Book Talk: A love that changed British royal history

Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:54am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - A young Prince of Wales meets and falls in love with a beautiful, spirited commoner.

But Rebecca Dean's "The Golden Prince" is set nearly a century ago, so instead of leading to marriage -- as with Prince William and Kate Middleton next week -- the relationship between Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII, and Lily Houghton was doomed from the start.

Dean said her novel was an attempt to explore the idea, put forth by some historians, that a thwarted early love so changed Edward that it eventually led to his 1936 abdication of the throne in order to marry U.S. divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Dean, who is currently working on a trilogy about Edward and Simpson, spoke with Reuters about royalty and her book.

Q: What inspired you?

A: "The questions have been asked endlessly, ever since the abdication. Why did he give up an empire for a plain, middle-aged, twice-divorced American woman of apparently doubtful reputation. But more intriguing to me was, why prior to his affair with her, had all his previous affairs been with married women? Never with anyone who'd have been remotely acceptable as a Princess of Wales and a future queen.

"I found the answer when I learned as a very young man, serving as an officer in France during World War 1, his first romance was with a single young woman. She was a daughter of the Duke of Sutherland, her name was Rosemary Lucent-Gore, and she was in France as a Red Cross nurse.

"I wanted to be able to write about Edward as he was then, as a young, golden prince with just everything to look forward to, who wanted to marry a girl who -- by our lights these days -- was of aristocratic birth, would have made an ideal queen, and then there would have been no Mrs. Simpson in the 1930s, no abdication and our entire royal history would have been different."   Continued...