Reviewed by John Campbell, author of major biographies of F.E.Smith, Aneurin Bevan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and most recently Roy Jenkins.
So much has already been written about the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936 that one wonders what more there can be to say. But Adrian Phillips has found a new angle by focussing on the role of the senior Whitehall mandarins in alerting the politicians, even before George V’s death, to the potential danger to the Crown posed by the Prince of Wales’ determination to marry an unsuitable American divorcee, and pressing them to take action to get rid of him. In this reading the key figures were Sir Warren Fisher, the powerful head of the home civil service since 1919, and Sir Horace Wilson, his protégé and eventual successor, who held a more shadowy but equally influential position as special adviser to the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin. Between them Fisher and Wilson played a crucial but hitherto under-appreciated part behind the scenes in driving the crisis to its swift conclusion.
Phillips’ insight derives largely from the discrepancy between the bland official account which Wilson wrote for the record soon after the event and the notes he wrote at the time, which reveal far more of the alarm, urgency and ruthlessness of those he calls the ‘hardliners’, notably Neville Chamberlain, and their impatience with Baldwin’s apparent reluctance to grasp the nettle. But he has also drawn on an impressive range of other contemporary accounts and diaries, many unpublished and some quite obscure, to produce an almost hour-by-hour examination of the scheming and calculations of a wide range of players with different agendas that led to the eventual result. Paradoxically, however, all this new detail of the pressure on Baldwin to force the issue actually serves to confirm the accepted view that he played it very skilfully. By giving the King time to see that his position was impossible he was able to present his abdication to the House of Commons and the world as Edward’s own entirely voluntary and honourable choice, glossing over all the machinations, politicking and pressures that had been brought to bear over the previous weeks.
Reviewed by Piers Brendon author of The Dark Valley:A Panorama of the 1930s and Edward VIII: The Uncrowned King
The Uncrowned King : Adrian Phillips has pulled off a remarkable coup. By sedulous research he has been able to shed fresh light on the intricate political manoeuvres surrounding one of most studied episodes in our history – the 1936 abdication crisis. The King Who Had To Go is an elegant and compelling book.
Reviewed by Richard Toye, Professor of Modern History, University of Exeter and author of Churchill's Empire
The King Who Had to Go provides a dramatic and persuasive account of an important episode in British constitutional history. Based on an impressive range of sources, and written with flair, it makes a compelling case for Edward VIII’s inadequacy as a monarch.
Reviewed by Giles MacDonogh, author of 1938: Hitler's Gamble
.....admirable and exhaustive account of the crisis.......
Reviewed on Get History website
A very well researched and detailed account of the Abdication crisis