That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson

Written by Anne Sebba
Review by Melanie Clegg

The charmingly rakish handsome prince gives up his throne for the woman he loves, who happens to be a rapacious American divorcée with a fondness for gaudy jewellery, champagne and the high life. We all think that we know the story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, but do we really?

Anne Sebba’s biography of the enigmatic Wallis tells the true story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and reveals that it was far from being the great romance it’s usually portrayed as. Far from being a fairy-tale prince, Edward was apparently emotionally stunted, philandering and somewhat dim-witted, while Wallis herself comes across as a lot more likeable than the rapacious, brittle socialite of popular imagining.

Although this makes no claim to be a scholarly biography of the royal couple, it’s a rollicking and highly entertaining read. There are a few bits of speculation about the possibility that Edward had Asperger’s and Wallis suffered from a form of hermaphroditism, but it is never presented as anything other than speculation, so although I rolled my eyes a bit, those ideas didn’t detract from the rest of the book.