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Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII

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In 1936, the monarchy faced the greatest threats to its survival in the modern era - the crisis of abdication and the menace of Nazism. The fate of the country rested in the hands of George V's sorely unequipped sons: Edward VIII abandoned his throne to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson; Prince Henry preferred the sporting life of a country squire; the glamo In 1936, the monarchy faced the greatest threats to its survival in the modern era - the crisis of abdication and the menace of Nazism. The fate of the country rested in the hands of George V's sorely unequipped sons: Edward VIII abandoned his throne to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson; Prince Henry preferred the sporting life of a country squire; the glamorous and hedonistic Prince George, Duke of Kent, was considered a wild card; and stammering George VI felt himself woefully unprepared for the demanding role of King. As Hitler's Third Reich tore up the boundaries of Europe and Britain braced itself for war, the new king struggled to manage internal divisions within the royal family. Drawing on many new sources including from the Royal Archives, Princes at War goes behind the palace doors to tell the thrilling drama of Britain at war.


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In 1936, the monarchy faced the greatest threats to its survival in the modern era - the crisis of abdication and the menace of Nazism. The fate of the country rested in the hands of George V's sorely unequipped sons: Edward VIII abandoned his throne to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson; Prince Henry preferred the sporting life of a country squire; the glamo In 1936, the monarchy faced the greatest threats to its survival in the modern era - the crisis of abdication and the menace of Nazism. The fate of the country rested in the hands of George V's sorely unequipped sons: Edward VIII abandoned his throne to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson; Prince Henry preferred the sporting life of a country squire; the glamorous and hedonistic Prince George, Duke of Kent, was considered a wild card; and stammering George VI felt himself woefully unprepared for the demanding role of King. As Hitler's Third Reich tore up the boundaries of Europe and Britain braced itself for war, the new king struggled to manage internal divisions within the royal family. Drawing on many new sources including from the Royal Archives, Princes at War goes behind the palace doors to tell the thrilling drama of Britain at war.

30 review for Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have enjoyed other books by Deborah Cadbury, including, “The Lost King of France,” and “Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking,” so I was keen to read this. Subtitled, “The British Royal Family’s Private Battle in the Second World War,” this looks at the role of the four sons of King George V. With Edward VIII abdicating the throne to marry Mrs Simpson, an unwilling Price Albert (‘Bertie’ to his family and King George VI, in honour of his father) was thrust into the spotlight and onto the throne. Oddly, I have enjoyed other books by Deborah Cadbury, including, “The Lost King of France,” and “Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking,” so I was keen to read this. Subtitled, “The British Royal Family’s Private Battle in the Second World War,” this looks at the role of the four sons of King George V. With Edward VIII abdicating the throne to marry Mrs Simpson, an unwilling Price Albert (‘Bertie’ to his family and King George VI, in honour of his father) was thrust into the spotlight and onto the throne. Oddly, Deborah Cadbury introduces the children of King George V – Prince Edward, Prince Albert, Prince Henry (later Duke of Gloucester), Princess Mary, Prince George (later Duke of Kent) and Prince John – then fails to mention either Princess Mary, or Prince John (who died at only thirteen) again, with no explanation. This is the story of four brothers; Edward, Albert, Henry and George, and of how they reacted to both the abdication of Prince Edward and to the war. If you are sympathetic to the abdication, then this is not the book for you. Cadbury does not paint a flattering portrait of either Edward or Wallis Simpson. With questionable political leanings, and bad judgement, both are painted as selfish, self obsessed and full of self importance. While the Royal Family were threatened by the internal crisis of abdication and the external threat of the Third Reich, they closed ranks. It was a time to choose sides and both of Albert’s brothers choose to stand by him and rise to the task of surviving the dark days ahead. It is clear, from this book, that the now Duke and Duchess of Windsor caused complications for a country at war. Even before war was announced, they were courting the regime that threatened Europe. Churchill tried to show the previous King loyalty, but when it was apparent that the former monarch was indiscreet to the point of treason, he threw himself behind Kind George VI and was rewarded with a deep, and lasting, friendship, after a difficult relationship at the beginning. Although this is largely, a serious book, it has touches of humour. When Churchill first asked for his Cabinet to include Beaverbrook, the newspaperman was described as, “like the town tart who married the mayor!” There is also the reality of war for the visiting President and his first lady, as wartime Buckingham Palace revealed cold rooms, meagre portions of food, blown out windows and a water line drawn firmly in the bath. As both Kent and Gloucester threw themselves into war work, the Duke of Windsor obsessed about how his wife was viewed, demanded a rise in status, and even worried that he would be kidnapped and exchanged for Rudolph Hess; who seemed to think he could fly into England and then be allowed his freedom. Undoubtedly, the Duke of Windsor, caused his brother much concern. Also, undoubtedly, Prince Albert, and his brothers, did rise to the problems they faced and, with personal loss and struggles, they rose to the challenge facing the country in the war. This is an interesting read and it was good to learn more about the Duke of Gloucester and Kent.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    A quarter of the way through the book, and the author has yet to say anything interesting or important. This is a potted history of Britain during the Second World War from a royal perspective, further marred by pedestrian prose, errors, and the author's partiality. This wasn't even the trashy fun I anticipated. Abandoned. A quarter of the way through the book, and the author has yet to say anything interesting or important. This is a potted history of Britain during the Second World War from a royal perspective, further marred by pedestrian prose, errors, and the author's partiality. This wasn't even the trashy fun I anticipated. Abandoned.

  3. 4 out of 5

    CaldoHendo

    Earlier this summer, only two months after Kate Middleton gave birth to her second child, The Sun published pictures of the Queen making a Nazi salute in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in 1933, to predictable controversy. Also in that photo was her uncle, David, later Edward VIII, long known for his admiration for Hitler. Some thought it was tasteless of the newspaper to publish the photos, although The Sun made it clear that it had no intention to smear the Queen. Its reasoning was that it wa Earlier this summer, only two months after Kate Middleton gave birth to her second child, The Sun published pictures of the Queen making a Nazi salute in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in 1933, to predictable controversy. Also in that photo was her uncle, David, later Edward VIII, long known for his admiration for Hitler. Some thought it was tasteless of the newspaper to publish the photos, although The Sun made it clear that it had no intention to smear the Queen. Its reasoning was that it was important for the people to fully understand just how intimate relations were between the British aristocracy and German National Socialism before the Second World War. Deborah Cadbury’s Princes at War was published just a few months before Princess Charlotte and the infamous salute. It lays out what is already established fact, but what is not so widely known: the true extent of Edward VIII’s fetish for fascism. The book opens in the mid-1930s, around the time of the death of King George V, who correctly predicted his son David would destroy himself in less than a year on the throne. Sure enough, before he’d even been crowned, Edward VIII gave up the most resplendent title in the world in order to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, as under some arcane British rule monarchs were not permitted to marry divorcees. The Abdication Crisis, as it became known, very nearly brought down the Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin and sparked a nationwide debate about the future of the monarchy. This was in late 1936. With regards to Germany in particular, there were certainly more pressing matters to worry about than the dilly-dallyings of a spoilt and self-absorbed young king. As the war loomed, the figure of Winston Churchill rose to prominence for a number of reasons, royal and political. Cadbury rightly points out what is not well-known now, that Churchill had originally been an adamant defender of Edward VIII and had tried to keep him on the throne for as long as possible. This was the same Churchill that was mounting an increasingly ferocious attack on his own government, desperately warning them against the threat posed by one Mr. A. Hitler of Berlin. By 1940s Britain was at war and Churchill, now Prime Minister, could only watch as the Nazi war machine rolled across all corners of Europe, leaving Britain, aside from some surreptitious aid from America, standing alone. Meanwhile, the Duke of Windsor, as he was known post-abdication (he and his wife were refused the HRH titles), scarpered off to Spain, abandoning the few friends the couple had left in Britain. Meanwhile, Hitler and his underling Joachim von Ribbentrop were attempting to court the ex-King over to their side in the hope of reinstating him as monarch following the imminent Nazi invasion of England. Wallis, unhappy with the lack of attention and the persona non grata status she and her husband had been awarded by Buckingham Palace, even arranged a high-profile meeting with Hitler shortly before the war broke out as a deliberate affront to the new king, George VI. These self-centred pursuits destroyed the Duke’s once warm relationship with Churchill, who now understood what a pliable idiot the guy was, just as he realised (earlier than most people) that Nazism was a force of unmentionable evil which had to be destroyed. It’s quite astonishing to read what the British government had to do just to deal with their right royal pest. First there was a law passed allowing the state to arrest any suspected Nazi sympathisers, in what was probably the closest Britain came to turning into an authoritarian country itself. The likes of Sir Oswald Mosley were interred under this law, but the King himself was not as he was no longer in the country (as if they would imprison a royal, anyway). Instead he and his wife were effectively deported to the Bahamas, where they could do very little harm. As the plans for the big move were coordinated, Wallis was more concerned about the quality of servants and catering she would be provided with rather than the conflict that was fast engulfing the entire world. She and her husband can be forgiven for this kind of thing, for as Cadbury points out, Hitler’s repeated attempts to bring them over to his side probably bought the British government some time to prepare for the all-important Battle of Britain, which prevented the Nazis from ever reaching England. One of the strengths of this book is that Cadbury is not judgemental about any of the royals, risible though they may seem to the reader of today. She is also skilled at intertwining drama of the war and the private melodrama in Buckingham Palace to deliver as compelling a story as possible, and we learn a thing or two as well. For instance, it was the still-revered Attlee government that tried to ignominiously suppress the truth about Edward VIII after the war ended. Cadbury also hints that he had been forced off the throne in 1936 not because of Wallis but because of his Nazi sympathies, although this suggestion seems more dubious. The other great character in this book, the British Prime Minister during those crucial war years, comes off looking better than ever. For all his faults, the old bulldog had exactly the combination of qualities – determination, love for war, eloquence, and a sheer force of character – that the country so desperately needed when he took the helm in 1940. With the Queen marking another royal milestone this September, we naturally look back to the time of her coronation, when this book concludes and when the great man was Prime Minister for a second time. The world has changed a lot since then, but we can still say one thing with the same conviction: thank god for Winston Churchill.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    King Edward VIII/the Duke of Windsor (the Abdicating King), his great "love affair" with Wallis Simpson, and Prince Albert/George VI's reluctant ascent to the throne were first introduced to the general public in The King's Speech. The film took some historical liberties, although the soul of the first part of the story was intact. If, of course, you leave out the fact that there were two more brothers witnessing this unprecedented break in the monarchy--the Princes Henry and George, who seemed King Edward VIII/the Duke of Windsor (the Abdicating King), his great "love affair" with Wallis Simpson, and Prince Albert/George VI's reluctant ascent to the throne were first introduced to the general public in The King's Speech. The film took some historical liberties, although the soul of the first part of the story was intact. If, of course, you leave out the fact that there were two more brothers witnessing this unprecedented break in the monarchy--the Princes Henry and George, who seemed no more suited for their sudden rise in status than Prince Albert had been. (I will pause here to note that, for all its historical side-steps and personages left on the cutting room floor, The King's Speech is a fantastic movie and one of my favorites. And, aside from the fact that Logue maintains that he never called the Prince/Duke of York/King "Bertie," it captures the relationship and that aspect of the King's life very well. Nothing's perfect.) Just as King George VI tends to be overshadowed in studies of the war by his Prime Minsters, first Chamberlain and then Churchill, so do both the scandal of the Duke of Windsor and King George's later ascent to greatness overreach both the younger brothers. Prince Henry became the Duke of Gloucester and Prince George the Duke of Kent more out of the King's hope that it would do them good than the believe they merited the titles--and lo', they rose to the occasion! The book is a fascinating character study of three of the four royal brothers, and their equally (or even more) stalwart wives, taking on the scourge of war and doing all that could have been asked of them and more. The strength of character of 3/4 of the royal family is contrasted with the worthless, increasingly traitorous Duke of Windsor, bouncing about Europe with his social-climbing wife Wallis, consorting with the enemy and constantly pestering the king for a title for Wallis to make her the equal of the other brother's wives. An HRH (Her Royal Highness) for Wallis, or bust! It was bust, as it turned out. This is a side of the war that is rarely talked about, other than a glossing over (The king stammered! Wallis was a divorced American! Scandal! On to D-day.), but in reading it, I was throughly engrossed with a human story of strength and sacrifice that I had never really dug into. I'm thoroughly impressed with the writer, who kept a massive cast of characters straight to the reader with ease, and who treated all the subjects and their various flaws fairly. Well researched, beautifully written, this deserves a place of honor both on the serious historian and the pleasure reader's book shelf.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    I really enjoyed this. I didn't know a ton about the Duke of Gloucester or Duke of Kent going into this, but the sibling dynamic stuff was FASCINATING. Cait, you should definitely read this one. I really enjoyed this. I didn't know a ton about the Duke of Gloucester or Duke of Kent going into this, but the sibling dynamic stuff was FASCINATING. Cait, you should definitely read this one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (he/him/his)

    As all of you know by now, I love the royal family and find it fascinating. I haven't read much about this era, though. The title says it all, really. It's about the four brothers -- the King, Duke of Windsor, Duke of Gloucester, and Duke of Kent -- and their struggles as a family. The book starts with the abdication of Edward VIII so he became the Duke of Windsor, which sent ripples through the whole family. And then there's Nazism involved and just everything else that you can imagine with WWI As all of you know by now, I love the royal family and find it fascinating. I haven't read much about this era, though. The title says it all, really. It's about the four brothers -- the King, Duke of Windsor, Duke of Gloucester, and Duke of Kent -- and their struggles as a family. The book starts with the abdication of Edward VIII so he became the Duke of Windsor, which sent ripples through the whole family. And then there's Nazism involved and just everything else that you can imagine with WWII. I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a really good overview of the personal history of WWII.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    King George V did his sons no service when he tried to train them to be tough. With his brutal tongue and by turning them over to harsh public schools, he crushed out any kingly qualities they had. Cadbury doesn't mention the evidence described by Andrew Morton that the oldest son Edward VIII never wanted to be king. She goes along with the conventional view that he was forced to choose between the throne and "the woman he loved". Fortunately when Edward escaped the throne, George VI stepped forw King George V did his sons no service when he tried to train them to be tough. With his brutal tongue and by turning them over to harsh public schools, he crushed out any kingly qualities they had. Cadbury doesn't mention the evidence described by Andrew Morton that the oldest son Edward VIII never wanted to be king. She goes along with the conventional view that he was forced to choose between the throne and "the woman he loved". Fortunately when Edward escaped the throne, George VI stepped forward, ready and terrified, to do his duty. PRINCES AT WAR shows him learning his job so well that he earns undying respect. I hardly knew anything about the other brothers, so those sections were fascinating to me. The whole book is an interesting overview of the brothers' characters and how they responded during WWII when they were needed. I am going to give it as a gift to a sister I know will enjoy it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Review to Come

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Poor George VI. 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way', Tolstoy once wrote - but the British royal family during WW2 was definitely uniquely unhappy. Unexpectedly becoming king when he felt constitutionally unsuited and incapable is one thing - that's happened before. Becoming king when his predecessor was still alive and had in fact given up the throne for an immensely unsuitable woman, causing a constitutional crisis on the way, and was subsequently galli Poor George VI. 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way', Tolstoy once wrote - but the British royal family during WW2 was definitely uniquely unhappy. Unexpectedly becoming king when he felt constitutionally unsuited and incapable is one thing - that's happened before. Becoming king when his predecessor was still alive and had in fact given up the throne for an immensely unsuitable woman, causing a constitutional crisis on the way, and was subsequently gallivanting around the globe as a rogue agent causing upset and strife within and without the family, that's pretty unique in monarchistic terms. Enduring all of this in the midst of the most vicious and widespread conflict the world has ever known? Poor George VI. If George VI comes out of this book as an unsung hero, Edward VIII or the Duke of Windsor as he is better known, is most definitely cast as the villain of the piece. Deborah Cadbury clearly has little sympathy, patience or liking for his behaviour, and whilst she hesitates as describing Windsor's antics as outright treasonous, he did little to support his brother or family during this most difficult of times, unlike his younger brothers the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent. The Duke of Windsor does not emerge from these pages with any credit to his name. Most histories of WW2 focus on the military or political angle, so I found this narrative told from the Royal Family's point of view especially interesting, and Cadbury writes with real pathos and flair. Much as Churchill did, George VI served as a focal point for the nation, a source of unity and strength, a figurehead as much as a leader. He rose to the occasion magnificently, and it would not be far off the mark to say he gave his life for his country. Certainly the stresses of wartime prematurely aged him and contributed to his early death. Whilst Wallis Simpson may have been a trial and a tragedy for George VI, one almost has cause to thank her - reading this book one shudders to imagine what WW2 would have been like with the Duke of Windsor on the throne!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bfisher

    The author provided a good sense of the bleak prospect Britain faced during the period after the fall of France, when the survival of the existing polity was very doubtful. The closest analogy I can think of is the counterfactual of a France under Louis XIV having conquered Europe and preparing to invade Britain to restore James II to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. This book conveyed the fear in the mind of King and government of the possibility of Britain conquered by the Nazis, w The author provided a good sense of the bleak prospect Britain faced during the period after the fall of France, when the survival of the existing polity was very doubtful. The closest analogy I can think of is the counterfactual of a France under Louis XIV having conquered Europe and preparing to invade Britain to restore James II to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. This book conveyed the fear in the mind of King and government of the possibility of Britain conquered by the Nazis, with a puppet Edward VIII restored to the throne. The photographs of many of the documents discussed in the text was a nice touch. One oddity - the text refers to Queen Elizabeth listening to a radio announcement of the Pearl Harbor attack at 9 AM on Dec.7, but the raid started shortly before 8 AM local time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Would have been aided by better editing (mostly to remove instances of repetition) and a bit prone to "it's possible" sorts of statements to ratchet up the scandal. But it can't be denied that it's an interesting read. Even taking Cadbury's assertions about the Windsors with a large grain of salt, one can't escape the conclusion that at best they were spoiled, incredibly self-centered and not very bright. The insights into Churchill and George VI were quite interesting, and I didn't know anythin Would have been aided by better editing (mostly to remove instances of repetition) and a bit prone to "it's possible" sorts of statements to ratchet up the scandal. But it can't be denied that it's an interesting read. Even taking Cadbury's assertions about the Windsors with a large grain of salt, one can't escape the conclusion that at best they were spoiled, incredibly self-centered and not very bright. The insights into Churchill and George VI were quite interesting, and I didn't know anything about the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester before, so I'm glad to have that gap filled. The book also brought home to me once again just how close Britain came to losing the war. Frightening.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jim McIntosh

    A good overview of King George VI and his brothers the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII), the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. Mostly dawn from the king's war diary, it concentrates on the king's rise to fill his role during WWII, and the increasing petiness of Windsor and his wife, Wallis Simpson. I hadn't known much about the two younger brothers nor the circumstances of Kent's tragic death, so I found the book most interesting. A good overview of King George VI and his brothers the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII), the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. Mostly dawn from the king's war diary, it concentrates on the king's rise to fill his role during WWII, and the increasing petiness of Windsor and his wife, Wallis Simpson. I hadn't known much about the two younger brothers nor the circumstances of Kent's tragic death, so I found the book most interesting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Wallis Simpson was the best thing to happen to Britain in the 20th century. Without her, that Nazi-loving, selfish deadweight Edward would still have been on the throne, and Britain would have conceded to Germany without a fight. George VI was the right man at the right time, aware of his responsibilities and sacrificing his health and happiness for his country. Edward was a putz. Apparently there were two other brothers during that time too. Who knew?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Arlene

    Fascinating story of the royal family during WWII; I was moved to tears by some of the accounts of the war and horrified by the Duke of Windsor's attitudes and actions. Definitely a great read for anyone interested in WWII or just somebody who read or saw The King's Speech. It shows how the man who didn't want to be king grew into his role as he obeyed the call of duty. Fascinating story of the royal family during WWII; I was moved to tears by some of the accounts of the war and horrified by the Duke of Windsor's attitudes and actions. Definitely a great read for anyone interested in WWII or just somebody who read or saw The King's Speech. It shows how the man who didn't want to be king grew into his role as he obeyed the call of duty.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a well researched book about the role of the four Windsor princes during the Second World War. Of course I knew about the abdication, as a piece of history. but the author brings this to life and makes it feel tangible and immediate. She uses extracts from letters and diaries to describe the scenes in great detail, although there is some poetic licence taken I think, in some places. I hadn't realised how little I knew about WW2 in general, never mind how it affected the royal family. I f This is a well researched book about the role of the four Windsor princes during the Second World War. Of course I knew about the abdication, as a piece of history. but the author brings this to life and makes it feel tangible and immediate. She uses extracts from letters and diaries to describe the scenes in great detail, although there is some poetic licence taken I think, in some places. I hadn't realised how little I knew about WW2 in general, never mind how it affected the royal family. I found the book very moving in places. I had heard that the abdication probably shortened George VI's life but in reading this book I can understand the huge pressure he was under. He clearly never had the personality to be king. He was painfully shy and had a debilitating stammer. He tried to persuade his brother to remain as king. Edward had the charisma and confidence to carry the role. Edward though was determined to marry Wallis Simpson and insisted that he would abdicate unless this was allowed. Even after the abdication Edward fought for her to be addressed as Her Royal Highness, which the new king refused. For the rest of his life he continued to pursue this quest, since it was so important to Wallis. However, it would never be granted and was a source of bitterness and resentment to the end. Albert, who took the title of King George VI in tribute to his father, spent the rest of his life trying to carry out the role as best he could. The king I see in this book was worthy of admiration and of our gratitude. We learn of the king's relationship with Winston Churchill and the way they worked together during the war. Queen Victoria's determination to marry her children and 40-odd grandchildren into royal families across Europe and the rest of her Empire meant that Albert had a personal interest in most of the countries, on both sides, in the war. At one point Queen Wilhelmena of the Netherlands escaped to London and arrived in only a nightdress under her overcoat as she had been forced to leave at such short notice. The royal family stayed in London during the Blitz, showing solidarity with those bombed out of their homes. Edward on the other hand was living it up in the sunshine. Throughout the war there were rumours that Edward was working with the Germans in an attempt to take back the throne. He had openly pro-German views, as did Wallis Simpson. It's interesting that certain files, which may have implicated him in this, have never been found. He took vast sums out of the country with him, income received whilst he was Prince of Wales, which he used to finance a 'second court' in France and a lavish lifestyle. We are invited to despise this man, and his wife, and the trouble they brought to the younger brother who bravely took on a role which ultimately destroyed him. I enjoyed the book and would read more by this author.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eden

    2020 bk 128. The story of four brothers. These four men changed the face of British history. David with his slavish and selfish devotion to a woman, Albert with his desire for a quiet family life, Henry with his love of Army life, and George, the young playboy. Deborah Cadbury does a magnificent job of describing the forces at play in each of their lives as first, young royals, but really beginning with their middle age years. While she more than adequately discusses their roles during World War 2020 bk 128. The story of four brothers. These four men changed the face of British history. David with his slavish and selfish devotion to a woman, Albert with his desire for a quiet family life, Henry with his love of Army life, and George, the young playboy. Deborah Cadbury does a magnificent job of describing the forces at play in each of their lives as first, young royals, but really beginning with their middle age years. While she more than adequately discusses their roles during World War II, it is her deft hand at allowing us to see how each man viewed himself (as much as time and records tell us) and how he was viewed by his brothers. It was an excellent read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth Withers

    World War II is on its way to England, a trying time for a man who did not plan on becoming king. This book is largely a history of WWII in England and as England saw it, with an emphasis on the royal family and the Duke of Windsor. Much of what I read I'd heard before, but there were some things I didn't know, particularly about the Duke, the abdicated king, and his role with Germany. The other royal brothers, Dukes of Kent and Gloucester, were also mentioned in their roles in the war. I found World War II is on its way to England, a trying time for a man who did not plan on becoming king. This book is largely a history of WWII in England and as England saw it, with an emphasis on the royal family and the Duke of Windsor. Much of what I read I'd heard before, but there were some things I didn't know, particularly about the Duke, the abdicated king, and his role with Germany. The other royal brothers, Dukes of Kent and Gloucester, were also mentioned in their roles in the war. I found this book to be interesting and informative. I always appreciate a good book that teaches me something.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Picked out this book at Chapters after having seen Darkest Hour at the movies and I have to say I am glad I did! I liked how it traced all 4 of the brothers and told the events in a straightforward but interesting way. I wanted to learn more about George VI and now that I have he is definitely one of my favourite historical figures. Very admirable, brave, dignified. Churchill was pretty boss too!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Meryl

    If you, like me, binged watched the first two seasons of The Crown and had SO MANY QUESTIONS then this is a great read. Very interesting history of the British monarchy during WWII.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    The longer you live, the more the little cracks are filled in with detail if you seek them. This was a fun read for this WWII buff.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sally Smith

    Fascinating This interesting and well-researched book gives great insight the lives of these four brothers and what it was like to be English before and during World War Two. This was a fascinating and intriguing read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jess the Audiobookworm

    I thoroughly enjoyed Princes at War. I don't often hear nonfiction titles, so it surprised me to become so enraptured by the picture Cadbury was painting before me. She truly is a phenomenally talented author to have been able to make this history come so alive in my mind. I have heard other titles on the subject, but none captured my interest the way Princes at War did. Princes at War takes us step-by-step through the abdication crisis and World War II. I know that World War II is of particularl I thoroughly enjoyed Princes at War. I don't often hear nonfiction titles, so it surprised me to become so enraptured by the picture Cadbury was painting before me. She truly is a phenomenally talented author to have been able to make this history come so alive in my mind. I have heard other titles on the subject, but none captured my interest the way Princes at War did. Princes at War takes us step-by-step through the abdication crisis and World War II. I know that World War II is of particularly great interest to many historians and history enthusiasts, but it has never been my jam. I much prefer the Edwardian and Victorian eras. This was the first audiobook I've heard that so heavily dealt with the subject of the second world war. Of course, I'm familiar with the major events from school, but what made Princes at War so intriguing was that the events were told from a royal perspective. As an avid royal history enthusiast, I ate it up and asked for more. I began listening under the impression that the book would focus on The Duke of Windsor and George VI. That's where most authors tend to focus, given the drama surrounding the abdication crisis. But I was delighted upon realizing that Deborah Cadbury had devoted significant chunks of her book to the other two brothers, The Duke of Gloucester and The Duke of Kent. Last year, I heard another audiobook centering on The Duke and Duchess of Kent, but I have yet to find one that provides so much information on Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. He must seem a bit of a bore to biographers since he was not involved in the abdication crisis and did not die a tragically young death. It was enlightening to learn how much George VI leaned on The Duke of Gloucester, with the latter often serving as regent during Princess Elizabeth's minority, and of the effect that had on their relationship. Having already read titles focusing on George V and Queen Mary, The Duke and Duchess of Kent, and The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Princes at War filled in a lot of the gaps where The Duke of Gloucester was concerned. It also provided a more inflammatory view of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor's activities during that time. I have found that works centering around that particular couple tend to be bipolar, either romanticized or scandalized, with very little overlap. Princes at War didn't pull any punches. There were hard-hitting allegations of treason on the part of The Duke of Windsor and Wallis was basically called a Nazi spy. I've never read anything so direct with its implications. Like I said, most material on the matter either falls into the "greatest love story ever told" category or the "gold-digging Nazi spy" category. This was the definitely latter, so if you're one of those who likes to romanticize the Windsor's relationship, you'll definitely want to stay away from Princes at War. For me, the directness of such claims was hard to swallow at first, but Princes at War frequently sites official military intelligence and letters of the time as sources, so it seems pretty legit. It's looking more and more likely that some sort of revisionary cover up happened, so I'm planning on hearing 17 Carnations soon to compare accounts. The only other Wallis Simpson biography I've heard downplays the whole ordeal, which piques my interest further. I was expecting Princes at War to be a rehashing of a story I've heard 1000 times, but it ended up giving me a lot more new information than I expected. Not only was there new information given, but it left me with new questions I'm eager to have answered. Narration review: Veida Dehmlow did a fine job of narrating princes at war. Her performance was engaging enough to easily hold my attention, while still lending an air of seriousness and respectability to the work. She offered a few accents here and there, which seemed appropriate considering the multitude of countries and characters involved. But I did notice that she never attempted an American accent. It would have been especially appropriate, given the dominating presence of Wallis Simpson in the narrative, but it may have been that Dehmlow did not feel comfortable attempting such an accent, in which case I applaud her judgment. ♣︎

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I really recommend this book, however, I admit that a key reason for my recommendation is the fact that I agreed with the author's characterization of two of the people at the center of the story - the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I have always been extremely skeptical of anyone who tries to paint their story as a fairy tale love story. There is nothing fairy tale-ish or loving about a conniving woman who tricks a gullible fool into believing she is worth loving and worth sacrificing the role he I really recommend this book, however, I admit that a key reason for my recommendation is the fact that I agreed with the author's characterization of two of the people at the center of the story - the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I have always been extremely skeptical of anyone who tries to paint their story as a fairy tale love story. There is nothing fairy tale-ish or loving about a conniving woman who tricks a gullible fool into believing she is worth loving and worth sacrificing the role he worked his whole life to attain. I think the most positive thing to say about the Duchess of Windsor was even though it was never her intent, her actions spared Britain of having Edward as king during the World War II. The fact that they went through the war with George instead of Edward as king had to contribute to their ultimate victory. So I was happy to know that the author's research seemed to support my opinion. At the same time however, she kept the book from veering into a mean and spiteful gossip session. I enjoyed reading of the development of the relationship between George and Churchill. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Edward and George's brothers. I knew very little about the two and I felt that the way they blossomed into mature men during the war, similarly to George, redeemed the royal family at a time it needed redeeming. As to whether the Windsors were German spies or naive dupes the Germans were able to manipulate - I vote for the latter. They came across as too shallow, self absorbed and unintelligent to be useful intelligence gatherers. I thought the narration was a little weak. She was too breathless and excitable in places. Other than that though this was an entertaining and insightful book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Flewts

    This book is about the relationships between the four sons of King George V of England, and focuses on the time frame of 1936 - 1952. The eldest is "David," who became Edward VIII and gave up his throne for "the woman I love" and became the Duke of Windsor. The next oldest, Albert, aka Bertie, became George VI upon his brother's abdication. The other two brothers are the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. As a history major, I found the information in this book fascinating. I'm not sure how This book is about the relationships between the four sons of King George V of England, and focuses on the time frame of 1936 - 1952. The eldest is "David," who became Edward VIII and gave up his throne for "the woman I love" and became the Duke of Windsor. The next oldest, Albert, aka Bertie, became George VI upon his brother's abdication. The other two brothers are the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. As a history major, I found the information in this book fascinating. I'm not sure how interested the average person would be. The part that I particularly found intriguing was the behavior of the Duke of Windsor, particularly after he gave up the throne. Most people know that he was kind of pro-German, and think that he and Wallis lived quiet lives. Actually, they were very pro-German, and they visited Nazi Germany shortly after they were married. In fact, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor gave Hitler reason to believe that there was a strong peace movement in England, and that the country was divided. Even after England declared war--Hitler was apparently astonished at the news--the Germans believed that a large faction in England wanted peace and would welcome the Duke of Windsor being returned to the throne by the Germans via a peace settlement. If the behavior of the Duke and Duchess wasn't outright treason (and there is some debate about that), it was at best self-centered and in incredibly bad taste. If you are interested in British history and in WWII, this book will add some fascinating background information to your understanding of the British royal family during this crucial period in our history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mardia

    Technically a thorough look at the British Royal family during WWII, but I simply couldn't get over the over the top airbrushing of the royal family and British colonialism. The refusal by the author to go into any sort of real depth regarding the anti-Semitism of the time period (something that surely the royals reflected, the Duke of Windsor in particular) is jarring and does a disservice to the narrative. Given that Edward VIII was such a supporter of Hitler, it's a huge gap in the narrative Technically a thorough look at the British Royal family during WWII, but I simply couldn't get over the over the top airbrushing of the royal family and British colonialism. The refusal by the author to go into any sort of real depth regarding the anti-Semitism of the time period (something that surely the royals reflected, the Duke of Windsor in particular) is jarring and does a disservice to the narrative. Given that Edward VIII was such a supporter of Hitler, it's a huge gap in the narrative to not show what that meant in a larger context, and how anti-Semitism wasn't just a problem in Germany, but a massive, widespread issue throughout most of the world. If you're going to slam the Duke of Windsor for betraying his brother, then surely his anti-Semitic views are worthy of more scrutiny than just one or two brief mentions. I was also grossed out by the rose-colored, sentimental view of the British empire. Essentially, this book is a decent primer to the issues of the Royal family during the time period, but I found it lacking.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary Louise Sanchez

    The author, of the Cadbury candy family, did extensive research in the personal diaries of King George VI to flesh out the story of how he reluctantly became king, and the stories of his three brothers, the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), the Duke of Glucester, and the Duke of Kent during WWII. It was fascinating to learn more about how the British monarchy was transferred to the father of Queen Elizabeth II when her uncle abdicated because of the woman he loved and what happened to the Duke of W The author, of the Cadbury candy family, did extensive research in the personal diaries of King George VI to flesh out the story of how he reluctantly became king, and the stories of his three brothers, the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), the Duke of Glucester, and the Duke of Kent during WWII. It was fascinating to learn more about how the British monarchy was transferred to the father of Queen Elizabeth II when her uncle abdicated because of the woman he loved and what happened to the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson once they married. The other two brothers were unknown to me and I would have liked more of their stories as well as more about Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret during the war, although the book title did focus on the four princes.

  27. 4 out of 5

    M.J. Doherty

    Brilliant, engaging, well paced and offering wonderful insight into the life and times of King George VI and his brothers. The darkest days of WWII were hauntingly portrayed while the selfishness and short-sightedness of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor was well supported by documents and argument. The author's perspective on the on the interconnectedness of the downfall of Windsor and the early death of George VI was fascinating. The work left me with a profound sense of admiration for the chara Brilliant, engaging, well paced and offering wonderful insight into the life and times of King George VI and his brothers. The darkest days of WWII were hauntingly portrayed while the selfishness and short-sightedness of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor was well supported by documents and argument. The author's perspective on the on the interconnectedness of the downfall of Windsor and the early death of George VI was fascinating. The work left me with a profound sense of admiration for the character of George VI. I couldn't put it down.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    A fascinating read about the four sons of George V in the run up to and during World War II. Clearly very well researched, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Nice illustrations. Edward VIII clearly did the country a favour to abdicate when he did, selfish to the end. Bertie came into his own during the war but paid a heavy price due to his health and early death. Interesting to read about the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester as I knew less about them. Overall, a very good book and would recommend it to A fascinating read about the four sons of George V in the run up to and during World War II. Clearly very well researched, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Nice illustrations. Edward VIII clearly did the country a favour to abdicate when he did, selfish to the end. Bertie came into his own during the war but paid a heavy price due to his health and early death. Interesting to read about the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester as I knew less about them. Overall, a very good book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adam Balshan

    3 stars [History] (W: 3.25 / U: 3 / T: 3 / P: 3.5) Exact rating: 3.19 #43 in genre, out of 80 A history of the British royal family between 1936 and 1952. The plot is the best element: the action almost never stops. Background information is just enough, not too dense. One can feel the winds of the times through Cadbury's details. I am an INTJ, but even I gratefully breathed in the sensory details, the moods and colors, the joy and despair of the people involved in this epic time. 3 stars [History] (W: 3.25 / U: 3 / T: 3 / P: 3.5) Exact rating: 3.19 #43 in genre, out of 80 A history of the British royal family between 1936 and 1952. The plot is the best element: the action almost never stops. Background information is just enough, not too dense. One can feel the winds of the times through Cadbury's details. I am an INTJ, but even I gratefully breathed in the sensory details, the moods and colors, the joy and despair of the people involved in this epic time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    4 royal brothers (former Edward VIII later the Duke of Windsor, George VI, George Duke of York and Henry Duke of Gloucester)before and during WWII. While it is nice to learn more about the two younger princes, the real meat of the book is the appalling (even treasonous) behaviour of the Duke of Windsor, always rumoured but confirmed by recently released documents. Nice selection of photos.

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