chapter  4
Boys’ tales
Pages 21

Biographical accounts of the lives of members of the British Royal Family consistently demonstrate the limits of the discussion of gender in conventional biography. That is, that becoming ‘male’ or ‘female’, perhaps the most important aspect of identity with which every individual has to deal, is of marginal importance in these accounts. Even when it is apparent, as in the case of Edward VIII, that sexual identity was a highly problematic aspect of the life of this person, the issue is given scant attention. Somehow or other, it is tacitly assumed, the subject became ‘a man’ and at that point solved, and closed, all discussion of the issue. Obviously, in the case of Edward VIII, the sexual partners in question were a disruptive and unfortunate element in his life, but that they were women is taken for granted. What this suggests is part of the rigid definition often to be found in biography: the individual (unlike any other individual) is not ambiguous and prismatic in his or her relationships with others, but somehow fixed and capable of discovery and revelation. This terror of ambiguity, contradiction and the absence of definition then intrudes into all aspects of the biography; the author is concerned to find the fixed point in any encounter and to see, not the complexity of human relations, but the possible simplicity.