Wallis Simpson: The Bored Duchess of Windsor

A biography invented and written by Anne Sebba on Wallis Simpson Duchess of Windsor manages the impossible: The book is more boring than her and of even less consequence. The only amusement to be gained from reading 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. 

Authors face a major problem when writing a biography on Wallis Simpson: Even the wildest rumors have been repeated so many times that finding someone who hasn't heard of 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 in the introduction. 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 allegation, rumor, and slander ever uttered. She then goes on to debunk these rumors in the next paragraph. Adding a further paragraph to prove that the rumors are true, she manages to contradict everything she has 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 while 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 unhappily ever after, spending her life in idle boredom bossing a weak and boring husband. Her impact on the world was nugatory; her highest aim was to be in the cheap pages of press gossip and being shot by paparazzi. Her pinnacles of creativity were spent on redecorating her rooms over and over. Her time was spent in drinking and attending meaningless functions. The only times she ever made a splash in history was the considerable feat of removing a Nazi sympathizer from the English throne and going with him to Berlin to give adulation to Hitler.

If you don't have to, don't buy this book. You probably have enough boring ones lying about unread. And if you need to shout at something, the TV is always an option.

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