— original photo Gene Maggio/The New York Times
In 1963, the Aussie press magnate Frank Packer sent Higham to California with a mission to send back interviews with celebrities, which were to appear in Sydney's The Bulletin under the title of "Charles Higham's Hollywood". Wow! This was a Women's Weekly challenge. Within a decade or so, Higham had become a successful pop biographer, specializing in the life stories of Hollywood personalities such as Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Lucille Ball and Howard Hughes. In 1988, he tackled a steamy subject: the US-born femme fatale Wallis Simpson [1896-1986] whose romantic affair with the king Edward VIII [1894-1972] had led to the latter's abdication.
The romance of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor has been called the greatest love story of the twentieth century. However with the first edition of this biography in 1988, highly acclaimed author Charles Higham used explosive secret intelligence files to reveal a far darker side to their forty-year relationship. Now the author has re-visited and updated his international bestseller, resulting in a fascinating, and at times shocking exposé of Wallis Simpson. New and disturbing revelations have come to light, adding to the now classic story of an illegitimate child from Baltimore who rose to become the mistress of the king of England and brought about his abdication. Wallis gained control of the Monarch through sexual techniques learned in China, but risked losing everything through a reckless, long-term affair with William Bullitt, US Ambassador to France. Newly released FBI files demonstrate, as no other source has done, the extent of the Duchess’s espionage activities and how she conspired against Britain in the interest of Hitler. This is an intimate and extraordinary account of the woman who very nearly became the Queen of England.Higham's presentation of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor is conspiracy-theory writing of a Californian kind, but not necessarily authentic history... in spite of the allusion to recently-released FBI files. Concerning the latter, it's clear that FBI agents could hardly be thought of as credible authorities concerning the murky background to Nazi events in the Old World. These agents could do little more than note down rumors that floated their way. Consequently, Higham's presentation of FBI impressions of the "secret lives" of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor deserves to be thought of as no more than poorly-written historical fiction.
Yesterday evening, on French TV, I watched a recent French documentary—presented by a bright fellow named Franck Ferrand—that sets out to demonstrate that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were traitors working for Hitler.