Seeing my book in the window of Hatchard’s Piccadilly book store, sandwiched between the Duchess of Devonshire and Churchill’s daughter, Lady Soames, gave me a frisson of pleasure. Of course it is a most illustrious position for me but I wondered if Wallis herself would give a toss? Probably not. After all much of the aristocracy did not have a problem with her and Churchill certainly did not. The elite London circles in which she moved encouraged her to think all would eventually be well… The real opposition to the idea of Wallis as Queen came from the middle classes, the Church and the Dominions. I think she’d be quite comfortable between these two National Treasures who’d probably give her a pat on the back have plenty to say to her after all these years.
Not every author is lucky enough to have a dress designed especially for their book launch, especially one designed by the magical Frenchman Roland Mouret, a man who really understands women’s body shapes, famous for his ability to drape fabric and make a woman feel wonderful, powerful and sensual. Last night I had all that and Roland was on hand, too, chatting about how Wallis Simpson was such an inspiration to any dress designer. I just know Wallis would have adored wearing this fabulous gold gown with its teasing slit up the front and origami folds across the front… what secrets might lurk inside the folds?
One of the most frustrating aspects of publishing a book , finally, after years of research is how so many people contact you with anecdotes or information that it’s too late to include. If only they had ‘reached out’ to you sooner. Of course there’s always the paperback!
But occasionally you hear from others toiling in the same muddy ditches and – very occasionally this – there is even scope to combine. Such was my luck this week when I heard from Jessica Palmer, a cut out artist. Jess is a former TV producer who gave it all up to do an MA in Illustration and now specialises in cut-paper and collaged images. Her work features on book covers and in galleries. She is a visiting artist at the V&A, Dulwich Picture Gallery and other museums.
She produces amazing pictures of a wide range of characters but something about Wallis Simpson piqued her interest a little after I had started work on my work. Look at this and you can see why.
The final chapter of my biography on Wallis Simpson, That Woman looks at the reception of Wallis after her death and how plays films books and paintings have changed perceptions
Cecil Beaton, in spite of some less than kind comments in private, turned her into a beauty. Jack Levine was satirically cruel now Jess Palmer. Watch for Madonna’s glamourous version due out later this week.
That Woman is the Number One recommended non-fiction hardback book in today’s Observer (September 4 2011)