Will this country ever take a kinder view of The Duchess of Windsor, the evil divorcee who in public perception dragged a good man away from his throne?
Her biographer Hugo Vickers doubts it: “But it is worth a try!
“I have been doing a lot of talks and you would think that the audiences on the whole would be extremely unsympathetic towards her, but actually a good few people afterwards will actually say ‘Well, I will think about it’”
And there is indeed a good deal to think about, as Hugo will explain when he speaks on the Duchess for the Chichester Festivities (Old Kitchen, Bishop’s Palace, Thursday July 7, 6pm).
His book Behind Closed Doors draws on previously-unpublished papers and personal testaments brings a new perspective to the Duchess’ tragic story, focusing in particular on the last years of her life.
Hugo wasn’t impressed with the way she was briefly portrayed in the film The King’s Speech: “I didn’t care for it, not so much the character but that the actress made her to be very gauche, which she certainly wasn’t. Whatever you might think of Mrs Simpson, she was certainly more elegant and stylish.”
Fascinatingly, Hugo has discovered that the more people got to know her personally, the more they liked her - exactly the opposite to the response the Prince of Wales (so briefly the King) drew.
“The British public loved the Prince of Wales but the more people worked with him, the more they disliked him, people like his private secretary. Quite the opposite was true of Mrs Simpson.”
Damagingly for her though, she has been so consistently painted as the woman who stole the king. Absolutely wrong, Hugo argues. The King wanted to go and Mrs Simpson was the means by which he did so.
“She made a mistake in that when she met the Prince of Wales, she didn’t understand his position. She thought of him as a film star or a tycoon. In fact, she captured a damaged man who was looking for an escape.”
By the end of the 20s, he was exhausted; his superficial charm had worn thin: “The awful truth is that he became a bore towards the end.”
But rather than dragging him away, Mrs Simpson initially made him more interested in his duties and curtailed his drinking. Hugo is clear: it was certainly without her permission that he abdicated.