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That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor [Hardcover]

Anne Sebba
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Aug 2011

One of Britain's most distinguished biographers turns her focus on one of the most vilified woman of the last century. Historian Anne Sebba has written the first full biography of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, by a woman which attempts to understand this fascinating and enigmatic American divorcee who nearly became Queen of England.

'That woman', as she was referred to by the Queen Mother, became a hate figure for allegedly ensnaring a British king. Born in 1896 in Baltimore, Bessiewallis Warfield endured an impoverished and comparatively obscure childhood which inflamed a burning desire to rise above her circumstances. Neither beautiful nor brilliant, and no longer young, she nevertheless became one of the most talked about women of her generation, and inspired such deep love and adoration in Edward VIII that even giving up a throne and an empire for her was not enough to prove his total devotion. Wallis lived by her wit and her wits, while both her apparent and alleged moral transgressions added to her aura and dazzle. Accused of Fascist sympathies, having Nazi lovers and learning bizarre sexual techniques in China, she was the subject of widespread gossip and fascination that has only increased with the years. In death, the Duchess became a symbol of empowerment and a style icon, a woman whose unequivocal aim was to win in the game of life.

Based on new archives and material recently made available, this scrupulously researched biography re evaluates the role of politicians in the 1930s, sheds new light on the character and motivations of this powerful, charismatic and complex woman, and questions was this really the romantic love story of the century?

Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (18 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297858963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297858966
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A historical biography that doesn't get dull or confusing, this new look at the life of Wallis Simpson is a fascinating insight into the not-too-distant history of the Royals (WOMAN MAGAZINE )

Book Description

The first serious yet sympathetic biography by a woman of the Duchess of Windsor, the former Mrs Simpson.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 110 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That Woman 21 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this account of the life of Wallis Simpson. As other reviewers have commented, it is an immensely readable book and is certainly not a weighty, academic tome. The book appears to present a more balanced view of the Duchess of Windsor than has been evident previously, though I would not describe it as revisionist. While going some way to explaining her ambition through what are perceived as childhood privations, I don't think Ms Sebba has done a whitewash job. For the most part, the book does not shy away from portraying Wallis Simpson as a shallow and self-absorbed woman, obsessed with material wealth and status. In one of her letters to her former husband, Ernest, she implies that she wished she could have had the life the Prince of Wales gave her with him. This is clearly not an endearing woman. The price she paid for her ambition and love of the `good life' was a friendless, aimless existence propping up a seemingly weak and ineffectual husband. I felt little sympathy for either of the Windsor's after reading this book.
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118 of 129 people found the following review helpful
When I first embarked on this inspired and impressive book, I knew little about Wallis Simpson beyond the fact she was, from all accounts, an unpleasant and almost universally hated woman. 283 revelatory pages later, I was made aware, through Anne Sebba's biographical skills and psychological perception, of all the early influences, including sexual and physiological abnormalities, that went to shape her character, and also of her complicated life-history, with its frequent changes of locale, friends, lovers and position. Sebba steers us through all the twists and turns with admirable expertise, bringing each place and person vividly to life, and never forgetting the wider national and international situation, which played so important a part in Wallis's life, if only by default.

Her depiction of the Prince of Wales, Wallis's lover and, later, husband is equally assured. Sebba goes beyond the outwardly insecure and self-willed man to reveal the reasons for his basic weakness and vulnerability, including childhood neglect and bullying by his father, King George V. And, as his love for Wallis grows into an all-consuming obsession, and his urgent need to marry her becomes more crucial than anything else, including kingship itself, Sebba draws us into the web of intrigue, gossip, scandal and political crisis that accompanied the legal and personal manoeuvering on each side. This was no mere personal drama. Not only did the fate of the nation hang in the balance, but the looming shadow of World War II made the heir to the throne's ultimate decision a matter of still greater import. One of the most fascinating of Sebba's conclusions is that his marriage to Wallis actually did the world a favour by removing from the throne a highly unstable man, and one with strong German sympathies.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did Wallis fly too close to the sun? 18 Aug 2011
I'm not sure I like Wallis Simpson any more after reading this book but I certainly feel I have a better insight into what propelled her into reaching for the stars, though like Icarus, maybe she flew too close to the sun. Apart from exploring her childhood and the impact which early poverty and reliance on rich, capricious relations had on her adult ambitions, the book explores with the help of psychiatric and medical experts possible causes for her personality and behaviour. The author's style flows easily and the juxtaposition of Wallis's personal life with the affairs of state and the massive political crisis which hit Great Britain and the Empire in the 1930's while Europe was in such turmoil is fascinating. The new material which the author uncovered adds valuable insight into understanding more about the personalities who were at the centre of the storm. I found this book a really readable account of the life and times of Wallis Simpson.That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have said more. 4 April 2012
I purchased this book after hearing the author talk about her research at a literature festival. At the time I was impressed by the story of how she had unearthed Mrs Simpson's letters to her second husband and the author's conclusion that he and not the ex-King was the love of her life. For me the parts of the book that focused on this relationship were the most interesting and I wanted to read more of the letters and hear more of the story about these letters, although I understand that Sebba may be trying to protect the privacy of the owner. I agree with other reviewers that too much time is spent on the red herring of the Duchesses possible DSD (disorder of sexual development)this has been raised in other books, there is no real evidence, why bother to include it at length it distracts from looking at her childhood for real psychological clues to her development. As for the suggestion that the Duke was autistic, again nothing to back it up, he could have had any number of learning difficulties or disorders, but unless there is evidence or a good case what is the point of raising it at all, it is offensive to those who are autistic to use it as a label for anybody who has relationship difficulties.
Aside from this I thought the book flowed well and I enjoyed the writing and would have given it 4 stars apart from the implications, again without evidence, that the Wallis somehow colluded in her first husband's abuse of her "perhaps there was a part of her that had, wittingly or not, encouraged him, even enjoyed it?" I found this offensive. It belittled the experience of domestic abuse and as the author herself says Spencer was accused of abuse by subsequent partners.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
still haven't finished it - found it alittle boring but I will go back to it
Published 3 days ago by navylady
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 22 days ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Enjoyed the book
Published 1 month ago by Keith
4.0 out of 5 stars Her husband was based in New York and West Hartlepool ...
Her husband was based in New York and West Hartlepool !

He was in West Hartlepool when his divorce was announced, and Mrs Simpson and Prince edward conducted their... Read more
Published 1 month ago by D. van der werff
5.0 out of 5 stars Great service
Book in great condition and as described. Arrived when advised. Very impressed with the service and communication. Would be happy to use again.
Published 2 months ago by Emma6814
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I found the detailed insight into the life of Wallis Simpson well written and giving an interesting view of Wallis, especially her early life
Published 2 months ago by Deirdre
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Good read if you have any interest in her life...I read it in one go so it had me held...
Published 3 months ago by J. Wray
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story
I understand the speculation about Mrs S's sexual accomplishments may or may not be well founded. However, the rest of the story is well documented and simply incredible. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars That Woman.
What an account of Wallis Simpson's life! She certainly lead a complicated and complex existence.The biographer left no stone unturned while researching this book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Carol
5.0 out of 5 stars What a good Title "That Woman"
A very non basis story about a woman that changed the British monachy and Empire. Such a great fate seeing that she was an American with hardly any breeding or money.
Published 4 months ago by "Slow Cook"
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