On December 10, 1936, King Edward VIII brought a great international drama to a close when he abdicated, renouncing the throne of the United Kingdom for himself and his heirs. The reason he gave when addressing his subjects was that he could not fulfill his duties without the woman he loved--the notorious American divorcee Wallis Simpson--by his side. His actions scandalized the establishment, who were desperate to avoid an international embarrassment at a time when war seemed imminent. That the King was rumored to have Nazi sympathies only strengthened their determination that he should be forced off the throne, by any means necessary. Alexander Larman's The Crown in Crisis will treat readers to a new view of this legendary story.
One of Mr. Larman’s most interesting revelations concerns an attempt on Edward’s life. The would-be killer, working under the assumed name of George McMahon ... [a] sense of astonishment over such an improbable turn of events lends a familiar story excitement, and Mr. Larman brings his cast of characters vividly to life in a fast-paced, lively staging of the drama. It’s as much fun to read as a good political thriller.
It says something about how close the abdication of 1936 has come to slipping from living memory that Alexander Larman feels obliged to plant broad reminders early on ... [Larman] doesn’t go in for startling revisions, but instead makes use of the new sources and interpretive lenses that have become available in the intervening four decades. In particular Larman insists on bringing the Germans back into the narrative, reminding us just how badly Hitler wanted to keep Edward on the throne ... The centrepiece of Larman’s book, though, is the 1936 assassination attempt on Edward ... When it comes to Wallis Simpson, Larman follows recent revisionary accounts in suggesting that she was more sinned against than sinning ... Larman shows a delicate touch too in not banging home the obvious contemporary resonances. Instead he lets us find our own fun ...
There is a mystery at the heart of this book, one which the author doesn’t appear to recognise and so cannot solve ... why are people, including Larman, still so angry with [Edward VIII] for abdicating? ... But the peaceful departure of a powerless constitutional monarch at his own request, Larman says, 'represented a social and political crisis like England has seldom known'. In his view, only the Civil War period comes close. Larman is an amiable and talented young writer, but it’s hard to agree with this ... So my thought on finishing this always interesting book was to ask the question that it decides not to: wasn’t the whole abdication business a ruling-class psychodrama that distracted the courtiers and the barons and the King’s ministers from the far more serious set of crises unfolding in 1936?