautiful and who repeatedly humiliated Edward in front of their friends, was so compelling to him that he could not imagine life without her. Wallis, who still cared for her husband at the time, never expected the affair with the king to lead to marriage, and when it headed in that direction, tried to end it. He threatened suicide, so she went ahead with a very public and stressful divorce, becoming a target of vicious hatred. When they married in 1937 in France, only seven British subjects attended, none of them members of the royal family.

Edward had symptoms that Sebba labels autistic, and even casual acquaintances commented on his immaturity, insensitivity, lack of a sense of duty and responsibility. I suspect he didn't really want to be king, so abdicating may not have been the great sacrifice it appeared to be. Still, though, he and Wallis remained excluded from the royal family, exiled to the end of their lives, lonely, denied any meaningful service to the Crown. She did get the wealth she craved, but it was never secure, and came at a higher price than she ever expected to pay.
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