King George V predicted that his son, Edward VIII, would destroy himself within a year of succeeding to the throne. In December 1936 he was proved right, and the world’s press revealed the king was abandoning his throne to marry Wallis Simpson.
A life spent in the shadow of his charismatic elder brother left the new king, George VI, magnificently unprepared for the demands of ruling the kingdom and empire.
Drawing on personal accounts from the royal archives, Deborah Cadbury uncovers the very private conflict between George VI and his older brother.
"Gripping.... One of the most riveting tales of the nonfiction season, rendered with novelistic drama but deliberate detachment. The inner tensions of the palace during wartime and the inner tensions of a remarkable family make for one of the best, and ultimately most uplifting, stories of the war years." (
The Boston Globe)
"A moving and deeply researched account.... Her story is gripping, illuminating and generous in its recognition of the central, dramatic role of the monarchy in Britain’s finest years, and particularly the quiet heroism of King George VI." (William Shawcross, author of The Queen Mother)
"Impeccably researched, and written with all the brio and understanding of a major historical novel, Princes at War takes us intimately and even shockingly into the human dynamics of a barely functional family at the time of our greatest peril." (David Kynaston, author of Austerity Britain)
"Meticulous and measured analysis of the Windsor saga.... Hovering over the drama is the question of whether the Windsors endangered the monarchy itself at a perilous time in history. The strenuous attempts to suppress sensitive files touching on the collaboration between the Windsors and the Nazis reveal the anxieties at the heart of the British establishment.... Cadbury deftly weaves the stories of the royal dukes into the unfolding national crisis as appeasement gives way to war.... [She] covers the war years - Dunkirk, the Blitz, the Normandy invasion - in moving detail." ( Wall Street Journal)
"Does the author provide a fresh and original view of the Duke of Windsor? Slightly to my surprise, my answer to this question must be 'Yes'.... Princes at War is a well-researched and entertaining account of a particularly poignant period in history .... Cadbury writes uncommonly well and her book is definitely worth reading." (Philip Ziegler, Daily Telegraph.)
"The contrast between the two brothers - one dutiful and earnest struggling to deal with the responsibilities that had been forced upon him, the other blithe and solipsistic - is drawn with great dramatic effect in Princes at War.... Deborah Cadbury combines the family drama against the backdrop of the war with terrific narrative verve." (Daisy Goodwin, The Times)
"Cadbury has given it all a fresh analysis, cleverly unveiling in much detail the deep anguish of the brothers. This is a highly readable and finely written account of the drama which threatened to bring king and country crashing down. Only stammering Bertie emerges as a hero." ( Daily Express)
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Real people with public lives
This is one of the best books I have listened to.
Like many of the biographies of early 20th century political figures (Margot at War, about Margaret Asquith; or the story of the Mitford sisters) in dealing with people of whom we have all heard, but who are now fading into the pages of history. However, this one is exceptionally good at combining the public and private aspects of their lives. Whilst the author is humane in her approach to the individuals, she is also clear-sighted about the obsession of Edward VIII for Mrs Simpson, and Mrs Simpson's insatiable hunger for wealth, position and most of all a royal title.
This is the first time I have listened to Cameron Stewart, but he was an excellent narrator: clear, well-paced, a pleasant voice, that brought the book through clearly without any of the mannerisms that can sometimes distract. I liked the fact that he did NOT try to adopt a different voice for every person who was quoted, which is current fashionable. I will look forward to listening to him again.
Not a single moment, but rather the theme of how heavily his role as king weighed on George VI is always impressive and moving.
This book was a well-balanced combination of political history (the events leading up to the abdication, to the war, and the way the war played out) and personal history (the effects of these various events on the people involved, and the human and family interactions between them). Without ever being salacious or prying, it gave me an enhanced sense of how the public events fitted into the private lives of these individual, and how their individual gifts and personalities affected those events.
- Kl Love
Fascinating must read for anyone interested in modern history!
- Alison St Pierre