A new biography on the Duchess of Windsor manages the impossible: It is more boring than her and of even less consequence. The only amusement to be gained from it is following up the constant contradictions contained in it.
That Woman: The Life Of Wallis Simpson Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. It is one in a series of biographies on Wallis Simpson that have been printed over the last few months. Like a zombie, the Duchess of Windsor returns to haunt us again and again. You hack off one ugly head and seven more grow, or so it seems.
There is a problem with writing a biography on Wallis Simpson: Even the wildest rumours have been repeated so many times that finding someone who hasn’t heard them is like finding a pin in a haystack. There is no possibility for new content except if you just invent it as you go along. Anne Sebba wants to humanize the Duchess, or so she claims. Unhappily, she suffers a severe bout of dementia between her introductory claim and the first few pages of the biography.
Accordingly, she goes on to recount every sliver of rumour and slander ever uttered. She then goes on to debunk these rumours in the next paragraph. Adding a further paragraph to prove that the rumours are true, she manages to contradict everything she said before without so much as a blink of an eye. In a sudden spout of creativity, she adds a further paragraph of her own even worse aspersions citing ‘well known’ sources that she somehow forgets to mention anywhere in the book as proofs of her wild inventions. If ever you feel like shouting at a book instead of at your TV, this is it.
In the end, you’ll notice that the book didn’t tell you anything new, you knew it all before. A stupid girl married an alcoholic wife-beater, divorced him, married and financially ruined her next husband to finally snare a king. She would have happily turned her back on the latter if the monetary enticement to do so had been high enough. As it was, she had to take the man to get the money, so she did that instead.
And she lived on unhappily ever after, spending her life in idle boredom. Her impact on the world was nugatory; her only aim was to be in the cheap pages of press gossip. Her pinnacles of creativity were spent on redecorating her rooms over and over. Her time was spent drinking and attending meaningless functions. The only times she ever made a splash in history was the feat of removing a Nazi sympathizer from the English throne and going with him to Berlin to give adulation to Hitler.
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