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That Woman: The life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba

(W&N, $39.99)It was one of the biggest scandals of the last century - the romance between British king, Edward VIII, and a twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. It led to the king abdicating

(W&N, $39.99)

It was one of the biggest scandals of the last century – the romance between British king, Edward VIII, and a twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. It led to the king abdicating and Wallis becoming one of the most vilified women of her time.

But Anne Sebba’s biography of Wallis – who would be forever referred to as “that woman” by the Queen Mother – brings new details to light, thanks to access the author gained to exclusive archives and information only recently made available.

It presents a much more sympathetic picture of Wallis than previous books. Yes, she may have been manipulative and looking out for her own interests, but she wasn’t quite the calculating temptress she was made out to be.

It was the king – not Wallis – who doggedly pursued their relationship. Edward was obsessed with Wallis, and while she enjoyed the perks of being the king’s “close companion”, she never expected it to last.

Just a few months before Edward abdicated, Wallis was still with her husband Ernest, keen to hold on to him in anticipation of the day the king tired of her. When Edward started talking about marriage, she was panic-stricken.

The meticulously researched book reveals other details about Wallis, such as the fact she may have been born genetically male.

The picture it paints of Edward isn’t flattering – that of a weak, immature and petulant man who would have made a disastrous monarch. Wallis may have done the British empire a favour by setting off the chain of events that led to his younger brother George VI taking the throne, followed by his daughter, Elizabeth II.

That Woman is an absorbing read about a lady who changed the course of history.

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