England's home-loving, hard-working King George VI, who liked collecting stamps and singing beside a campfire, wasn't cut out to be a hero - or even a king. But when the Duke of Windsor's abdication thrust kingship upon him, he rose to the occasion magnificently, overcoming not only his reluctance but his health problems and an embarrassing speech impediment.
That, in my book, makes him - not his glamorous brother, the Duke of Windsor - hero of the ''abdication crisis.'' But the Duke of Windsor is still stealing the spotlight from his dutiful brother, in many people's eyes.
Perhaps Denis Judd's highly readable and historically accurate biography, King George VI 1895-1952 (Franklin Watts Inc., $18.95), will put the tale of the two royal brothers in true perspective. Since it is a story of developing character and the triumph of true grit, it has all the elements of a novel - including a good sense of narrative.
* It's too late now, but if you had met the Duke of Windsor, Judith Martin would have had a useful tip for you. In her ''Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior'' (Atheneum, $19.95) she deals with the question ''What do you say to a man who has recently lost his throne?'' by advising the ''Gentle Reader'': ''Presuming that you wish to be polite, but also to refrain from making a political statement, Miss Manners suggests, 'History will record your true worth.' Please note what a versatile statement this is.''
Now Judith Martin is exercising her mordant wit in a novel. Gilbert (Atheneum , $14.95) amounts to a far from moral morality play. When her thoroughly dislikable hero is at Harvard, he invents his own course of study (''a very sophisticated way of putting things over on people'') and graduates himself cum laude as a first-class opportunist and an unmitigated cad, skilled at hopping from bed to bed.
Along the way, he picks up such useful information as: ''. . . It is more effective socially to be tall and barely civil than short and eagerly sociable. This did not affect his height but it taught him to shut up.''
Gilbert should have remembered that a bitter penalty awaits every hero of a medieval morality play who thinks victory is in his grasp. King Midas could have warned him, for just as Gilbert has maneuvered his way into the White House, the epitome (in this cynical caricature of Washington) of self-seeking opportunism, he is hit by a cruel discovery: What he really wants at last is true love and an unselfish commitment. But who in Washington will believe him now? Especially since his creator tops off her story with yet another ironic twist.