"He leant forward and whispered, 'It's the Prince of Wales.'"
Photograph of the Duke of Windsor outside the White House on the date of the announcement of the Japanese surrender ending World War II.
Public DomainPhotograph of the Duke of Windsor outside the White House on the date of the announcement of the Japanese surrender ending World War II. - Credit: Photographer: Abbie Rowe (1905–1967), U.S. National Park Service

Controversy dogged the Duke of Windsor, whose life is woven into William Boyd's novel to great effect and the details of which tell his story well.

Christened Edward VIII (Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David), the Duke was King for just a few short months in Britain, creating uproar when he abdicated from the throne to marry American socialite Mrs Wallis Simpson. He was never actually crowned and goes down in history as one of the shortest monarchs to ever rule the UK.

The courting pair married in a private ceremony on June 3, 1937, at the Château de Candé, near Tours in France and Edward subsequently became the Duke of Windsor.

After tying the knot, he and his wife visited Nazi Germany but were later accused of sympathising with the Nazis and were deployed to the Bahamas, where, as detailed in the novel, the Duke served out time as Governor.

In the time thereafter, the Duke lived out his days in retirement, in France.