Saturday, October 21, 2017

What Manner of Man is This by Sir Orville Turnquest

I am of two minds about What Manner of Man is This?, a new book that examines the Duke of Windsor's role as Governor General of the Bahamas. The idea of the book is very book because it is the first to focus on the five years (1940-1945), when, according to author, Sir Orville Turnquest, QC, "the native black population was completely subjugated under white minority rule."

None of the former King Edward VIII's biographers have devoted extensive detail for a time period when the British government, after getting the pro-Nazi Duke and Duchess of Windsor out of France, and fobbed off on the Bahamians as their Governor General. 

Certainly, in the eyes of the Duke, and especially his duchess, the Bahamas was not a choice location.  Both would have preferred to spend the war in the United States.   It was a lot easier to keep an eye on the former King if he were put into a position where he could not cause a lot of trouble.

So much for that idea.

The Bahamas became an independent nation in 1973.   Sir Orville served as the country's fifth Governor General (1995-2001) and is one of the country's most successful and respected lawyers.

I enjoyed the parts of the book that were on topic - the Duke of Windsor and the events that shaped Bahamas' growing desire for self-determination -- but the author would veer off topic at times -- offering a history of the Bahamas or his role in some event.   This  made the book disjointed at times.  Perhaps the book would have had a few less pages if the author and publisher had not padded the text.  It took the author forty seven pages to get to the Duke's arrival in the Bahamas.

Sir Orville is at his best when he focuses on the former King's role in Bahamian politics and economics.    The Duke of Windsor was awful at his job.  He never took the time to understand the needs of the Bahamanian citizens, most of whom were black, and largely underrepresented in the government,  This was not an understatement.   At times, the former king would his show his disdain for the black residents.  He certainly made his views clears in correspondence and correspondence.

The issues that faced the duke were largely economical.  After Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into the second world war, the Bahamas saw their tourism industry collapse.  The United States, however, saw the Bahamas as a good place to build several military bases.  This would mean more jobs for local residents, but the American workers were paid more than the black residents.   This inequality would lead to worker dissatisfaction and worker riots.

But Sir Orville  does answer his own question:  What Manner of Man is This?   Well, not a very good one.  The Duke was poorly advised, and, to use a modern expression, the Duke did not have a clue to the reality of the Bahamas.   Sir Orville is right:  the Duke of Windsor was weak.  He was prejudiced. He was racist and he was disloyal. 

It takes time to get to the answer.   If you are able to wade through the chaff, you will find the wheat to be very interesting.

Two more quibbles:  No photographs and no index.  One would assume that newspapers and archives in the Bahamas would have good selection of photographs of the Duke of Windsor and other seasoned characters (Harry Oakes, for examples) during this time period.  Photographs from local sources would further enhanced this book.

The book was published by a Nassau, Bahamas, based publisher, Grant's Town Press.

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