The King Who Had To Go by Adrian Phillips

The King Who Had To Go: Edward VIII, Mrs Simpson and the Hidden Politics of the Abdication Crisis by Adrian Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really found this fascinating but it is a book of a very particular angle. Phillips is interested in the politics; specifically, the political machinations that occurred within government and between them, the press, and the royal family – and only that. He leads us through letters and telegrams and meetings where men wrangle about constitutional detail and, in the process, weds the constitutional detail with the occasionally farcical. (I was struck by the chap who flew over to France as part of events, decided to take his doctor because he was freaked out by flying, turns out the doctor’s an obstetrician, and now everybody thinks that Mrs Simpson’s pregnant).

In terms of style, it does take a while to get going but it’s worthwhile persisting. Phillips is comfier in a more academic style but I was amused when his feelings came to the fore. Certain characters are painted in certain lights and I found it interesting that he had some sympathies as well. I don’t know as much as I’d like about this period, hence my reading of this in the first place, and I found that he handled an enormous cast of characters pretty well. I’d have welcomed a cast of characters list, perhaps, or maybe a little more contextual detail for newcomers, but overall he does well.

I think what fascinated me the most was just the idea of all these blokes sat in an office and going “what if” and teasing out all these awful and outlandish scenarios. Some of them, Phillips is careful to add, bore little relationship to what was actually was happening, and many of them seemed to be rather more about the settling of old political scores. Fascinating. Exhausting! Politics!

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