Saturday, January 14, 2017

Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury

  • THE BOOK
    • Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII by Deborah Cadbury
    • Published March 10, 2015
    • Other works by author include: The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers, Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space and several others.
      • With the author's last name --- Cadbury --- I'm guessing she had some inside scoop on chocolate history! And how have I missed reading a book about the history of chocolate?!

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is the history of World War II through the lives of 4 royal brothers just before and during those years:
      • Edward, former king and Duke of Edinburgh, who famously gave up the throne for the women he loved:
        • Wallis Simpson, twice-divorced American
      • Prince Albert, Duke of York, the brother who was next in line for the throne when Edward abdicated thus becoming King George VI (also the father of Queen Elizabeth II)
        •  Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Duchess of York then Queen Elizabeth
      • Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, wasn't considered to be academically bright, but he rose admirably to the occasion during the war
        • Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester
      • Prince George, Duke of Kent, the handsomest brother who had a playboy reputation (not undeserved) but also did his part for Great Britain
        • Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, Duchess of Kent
    • Edward gives up the throne and marries Wallis in 1937. They spend the rest of their lives whining about EVERYTHING. 
      • The one thing that was especially galling to them is the refusal for Wallis to ever use HRH (Her Royal Highness) as part of her title.
    • The Windsors visited Germany after their marriage, meeting Hitler at that time.
      • The Nazis planned to re-install Edward as king if they won the war. It is unknown if Edward himself knew this --- he likely suspected --- and was angry to be exiled to the Bahamas to act as governor during the war.
        • He is definitely shown to have loose lips, sharing confidential information all over the place.
      • The Windsors ties to the Nazi regime, however tenuous or strong, were used to keep them out of England and exiled forever in France after the war.
        • It is assumed that George VI could not forgive his brother for stabbing him in the back by agreeing to take over again as king once his country was defeated by the Nazis.
    • The new king does his duty but at the expense of his own health. His cigarette smoking along with the stress of the war led to his death from lung cancer in 1952 at the age of 56.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • As the war goes on and the allies suffer defeat after defeat, you can see how hopeless it seemed to everyone in England at that point. 
      • Germany and Italy controlled or invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania, Finland, Bulgaria, and more by the end of 1942.
        • With the exception of Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Southern France and Switzerland, all of Europe was in the hands of the Axis.
        • 1943 was the tipping point as the Nazis started losing their battle with the USSR while the United States helped make progress in Italy.
    • King George VI and his prime minister Winston Churchill did their best work during World War II. Each man worked tirelessly even though they both suffered from health issues. Both men appear admirable in all ways.
      • The dukes of Kent and Gloucester both do stellar work themselves, visiting camps, touring war zones, and all other missions on behalf of the king, their brother.
      • And then there's the awful, awful Duke of Windsor and his wife. Two more selfish and unaware people did not exist during the war. Worried about their homes in Paris and the South of France while they went to the Bahamas, they actually asked the Nazis to guard them during the war. And the Nazis did!
    • I really enjoyed the book but I was mystified by some odd omissions. 
      • The four brothers also had another brother, Prince John, who's mentioned a few times early on. Then he's never mentioned again. One simple line stating that he had died in 1919 at the age of 13 (from epilepsy) would have helped.
      • The five brothers had a sister, Princess Mary, who is not mentioned at all even though she was in England during the war and must have had some impact on their lives.
      • There is no epilogue on what happened to the duke and duchess of Windsor. Again, a couple of sentences in the epilogue chapter would have been enough.
    • Recommended for fans of British history, World War II history and royalty.
    • Out of 5 stars: ★★★

1 comment:

  1. Chocolate good, Nazis bad. That is as simple as life can get.

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