Everyone loves a royal romance and a royal wedding?
Not when it was Edward, Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson.
17 Carnations by Andrew Morton is subtitled The Windsors, the Nazis and the Cover-up and focuses on the association the then Prince of Wales had with prominent Nazis in the 1930’s. The title 17 Carnations refers to the flowers the German Ambassador to England, von Ribbentrop, supposedly sent to Mrs Simpson every day – a reminder of a brief love affair.
The cover shows a photo of the one time the Duke and Duchess of Windsor met Hitler. No one is smiling. The Duchess looks into the camera cautiously; the Duke looks into the middle distance with a smug half-smile. Hitler is aware he has pulled off a public relations coup, but gives nothing away.
The back cover asks the question: Traitor King or Duped Duke? In other words, was the Prince of Wales deliberately traitorous? Many German leaders felt that there would not have been a war had Edward been crowned king, as he would have been installed as a puppet king.
The book is not so much about what caused the abdication, but the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s relationship with Germany. Andrew Morton does portray the Prince as an indulgent and selfish playboy with a string of lovers who were protected from the press by the customs of the day. The Prince also displayed signs of depression. A number of
British leaders were convinced Wallis Simpson was a German spy. At that time, it was still illegal for an heir to the throne to marry a commoner, only another member of a European royal family was appropriate.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to suspect the Prince of Wales of collusion at worst, and naivety at best. However, for those of us who did not live through the time it is easy to underestimate the mood of appeasement, and the horrors of war proponents were wishing to avoid.
The royal family, George V, Queen Mary, Princess Mary and the Princes known in the family as David, Albert and George are portrayed as dysfunctional. When the Prince of Wales chose his own happiness over duty, the family never forgave him. He was in virtual exile and stripped of much of his income. Invited, none of the family would attend his wedding.
There was great fear in the government that Edward would try to reclaim the throne. He had been tremendously popular with the people. It was believed that this would be master minded by the Nazis, and indeed, after the war a file was found buried deep in a German forest with just this planning in place. It’s a fascinating story of intrigue.
Andrew Morton has written quite a number of unauthorized biographies and is noted for “Her True Story in her Own
Words”, Diana’s story. He has also written a book about William and Catherine.
Frankly, the book needed tighter editing. I found myself re-reading sentences as the subject of the sentence seemed to have wandered away several clauses later.
If you like British history this book is a thought provoking read just before our time. I think it explains much of the standards the current royal family serves by today.
17 Carnations by Andrew Morton is available from Dymocks in paperback and eBook formats.