Behind Closed Doors: The Tragic, Untold Story of the Duchess of Windsor

Written by Hugo Vickers
Review by Doug Kemp

The author is a well known historian of mostly 20th-century monarchy and British society, including the duke and duchess of Windsor. This book is a rather curious amalgam of personal memoir, a sort of legal deposition and a conventional narrative history and life of the Windsors.

Vickers makes a case with substantial evidence to show how, after the death of the duke of Windsor in 1972, the ailing duchess came under the control of Maitre Suzanne Blum, her scheming lawyer, and other members of her staff in Paris. They isolated the duchess from most of her friends, sold off possessions with a possibly forged letter granting Blum power of attorney, and then earned large sums of money in publishing love letters between Edward and Wallis, after the duchess’s death in 1986. Blum is also accused of ignoring elements of both Edward’s and Wallis’ wills. This part of the book is a steadfast accumulation of evidence, in conjunction with a narrative of the duchess’s latter life. The second part of the book looks at the lives of Edward and Wallis and refutes many of the conventional myths about them – that Wallis was a sexually rapacious harpy; that Edward had Nazi sympathies and also that Wallis inveigled herself into Edward’s affection in order to be queen. Vickers makes a good case to show that a dilettantish Edward, even as prince of Wales, never wanted the responsibilities of the monarchy well before Mrs Simpson came along.

It is an entertaining and informative book, imbued in the mores of British 20th-century high society.