BBC Radio 4, 10 July 2009
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were the ancestors of today's Hello!
generation; inveterate social gadflies, they spent their lives in the public eye. However author Robin Glendinning suggested
they were like ships without rudders; having given up the throne, the Duke had no specific role to play in public life, and
although he made strenuous efforts to find one, the British government were reluctant to agree. Perhaps their reaction was
justified: the Duke was prone to inappropriate statemennts (such as recommending support for Adolf Hitler in the years leading
up to the outbreak of the Second World War), which hardly enriched his diplomatic credentials.
The Windsor Jewels takes as its starting-point a visit paid by the Duke
and Duchess to Britain in 1946, when the Duchess' jewels mysteriously disappeared. Despite an extensive search by the police,
they were never recovered. Glendinning uses this incident as a means of exploring the psychology of the so-called 'glamorous'
couple (Jon Glover, Christine Kavanagh); to their credit, they remain devoted to one another in the face of adversity. The
Duke needs his wife to advise him; the Duchess needs her husband to maintain her social position. Nonetheless there is something
rather unhealthy in their marriage, as it was based purely on a schoolteacher/pupil relationship, with the Duchess in the
dominant role. It is not clear whether she has any respect for him, but simply keeps the marriage going as a way of ensuring
her continued appearance in the gossip columns.
As things turn out, the Duchess' schemes do not go quite according to plan. Although
welcome to visit the Royal Household as a private citizen, the Duke is never formally welcomed by his brother King George
VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Such reversals only serve to increase the Duchess' anti-British sentiments. She expresses
considerable loathing for what she perceives as English "amour-propre," and the artificial politeness of this "stuffy little
country." Her ire is directed particular at her sister-in-law, that "fat Scotch cookie" or "the monster of Glamis" whom she
felt has deliberately turned King George against his brother. Such sentiments do not render the Duchess a very sympathetic
character; she resembles a social butterfly so totally wrapped up in herself that she cannot understand the suffering experienced
by the British people in the post-war era.
The Windsor Jewels portrays a rather pathetic couple, whose extravagance
and narcissism suggest that they deserved to be condemned to perpetual exile from the country the Duke so passionately loved.
The director was Jolyon Jenkins.