As I read The Duchess, a novel about Wallis Simpson, I could not keep from discussing it with my mother on our weekly walks. Perhaps the author, Wendy Holden, did not mean to draw comparisons to Meghan Markle, and yet the more we talked about the novel, the more similar the two women seem to be.
Consider the photos below. Both women are dressed in light clothing, with their husbands practically cowering behind them. It makes one wonder what kind of power they wield.
Wallis Simpson did not come from a stable background. Her mother fought for their survival the best she could, but that did little to assuage the better life that Wallis yearned for.
First, she married a man from the Navy, who belittled and abused her. Then, she married a man who seemed content with a simple life while she hungered for a better apartment, a better place among the social elite. After much effort, Wallis gains an introduction to those who know Prince Edward. Subsequently, she is invited for a weekend at David’s (Prince Edward) castle, and there begins the hold that she establishes over him.
Wendy Holden gives us the impression of an athletic, almost casual man in the characterization of Prince Edward. His older brother, George, drinks; his younger brother, Bertie, stutters. But, Edward cuts the bracken and bramble from his property, and seems most content to live in the background. One wonders if he ever wanted to be king, or even felt he could with his father’s harsh derision.
For those who wish to know more about history, or are simply interested in an historical love affair with echoes reaching into today, The Duchess is a fascinating read. It is published today, September 28, 2021, by Penguin Random House.
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