Traitor King: the Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by Andrew Lownie #HouseofWindsor

Traitor King, by Sunday Times bestselling author Andrew Lownie, looks at the years following the abdication of Edward VIII when the former king was kept in exile, feuding with his family over status for his wife, Wallis Simpson, and denied any real job.

Drawing on extensive research into hitherto unused archives and Freedom of Information requests, it makes the case that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were not the naïve dupes of the Germans but actively intrigued against Britain in both war and peace.

Traitor King tells the story of a royal exiled with his wife, turning his back on duty, his family and using his position for financial gain.

Traitor King (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible) (AbeBooks)

Of course, I’m going to pick up a book on Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor when he abdicated the British throne because he could not perform his duties “without the help of the woman I love.” It’s a great myth, and every book or documentary I read or watch now picks away at that popular myth as more and more information about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor has been revealed.

First and foremost, you have to remember that the House of Windsor had deep German ancestry and were the house of Saxe Coburg Gotha until World War I, when the family smartly re-branded. Most of Edward VIII’s relatives were German, he was taught to speak and read German fluently, and in general, had a great German influence on his life. However, so did his brothers and sister. That’s important to remember.

After the abdication, the now-titled Duke of Windsor was in exile in France. For years as the Prince of Wales, the Duke travelled the world on behalf of his father, King George V. He was charming and charismatic and very good at spreading goodwill and enhancing the image of the British Empire. Yet he hated the job, but loved the adoration. So when Hitler invited the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Germany to visit in the days before war broke out, the Duke accepted. According to the book, it was because he wanted the Germans to defeat the British and put him on the throne. According to other sources outside this book, like his aide who was there with the Duke, he was pleading with Hitler not to go to war.

It is true that there were quite a few intrigues involving the Duke and the Germans and the Fascist Spanish, but what isn’t clear is how much the Duke knew and or encouraged all these schemes and plots. I feel he knew of these plots, but didn’t take them seriously, but he enjoyed the attention nonetheless.

Also covered in this book, and which most books rarely do, is an analysis of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s life after World War II, exiled in France, spending two months of the year in the United States, ever the host of parties or the guests of honor at them. The two led a very vapid existence with no importance beyond being named on the best dressed lists. According to other sources outside this book, the Duke and Duchess were heavily subsidized by a few rich friends and didn’t pay for much of their stay in the States every year. Which is ironic considering how the Duke cried poverty to his brother when he abdicated, when in reality he had more than $1 million saved from his days as Prince of Wales. In 1936, that was a lot of money. By the time they were visiting the U.S. every year, that figure had grown to $10 million, according to sources outside this book.

There’s also speculation, oft repeated, that Wallis was never truly in love with the Duke and felt trapped in a marriage to a “pathetic and suffocating” husband. I do believe she was fond of him, but not “in love” with the Duke, and spent the rest of her life making sure he wasn’t bored, insisting on going out a lot or inviting people over, afraid that if he was left alone too long, he’d realize what he’d given up.

I’ve seen evidence to refute many of these claims in the book, just as I’ve seen evidence to support the thesis of Traitor King. I don’t know what’s true or not, but it certainly reads like a soap opera that I can’t help but follow.

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