The Duchess by Wendy Holden
1. To what extent has reading The Duchess altered your perception of Wallis Simpson?
2. Has reading The Duchess altered your view of Edward VIII? In what ways?
3. In what ways has history treated Wallis and Edward fairly or unfairly?
4. What does the novel reveal about the English class system and the relations between rich and poor?
5. Would Wallis’s story be different if it were happening today?
6. What do you think of the character of Ernest, and Wallis’s relationship with him?
7. Thelma and Freda, royal mistresses: What did you make of their characters?
8. What would you have loved and hated about high-society social life during Wallis’s time?
9. How would you characterize Wallis’s relationship with her mother?
10. How would you characterize Edward’s relations with his family, and with the Crown in general?
11. Could an American ever successfully join the British royal family? Why or why not?
12. How important are the settings in the story in conjuring up the spirit of the times?
13. To what extent was the abdication a bad thing? Might it have been avoided?
14. What does Wallis tell us about social mobility—or social climbing?
15. Do you think Edward VIII was just using Wallis to avoid being king? Could he have done anything differently?
16. In Wallis’s shoes, what would you have done?
17. To what extent was Wallis a feminist?