The Last of the Duchess: The Strange and Sinister Story of the Final Years of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
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In 1980, Lady Caroline Blackwood was commissioned by The Sunday Times to write an article on the aging Duchess of Windsor, who was said to be convalescing in her French mansion in the Bois de Boulogne. Yet what began as a curiosity was to become for Blackwood one of the most challenging experiences of her writing career, launching her into a battle of wits with the Duchess's formidable lawyer, Maître Suzanne Blum.
Maître Blum refused to let Blackwood near the Duchess, spinning elaborate excuses as to why she was unavailable and threatening anyone who dared suggest that she was in anything other than the best of health. Still, while Blum's machinations restricted Blackwood's ability to publish a frank interview, it only served to pique her interest in the bizarre relationship between the infamous Duchess—a woman who once inspired a king to abdicate his crown—and her eccentric, domineering gatekeeper. Sixteen years later, Blackwood turned her experiences into this riveting and excoriating modern classic about the frailties of old age, the foibles of society, and the dual-edged nature of celebrity.
and the beautiful voice continued relentlessly. “As Hitler said to me, We don’t want your British colonies. You can keep them … We don’t want a lot of niggers who will only contaminate our German blood …” Lady Mosley looked a little nervous. Our original misunderstanding that was the result of her deafness had really never been cleared up. She still hoped I was going to praise the book she’d written about the Duchess in the Sunday Times. As a result she thought it better to change the subject.
the Duchess of Windsor. As the friend of the diarist Chips Channon, the greatest snob-socialite and entertainer of royalty in the thirties, there was a chance he could give me some interesting information as to the current situation of the Duchess. “Surely you have read my book,” he asked me crossly. I apologized for not having read it. I’d never taken in that he’d written anything, let alone a work he clearly considered to be a classic. I’d not realized that this self-important, silly old
seemed to need this quality in those she was close to. She claimed that he was very humane. In the course of his distinguished military career he had been loved even by those he had conquered. “General Spillman subdued Southern Morocco,” Maître Blum said. “And he subdued it humanely.” She said that the General was a great intellectual. He was a man of immense courage. He had once been the victim of an assassination attempt in North Africa. “Il a perdu son épaule. How do you say épaule in
countrymen.” Autocratically, General Spillmann had apparently believed that France was “history’s guest” in Morocco. Maître Blum’s dead husband was also depicted as “a profound student of the native civilization.” When General Spillmann had led the Goums against the savage tribes of the interior, according to the obituary the “tribesmen often came to love their sympathetic conqueror.” Michael Bloch’s tribute movingly concluded with the information that when the General had married Maître
never drifted around penniless, picking up “tricks” in China. She had never bobbed her way to fame by getting herself invited to dances and relying on the chancy introductions that take place at cocktail parties. After Wallis Warfield met Ernest Simpson and he proposed to her, she had grave doubts about accepting his offer. She moved again and went all round Europe with her aunt. There she received the news that Uncle Sol had died. She returned to New York and found he had not forgiven her for