‘Princes at War’ reveals grim story of British royalty

 

Princes at WarPrinces at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of World War II, by Deborah Cadbury, PublicAffairs, 2015, 400 pages, $28.99 (Hardcover)

When Edward VIII abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson, the woman he loved, it was supposed to be part of the love story of the century.

Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of World War II, by Deborah Cadbury, reveals the reality behind the fairy tale romance. It proves to be a grim story.

The book examines the lives of King George V’s four sons, from Edward’s abdication to the death of Edward’s successor, King George VI. In addition to the Duke of Windsor (as Edward became following abdication) and King George VI, it describes the careers of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Prince George, Duke of Kent.

The book reads like a cross between one of Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies. Each brother seem a characters from his plays.

George VI, the reluctant king, accepts responsibilities he never desired, even changing his name from Albert to George to underscore continuity with his father. Henry emerges as a nobler Falstaff, more interested in drinking and his army career than affairs of state. Yet he manfully shoulders responsibilities when the monarchy is threatened. Prince George is Prince Hal, a glamorous playboy who becomes a warrior when World War II starts. Edward is almost a Richard III, scheming ways to give his bride denied royal honors, and even regain his throne.

The book presents George VI’s feelings of inadequacy to fill the role he was thrust into, and his fears he might destroy the monarchy if he did fail. It also shows how the king mastered his limitations to become a symbol of British resilience during World War II.

It reveals Edward’s unfitness for the role he abdicated, showing his total focus on himself, to the point of signaling willingness to reclaim his throne through the assistance of Nazi Germany. It also shows George VI’s other brothers rallying to George VI as the crisis of war broke over Britain.

Princes at War is a fascinating look at the British monarchy over two decades, creating moving personal portraits of four men during a time of great challenge.

This article originally appeared in the Daily News of Galveston County.

 

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  1. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Aaaaand another one on my Goodreads list “To Read”. Dang you Seawriter!!

    Serious questions, how do you decide which books to review?

    • #1
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Concretevol:Serious questions, how do you decide which books to review?

    Seriously? I decide what books should be an interesting read. Then I ask for a review copy. If I am right, I review it. If I am wrong, I choose another book, and read that, until I find one that is an interesting read. Since I have been reviewing books for a dozen years, I have a pretty good idea about what should be interesting by reading the blurb.

    To answer the question my answer raises: Yes, I read a lot. I am also a very fast reader. I am not into television. (Cut cable when I got laid-off in May.) But I love reading and go through a dozen or so books a week. Read, write, do research (which involves a lot of field trips) on what I am currently writing about, and build models describes what I do with my free time.

    Seawriter

    • #2
  3. Weeping Member
    Weeping
    @Weeping

    I ran across the book and downloaded a sample of it when I was doing a search for books about Edward and Wallis. I may have to move it to my read-soon list. As for Edward not being fit to be king, from what little I know of the situation, I tend to agree. While he might not have wanted the responsibility, I think England fared much better with Albert/George VI at the helm than it would have had Edward remained on the throne.

    • #3
  4. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    I didn’t know if the paper or anyone else had any input on your selections. I suspected you were selecting them based on your own interest….invariably I find them interesting as well. I am a fairly fast reader but have limited time unfortunately. Thanks for the backlog!

    • #4
  5. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Concretevol: I didn’t know if the paper or anyone else had any input on your selections. I suspected you were selecting them based on your own interest….invariably I find them interesting as well.

    Others (including the Daily News of Galveston County) have an input in so far as suggestions go or making books available. I am the one who decides which books I review.

    The paper is kind of like you. They realize my own interest matches those of their readers, so they leave me alone to choose the books I review. I hate writing negative reviews. In a general interest venue such as a newspaper I view them as more about demonstrating the cleverness of the reviewer than informing the readers about a book worth reading.

    Seawriter

    • #5
  6. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I saw this was also reviewed in the WSJ. I plan to send the book to an Anglophile I know as a birthday present. Nice review.

    • #6
  7. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler
    @LarryKoler

    Weeping:I ran across the book and downloaded a sample of it when I was doing a search for books about Edward and Wallis. I may have to move it to my read-soon list. As for Edward not being fit to be king, from what little I know of the situation, I tend to agree. While he might not have wanted the responsibility, I think England fared much better with Albert/George VI at the helm than it would have had Edward remained on the throne.

    Yes, George VI was a great man, a tremendous patriot and he married a woman who matched him well. His life is an example for all of us regarding duty and high principle. I love this man — the right man for the time and the UK needed him very badly indeed so he stepped up and performed with diligence and even some panache. God bless him.

    • #7
  8. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler
    @LarryKoler

    Thanks again, Seawriter, for another book that sounds very interesting. I added it to my Kindle. (I wish I read as fast as you.)

    This would make a great series on Netflix.

    • #8
  9. Marythefifth Member
    Marythefifth
    @Marythefifth

    Hmmm. I just put it on my wish list at Audible.com. Thanks.

    • #9
  10. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Seawriter, your next job should be the seller of books. You sell us every week. My husband wants me to quit reading your reviews…

    • #10
  11. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    AUMom:Seawriter, your next job should be the seller of books. You sell us every week. My husband wants me to quit reading your reviews…

    Wait….Auburn grads can read?? No wonder Bammers hate you guys!

    • #11
  12. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    AUMom:Seawriter, your next job should be the seller of books. You sell us every week. My husband wants me to quit reading your reviews…

    If I did that I would go broke. I would take payment in books and starve to death.

    Seawriter

    • #12
  13. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Concretevol:

    AUMom:Seawriter, your next job should be the seller of books. You sell us every week. My husband wants me to quit reading your reviews…

    Wait….Auburn grads can read?? No wonder Bammers hate you guys!

    Actually they hate us because we don’t bow to their “inevitable” greatness.

    • #13
  14. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    AUMom:

    Concretevol:

    AUMom:Seawriter, your next job should be the seller of books. You sell us every week. My husband wants me to quit reading your reviews…

    Wait….Auburn grads can read?? No wonder Bammers hate you guys!

    Actually they hate us because we don’t bow to their “inevitable” greatness.

    The only thing that is inevitable about Bammers is their love for tractors and potted meat. :)

    • #14

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