The Harry and Meghan episode is worse than the abdication crisis

There are lots of parallels between Wallis Simpson and former King Edward VIII (left) and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (right) (Insider)

Few weeks ago, I reviewed Andrew Lownie’s enthralling and fascinating book Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor. The author – a disillusioned monarchist who believes in institution but feels let down by some members of it – generously accepted to answer a few questions for this blog. Below is the content of our discussion.


Mr. Lownie, while researching Traitor King, did you make any findings that surprised you?

Lots not least the extent of the Windsors’ dealings with the Nazis which can be found in documents, the knowledge that the Royal Family and Government had of their activities and the rather bizarre relationship the couple had and their bisexuality. Also, the degree of the attempted British cover up of his treachery.

Understandably, Winston Churchill is a frequent guest in the book. I might be wrong, but I didn’t get the sense that he became a tooth-and-nail opponent of the Duke of Windsor during the war. How would you describe the evolution of the relationship between the two men?

Churchill had been one of the Duke’s strongest supporters during the Abdication, mainly because of his romantic notion of the monarchy, but the scales fell when he saw the Duke’s duplicity over the financial settlement in 1937 and the disloyalty shown during the war when Churchill had to threaten him with court martial. The relationship then became more pragmatic with Churchill trying to find him a job after the war and suppressing the embarrassing captured German documents, but he refused to join a cruise when he learnt the Windsors would be present.

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The Prince of Wales – Bouncer of the Monarchy

“‘I put my arm around my brother all our lives […], and I can’t do it any more. We’re separate entities’” Prince William once said about his relationship with his brother Prince Harry. With the release of the Netflix so-called documentary about the life of the Sussexes, media outlets report that the Prince of Wales will respond in a “swift and robust” manner to any unjust claim made by his brother and sister-in-law, whose second part will air tomorrow, December 15.

Anyone eager to know what kind of response Harry and Meghan might encounter from the principal members of the Royal family should immediately grab Robert Lacey’s enthralling and insightful book Battle of Brothers – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (Harper). Full disclosure, I received a review copy of this book more than a year ago. The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II prompted me to dive into it. I think the timing couldn’t be better, even though I know an updated version is available with new material.

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Le point de bascule de 1942

L’année 1942 aura toujours une signification particulière pour moi. Mon défunt père est né cette année-là, pendant la bataille de Stalingrad. Il m’a initié à la Seconde Guerre mondiale par une belle collection de livres à l’intérieur de laquelle je me suis plongé le nez très jeune. Dans leur magnifique livre 1942 (Passés / Composés), Cyril Azouvi et Julien Peltier m’ont permis de découvrir toute l’envergure et la signification de cette année « bissectrice de la guerre » pour reprendre l’expression citée et empruntée à l’historien français Henri Michel.

Pour revenir à Stalingrad, il ne devait suffire que « […] d’une seule journée pour réduire en cendres cette cité moderne et pluricentenaire » selon les plans établis par les hautes sphères allemandes. À la tête de troupes mal équipées par sa faute pour un combat hivernal, Hitler avait pourtant mal évalué le coriace adversaire qui revêtait l’uniforme du soldat soviétique et qui allait payer avec son sang les erreurs stratégiques commises par Staline au début de la guerre. Quant aux soldats portant le feldgrau, ils sortiront de la ville éponyme du dirigeant soviétique la gueule cassée et promis à une rude captivité après 6 mois et 22 jours d’une bataille dont la Wehrmacht ne parviendra pas à se relever.

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Boris Yeltsin and “The Crown”

Queen Elizabeth II and Russian President Boris Yeltsin (The Telegraph)

I’m watching every episode of The Crown, not only because of my love and appreciation of the monarchy in all its complexity but mainly for its entertainment value. For obvious reasons, I never take the content of the series at face value since there are many aspects which differ from reality.

Nevertheless, episode 6 of The Crown’s Season 5, titled “Ipatiev House”, brought many questions to my mind. For one, Russian President Boris Yeltsin never went to Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth II, which makes the whole diatribe in which he insulted the Queen in Russian fictitious and potentially misleading for anyone believing that the series is an accurate portrayal of reality.

I therefore decided to ask Sir Rodric Braithwaite, Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Moscow between 1988 and 1992 and the author of an excellent recent book about the history of Russia, to shed some light on the relationship between the Crown and the two-headed eagle.

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