The Windsor Faction: What if Edward hadn't abdicated for Mrs Simpson?
What would have happened in WW2 if Edward hadn't abdicated for Wallis Simpson?
This novel gives us one scenario about how the early stages of the Second World War would have played out if the King Edward VIII hadn't given up the throne for Mrs Simpson.
This is a question that historians -professional and amateur - have often speculated. It's suggested by many that the entire Edward and Mrs Simpson affair was largely orchestrated by the British government who believed that Edward would be a totally unsuitable sovereign.
Wallis Simpson died in 1936
The abdication question never arose in this novel because Mrs Simpson had died on the operating table. (Accidentally or deliberately?) Edward duly ascended to the throne but was known to to pro-Nazi at worst or a pacifist at best. Whichever way, during the 'phoney war', its early stages, he believed that peace could be negotiated with Hitler.
The book cleverly blends a mix of real historical figures and fictional characters. Some of them - both real and imaginary - are incredibly funny which lightens the tone of what could have otherwise been a sombre and serious book. The best of these are the (fictional) Cynthia - a tea-planter's daughter - who becomes embroiled in the affair and the real persona of Beverley Nichols.
Nichols was a writer and rather camp - think Noel Coward. Part of the book shows the affair from the point of view of his (fictional) journals which are very 1930s, very cleverly written and very funny. They truly add to the atmosphere of the times and the author recreates Nichols' dry wit perfectly.
The 'what' if genre
There's a fascination for the 'what if' novel.
What if Lee Harvey Oswald hadn't shot Kennedy? Stephen King gave us a great example.
The author of The Windsor Faction, D.J. Taylor, has written Booker Award-nominated books and he has explored and thoroughly researched his own 'what if' novel which stands as an excellent example.
Set amongst a background of high society,the bohemian Bloomsbury life and the shadows of the underworld, this is a fabulous and fascinating speculation but an exciting novel in its own right.
Edward and Mrs Simpson meets Adolf Hitler
This photograph is not faked or photoshopped. You can see it on the page about Edward on Wikipedia. It was taken in Germany in 1937. Yes, Edward and Mrs Simpson genuinely did meet Adolf Hitler.
We are accustomed to seeing today's smiling royalty meeting many people but that wasn't the case so much in the 1930s. All three people look to be genuinely pleased to be meeting.
Were Edward and Wallis pro-Nazi? Papers, letters and journals from the day have now become publicly available suggest that they were.
Edward, it must be remembered, had a large number of German relatives by blood and marriage - Queen Victoria's mother and her husband were German and several members of her family married into aristocratic German dynasties.
What of Mrs Simpson's personal views? Little is known about this but her compatriot Joseph Kennedy was the US ambassador in London from 1938 to 1940 and was of the opinion that peace could be negotiated with Hitler.
It is also true that an American member of his staff, Tyler Kent, was stealing secret papers from the embassy and passing them on to undermine the war effort. (A genuine historical figure, he plays a major part in this book).
Of course, today we view Hitler with hindsight. And we'd be wrong to think that the British-bulldog-fight-them-on-the-beaches idea existed at the beginning of the Second World War.
During the phoney war - the eight months immediately following the declaration of hostilities - many British people, mostly people in positions of power or members of the aristocracy, believed that a 'real' war would not take place and were sure that Hitler was a reasonable man who would cease his activities if negotiations were to take place.
In addition, there was a group known as the Right Club. Its members consisted of cabinet ministers, an American embassy official and members of the aristocracy who - in essence - shared Hitler's anti-Semitic views.
Something that I love about the book is that real events and real people and woven into the story along with fictional characters and events.
P.S. Watch for disguised real characters too. I love the passage about 'Minna Falconhurst' - actually the story of Unity Mitford.
All these years later, the story continues to fascinate us. Was she really the scheming woman who 'stole the king'?Or was she the unwitting pawn in a government plot? Or maybe even a willing part of it? This fabulous book has its own theories.
See Edward and Mrs Simpson in Nazi Germany
This is genuine newsreel footage of the pair visiting Nazi Germany in 1937.It is said that Hitler lamented the fact that Edward abdicated as he felt that he would have been 'of use' to Germany during the Second World War. Their meetings obviously went well.
© 2014 Jackie Jackson