Here she talks about her experience of writing The People's King, using new evidence including thousands of letters sent to Edward by his subjects. Writing this book has been an extraordinary experience: full of new and unexpected discoveries. I have frequently been kept awake at night, trying to make sense of newly unearthed documents? Sometimes, especially when studying the government documents relating to the Abdication, which were released at the National Archives in January this year, I could barely believe what I was reading.
Perhaps because this is such a human story, there have been moments during my research when I have been moved almost to tears. I remember sitting at a desk in the Round Tower in Windsor Castle, which holds the Royal Archives, and coming across a letter from an ex-serviceman to Edward that contained a packet with a four-leaf clover. The veteran told Edward, who had just abdicated, that he had been sent a pair of clovers while he was serving at Gallipoli in Although the Allies had suffered a terrible and brutal defeat, he had survived? He had carried them with him ever since, and now he hoped the King would accept one of the pair,?
The book challenges the conventional way of looking at the story.
But I feel privileged that I? Some day? Wallis told a well-known journalist in She dearly hoped, she said, that when the world knew the truth, it would understand and love Edward? We have had such happiness? It was the greatest royal scandal of the last century: the young king who renounced the throne and gave up everything for the woman he adored.
But what was the truth behind this momentous event? In this candid and moving account Susan Williams tells the story of what really happened, drawing on diaries, secret documents and thousands of letters sent to Edward by the public to re-create the tragic events that led to his abdication. She reveals a hugely popular, deeply loved monarch, one whose modern ideas and sympathy for the poor so unsettled the establishment that his devotion to Wallis Simpson provided the perfect excuse to force him off the throne?
Williams reminds one of Edward? The Duke of Windsor has been spectacularly traduced in recent years. This book is an exercise in rehabilitation. Hoare had to resign, and the first attempt at appeasement failed.
By the spring of , with the League of Nations still debating what to do about Italian aggression—specifically, whether to impose sanctions on oil—resistance in Ethiopia collapsed. Meanwhile, on March 7, Hitler took advantage of the disarray in the west and broke the first of the territorial clauses of the Treaty of Versailles by sending troops into the Rhineland , the German territory to the west of the Rhine River bordering on Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Rhineland occupation turned the balance of power in Europe toward Germany and against the west. Although in Britain there was virtually no reaction—after all, it was German territory—the effect on France, particularly on the French army command, was devastating. As a consequence, France virtually gave up the unilateral direction of its foreign affairs. Diplomatic initiative rested entirely in London. Now that it was too late, the year rupture between Britain and France came to an end.
Edward VIII abdication crisis
In July revolution against the Republican government of Spain broke out, led by conservative forces within the Spanish army under the command of Gen. Francisco Franco. It quickly became apparent that the revolutionaries were supported by Italy and, to a lesser extent, Germany, not only with money and arms but also with men.
The British reaction, adopted also by the French, was peculiar. Although, according to public opinion polls begun in , less than 3 percent of the British population favoured a Francoist victory, British policy was to forbid the supply of arms to either side.
THE PEOPLE'S KING: The True Story of the Abdication | Susan WILLIAMS | First Edition
By this policy of nonintervention the British and the French avoided involvement in war against Franco and by implication against the Italian government. The pursuit of friendship with Italy could continue. Meanwhile, the democratic Spanish government was unable to buy arms from the Western democracies. Franco eventually triumphed in the spring of See also Spanish Civil War. Chamberlain was determined to continue the policy of accommodation with Italy. He was convinced that at some point it could be reunited with the Western allies and the Stresa Front could be recreated.
Italian leader Benito Mussolini and officials of his government gave many private intimations that this might be possible. But at the same time Chamberlain was determined to pursue a general policy of European settlement that would include Germany. The prime minister and many Britons felt that Germany had been badly treated by the Treaty of Versailles and that the principle of self-determination dictated that German minorities in other countries should not be prevented from joining Germany if they clearly chose to do so.
Hence, when Germany overran the Austrian republic in March and incorporated the small state into the Reich see Anschluss , Britain took no action. Similarly, when almost immediately Hitler began to denounce what he characterized as the Czech persecutions of the militant German minority in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia , Chamberlain searched for a means not to prevent the Czech borderland from being transferred to Germany but to ensure that it was accomplished peacefully. Because Czechoslovakia had a military alliance with France, war would surely result if it resisted the Germans and called upon French aid.
The attempted settlement of the Sudeten crisis, culminating in the Munich Agreement , was the climax of the appeasement policy. Between September 15 and 30, , Chamberlain traveled to Germany three times to meet Hitler.
On March 15, , the German army, virtually without warning, occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia, even though it was not inhabited by Germans. On March 18 Chamberlain, distinctly angry, made an announcement that amounted to the end of appeasement; in the following weeks Britain offered a guarantee of Polish territory where Hitler would clearly be looking next , signed a military alliance with Poland , and undertook serious preparation for war, including the first peacetime military conscription.
The Polish crisis precipitated the war. Because the only country able to defend Poland was the Soviet Union , a British-French mission in the summer of began negotiations for a treaty with Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin.
Poland, however, announced that it would not allow Soviet troops to enter Polish territory, even for the purpose of defending the country against Germany. Hitler put a stop to these negotiations on August 23 when he announced the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. On September 1 German troops invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3. The first, the so-called phony war and the period of German victories in the west, ended with the decision of France on June 18, , to ask for an armistice with Germany.
6 Shocking Facts About Wallis Simpson, the Scandalous American Who Stole King Edward VIII's Heart
Churchill thus was in charge of the Royal Navy on April 9 and 10, , when Hitler without warning overran Denmark and Norway , greatly extending his northern flank and virtually destroying the naval blockade of Germany that had been established at the beginning of the war. The Norwegian campaign destroyed the Chamberlain government. The obviously poor planning and the incapacity of the British forces in an area where the Germans were at a serious disadvantage caused a rebellion within the Conservative Party. Although Churchill himself, as first lord of the admiralty, was heavily involved and did not attempt to deny his responsibility, Chamberlain quickly discovered that the coalition government he hoped to establish with either himself or Lord Halifax as prime minister could, at the insistence of the Labour Party , be headed only by Churchill.
Thus, on May 10 Churchill was announced as prime minister. On the same day, May 10, , the German army struck in the west against the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. France held out for just 38 days. In the last six months of , some 23, civilians were killed, and yet the country held on. Perhaps the important political lesson of World War II lay in the realization that a democratic country, with a centuries-old tradition of individual liberty , could with popular consent be mobilized for a gigantic national effort. The compulsory employment of labour became universal for both men and women.
In Britain was devoting 54 percent of its gross national product to the war. Medical services were vastly extended. Civilian consumption was reduced to 80 percent of the prewar level. Yet by and large the political tensions that had accompanied an equally desperate war 25 years before did not appear.