The British Empire Library

King Edward VIII

by Philip Ziegler

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by A.H.M. Kirk-Greene (Nigeria 1950-66, lecturer in Modern History of Africa, Oxford University)
However continuing a deep and derisive 'I [almost] remember it well' interest in the affaire of Edward and 'that' Mrs. Simpson remains with us, especially the older members of OSPA, there might seem on the surface to be little relevance in including in our magazine a notice of this superb new biography of King Edward VIII. That could be so - arguably with two exceptions.

One is the expected sidelight thrown on British Africa, Asia, Australia and Canada at work (and play) in Philip Ziegler's account of all those weighty Empire tours undertaken by the then Prince of Wales between 1920 and 1928. So the royal party found the West African "heat appalling, the humidity gross" and all but the Prince were struck down by "violent diarrhoea" (in fact, G. Ward-Price's With the Prince to West Africa (1925) is far richer here)? So the Prince disliked Nairobi and "never felt at ease" with the Governor and in Kampala, Edward "spent the evening in the successful seduction of the wife of a local British official"? Plenty of scope for curious Colonial Service researchers in all this splendid narrative.

But it is the detailed pages, no less than sixty-two, devoted to the analysis of HRH's appointment and tenure of office as Governor of the Bahamas that appear to offer a lot of fresh Colonial Service data, on events and policy as well as on problems and personalities. Just because not everyone has privileged access to Royal Archives at Windsor and the Duke of Windsor's private papers, Ziegler's admirable biography is able to offer those interested in the colonies and Colonial Service history insights and information on the Bahama years hitherto unknown, I suspect, to most of us. Here is a veritable mini-treasure trove of Colonial Service history. And, just to bring it all down to our level, how familiar to many of us was the simple royal reaction to the news of the posting to Nassau: "When told that they had been asked to go to the Bahamas, the Duchess's response was to reach for an atlas".

British Empire Book
Philip Ziegler


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