A ROYAL AFFAIR
One of history’s most famous royal love affairs is threaded through Emily Hourican’s latest novel.
The backdrop to The Other Guinness Girl is the 1936 abdication crisis, when the newly-crowned King Edward VIII surrendered this throne to marry his twice-divorced American lover, Wallis Simpson.
“What was it about her that so compelled the Prince of Wales? Why was he determined to give up everything for her?” asks Emily in the latest episode of the City of Books podcast, sponsored by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature.
“There is one school of thought that he was just determined to give up everything anyway – she was just the excuse.
“And then there’s the more salacious school: she had some bizarre sexual hold over him. The truth presumably lies somewhere in the middle, as it always does.”
The world was riveted by the abdication crisis, even as it juddered towards war. Wallis, later Duchess of Windsor when she married the former king-emperor who reigned for less than year, was loathed in Britain, says Emily. People were also bewildered by her hold on him.
“Who was Wallis? What was so amazing about her? She was not particularly beautiful, she was not particularly charming or intelligent, she was not particularly young – and yet his devotion to her was completely and utterly unquestioning. It was till death did them part.”
Wallis was spat and jeered at in the street, and sent poison pen letters. “It was the moment at which the fantasy she had been fed, and everybody was colluding in, suddenly came up against reality,” Emily tells City of Books presenter Martina Devlin.
Her novel is the third in a trilogy about the women in the Guinness dynasty, whose members were bright young things in the social set surrounding the prince and Mrs Simpson.
The Other Guinness Girl: A Question of Honour by Emily Hourican is published by Hachette Books Ireland.