The Roosevelts and the Royals by Will Swift
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The Roosevelts and The Royals Reviews & Press

A Book Review
By Dr. Will Swift

by Jim Eyre,
Columbia County NY Historical Society

Given the tight Anglo-American alliance of the twenty-first century, it is hard to fathom how frayed British-American relations were in the 1930’s. Americans, particularly in the heartland, felt hostile and suspicious toward Britain. While some East Coast Americans had a continuing and deep feeling of kinship with the English, many ethnic groups, including Irish-Americans and Jews saw the British as part of an elitist and class-conscious Europe they had come to America to escape. Americans were suspicious of foreign allegiances and entanglements of any kind, bitter about the costs and results of the last world war, and resentful about Britain’s failure to pay war debts. By 1939 the resulting isolationism was deeply entrenched in the United States, especially in the Midwest, where many mainland European immigrants had settled after fleeing monarchies and dictatorships.

As war in Europe began to look inevitable, the British initiated a massive propaganda campaign to win America to its side in the struggle. The June 1939 state visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Washington, New York City, and Hyde Park was a crucial component of that crusade. While such personages as the Duke of Windsor, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and aviator Charles Lindbergh were expressing awe about German military might, President Roosevelt initiated the royal visit in order to sway public opinion toward supporting England in the upcoming war. The centerpiece of The Roosevelts and the Royals is the precedent-shattering picnic that the president and his wife hosted at FDR’s estate in Hyde Park, New York where George and Elizabeth agreeably ate hot dogs for the first time, not only signaling their accessible style and their accommodation to American ways but cementing Anglo-American relations at a dangerous juncture.

Previous historians have treated the royal visit and the Roosevelt-Windsor connection as a mere footnote to history. For the first time, Dr. Swift vividly demonstrates the importance of that visit in developing Britian and America’s "special relationship" and in the eventual creation of President Roosevelt’s "Lend-Lease" program. He shows how the two couples worked together to help save democracy.

More than the above, the book is a joint biography of the Roosevelt and Windsor dynasties. It shows how their family friendship began in the early 1900s when Teddy Roosevelt befriended King Edward VII, continued through Eleanor Roosevelt’s close bond with the king and queen after FDR’s death, and was revitalized last year when Prince Andrew spoke at the FDR Library. The Roosevelts and the Royals is also the first book-length study of these four complicated characters and their two intriguing and radically different marriages, the Roosevelts’ spacious, complex and quite modern, the royal couple’s tight-knit, traditional and simple. It demonstrates the similarities between the personalities of George VI and Eleanor Roosevelt and that of Queen Elizabeth and Franklin Roosevelt.

The book is based on exclusive interviews with the Roosevelt grandchildren and on previously unpublished letters of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Windsor, the Duke of Kent found in the FDR Library and the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. The publication of the book was supported by the Queen Mother who gave the author quotations about the Roosevelts in the last months of her life. Her private secretary, Sir Alistair Aird, was an enthusiastic advocate for the book as well.

The Roosevelts and the Royals reads like a novel. Filled with extraordinary anecdotes, it is written in a lively and engaging style making it an extremely enjoyable reading adventure for biography lovers, history buffs and scholars alike. It should be available and on display at your neighborhood bookstore and a limited number of copies will be offered for sale at the Columbia County Historical Society Museum in Kinderhook.

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The Roosevelts and the Royals
Franklin and Eleanor, The King and Queen of England, and the Friendship that Changed History

by Will Swift
John Wiley & Sons: June 2004; ISBN: 0-471-45962-3; Hardcover; 384 pages
Now available at Amazon,, or your local bookstore