12 September 2011

the Way of the Windsors: Untitled in Virginia

I am wrapping up the Hugo Vickers book on the Windsors-specifically the Duchess. It is (what I think)  an honest look at a life Behind Closed Doors. If you have notions of their Life- for better or worse-richer or poorer-in sickness and in health, I suggest you take the Vicker's Cure.

While I may dote on her Style & in many ways this was what she Did- or better said perhaps- what was left for her to do. I have never made bones about the likes I have for- the Stylish- the Artist- the Talent-but never have I mistaken that attribution for- the Saint or the Sinner-whichever you think.  People are fallible- and as we have seen in  Royals- whether born to the crown or married to it-they are all too much so.

The Windsors were in an untenable position- as was their once beloved brother sovereign George VI. To assign blame to one camp or the other is a time waster and the Vickers book wastes no time there, yet  the author paints us a sympathetic picture of the aging Duchess tempered with stacks of facts and proof of- in the book. I was impressed, almost to the point of the text going dry in a few spots with a precise recap of events, yet this is all too necessary and no true Windsor diehard will object-nor will the historian that wants the facts born out by proof and Vickers let's Us all have it! Readers-I hope will not just be the Windsor fan base-but their detractors as well and If they do read it-will find  a good case for burying the hatchet-whether they admit it or not.

We all know how the story ended-and began to an extent-but everything from there out was mostly Behind Closed Doors-and Hugo Vickers has painstakingly opened that door to cast some light where a Life led in Exile and for a good part of  it-ostracism -deserves some sunshine. We can not begin to know the absolute truth where the Windsors are concerned, but I can not help thinking less Fear from both Sides -the King and the Once King and all factions would have served the Monarchy one man escaped- and the other became imprisoned by- to the better end.

The Windsors did do good- Vickers recounts their good works in the book- no more-no less. They could have done more-done better- but they didn't. They did what many wealthy couples did-still do, They were fallible in a world where most onlookers think there is a royal decree of infallibility.

While the Duke left his crown in England it seems he spent much time embittered by the slights he was served up and there were many- and many were just that-only slights. That idea of being Royal is more than just a title & that it run through the veins or gets in the veins and head certainly applies to the Duke. He was after all-meticulously groomed to be King. His lifelong quest to gain the title of Royal Highness for his bride-wife was his ultimate goal-I guess he thought it would in some way validate her in the public's eye-her own vanity and his self esteem. What he sought meant the world to Him-His Royal Highness-and was that title was fiercely withheld as was his absolute freedom to move about as he pleased without gaining permission. It must have been hard-Damn hard.

In one of the many wonderful first hand accounts and quips some of the best came for Cleveland Amory and Lady Diana Cooper. Amory had been selected to ghost write a book for the Duchess and got of on the wrong royal foot with the Windsors  by suggesting said title be Untitled. The royal WE was not amused.
From Diana Cooper- her take was that she always curtsied  to the Duchess- though not decreed because of the Highness issue-but out of Respect and Politeness for the Duke. She also said had she "taken him on" she would have removed the Duke to the Virginia colonies and immersed him in the things he would have loved most about America. Seems fittin'.

Perhaps it was Cecil Beaton that put it best when upon first meeting Wallis-pronounce she was all wrong. While on the next meeting- she was much improved and as time went by she was down right Royal.
Was it Beaton's opinion that improved- or Wallis that improved as she rose to her the height of her powers-as far as she could -but not to the Duke's much desired-Her Royal Highness?

 Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images Europe
Hugo Vickers' website here


  1. It seems there must always be an egregious woman for the press and its mindless parrots to viciously abuse and denigrate. Now it's the lovely Paris Hilton. What strength of character these women must possess to withstand the constant onslaught. Thank you for sharing the balm of beauty and discernment.

  2. The Windsors did do good- Vickers recounts their good works in the book- no more-no less. They could have done more-done better- but they didn't. They did what many wealthy couples did-still do, They were fallible in a world where most onlookers think there is a royal decree of infallibility.

    What a delightfully cogent paragraph. I have some cause to think that their lesser qualities won out - even though I'm less interested in them, ultimately - but this is an important reminder that an exalted position does not preclude or eliminate frailty

    Nicely done, PGT

    Best as always,


  3. I must put this on my list.
    I've always been intrigued to learn more.
    Did she try to encourage him to remain king?
    Or was she really a Nazi sympathizer?
    So many books and movies paint her as either the villain or a sympathetic character.

  4. Read The Viceroy's Daughters by Anne De Courcy and see what you think about the Windsors then. One of the daughters, "Baba" was married to Edward's best man and 'best friend'. Also, Anne Sebba's book, That Woman, might prove interesting. The TV show here in Britain the other week was quite good.

  5. Hilton,Paris seems to be on the right track. She certainly looks great now. I do believe with women especially there is still that double standard and what a man does is easily passed over while women doing the same are condemned, whatever the situation-it think the green eyed monster plays a part too. pgt

  6. Barima-they were left completely off the hook-but on it as well. this is part of the story I did not know of to the extent it seems. they would have been better served as would the monarchy if He had been placed within the "firm" pgt

  7. Emily- this book balances it all-what seems to be fact vs hearsay-or what there is proof of on paper.

    Shelley- I've read both of the books you suggest. Just finishing the Seba book. I believe history is best left to a historian. I the case of the de Courcy book these are her memories-her "take" on the times. the Seba book-entertaining reading is not supported with all the documentary evidence of the Vickers book. I hope you get to read his book as well.

  8. I've bought the book, at your recommendation. Could you please review "That Woman" next?



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