Andrew Morton’s “17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History”: Book review

Edward VIII abdicated the throne of England in 1936 in order to marry his lover, twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, who reputedly went on to have more affairs during their marriage. The royal house was never going to let old Eddie marry “that woman,” leaving him with what he saw was no choice but to escape into a life of freedom as the Duke of Windsor. Some freedom! Constantly harried and harassed by the royal house, kept on a tight lease, denied any position of any real prestige, and denied even the courtesy of he and his wife meeting the new king and queen.
“17 Carnations” is the story of a ridiculously stodgy old family bound by the strictest code of behavior necessary to maintain their interests and power, under the guise of “the good of the nation.” It’s also the story of a bit of a man baby, careening around Europe from affair to affair (often with married women of high and low social esteem) and then careening his way through the backchannels of prewar and wartime ‘diplomacy,’ cozying up to Nazis, badmouthing the formal foreign policy and position of his nation, proclaiming England had already lost the war and should make peace and that Hitler was a decent sort, and quite possibly ready to be restored to the crown as a puppet-king of the Nazis, should the need arise. After the war, the British government, kowtowing to the royal house, did just about everything they possibly could to destroy, suppress and delay publication of any official historical records that might expose the Duke’s conduct, attempting to force the Americans to cooperate in the destruction of files and papers and meeting with a helpful level of collaboration on that front.
Basically, a bit of a disgrace all round.
Well done, chaps.
That said – was this really the “biggest cover-up in history”? Bigger than Roswell? I wonder at the sometimes tabloid-gossip-press breathless tone of this book. It reminds me of “The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris,” which set the Hotel Ritz as the single most important location in Europe before and during the war. Strange that despite strong overlap in characters and some shared subject matter, “17 Carnations” only mentions the Ritz once.

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