Friday, 22 July 2016

The king who died in disgrace (Part 2)                                                         

In 1937, King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson both had considerable respect for Adolf Hitler and Germany. It must be remembered that his ancestry was German. He once said that every cell in his body was German.

When this couple lived in London, Secret government files released expressed concern about the removal of Britain’s Head of State (Edward) and his relationship with a supposedly sexually insatiable double-divorcée who was on social terms with prominent Nazis, especially von Ribbentrop, the then German Ambassador to England in 1936. The ambassador even ordered his staff to send 17 white roses every day from him.  It was also believed that she had a sexual relationship with the ambassador.

One of the backroom figures intimately involved in the drama was Sir Horace Wilson, a Downing Street adviser close both to the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, and his successor, Neville Chamberlain. He warned Chamberlain of the danger of Mrs. Simpson by telling him that she was “in touch with the Nazi movement and has definite ideas as to dictatorship.” He also said that Mrs. Simpson wanted to establish her own court in Britain with the support of Germany. In conversation with Baldwin, Wilson wondered if “historians of the future” would ask why the King was not put under pressure before it was too late. 

The Duke’s wife was a Nazi spy, lesbian, hermaphrodite and a nymphomaniac who learned her sexual tricks in Shanghai.  It was no doubt that those traits in his wife which was what made Edward fall in love with her.

For the next two years this weird couple lived mainly in France. On a visit to Germany on October 1937, they had a controversial meeting with Adolf Hitler. It had been reported the Duke gave Hitler a full Nazi salute when he met him. The couple was wined and dined and treated as royalty everywhere they were taken. 

It was a very stupid decision on the Duke’s part to meet Hitler especially when the British government had previously advised Edward not to do the trip but he ignored that advice. It would appear that he was more interested in Germany than Great Britain. The duke was eager to carve out a new role for himself and ensure that his wife was treated as a full member of the Royal Family even though she had not received the title of Her Royal Highness—an issue that was of great concern to the duke. In Germany members of the aristocracy would bow and curtsy towards her, and she was treated with all the dignity and status that the duke always wanted for her.

During the visit the Duke gave full Nazi salutes. (right hand straight upwards by 45 degrees)  The former Austrian ambassador, Count Albert von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein, who was also a second cousin once removed and friend of George V, (the Duke’s father) believed that Edward favoured German fascism as a bulwark against communism, while favoring  an alliance with Germany.

Edward's experience of the unending scenes of horror during the First World War, led him to support appeasement which was against British policy. Hitler considered Edward to be friendly towards Nazi Germany and thought that Anglo-German relations could have been improved through Edward if it were not for his abdication.

Fellow Nazi Albert Speer (the former German Armanant minister) after the war quoted Hitler directly: “I am certain through him that permanent friendly relations could have been achieved. If he had stayed, everything would have been different. His abdication was a severe loss for us.” unquote

If Edward didn’t abdicate his role as king, you can be sure that he would have given Hitler moral support and made every effort to talk the British government into remaining neutral throughout the war. Admittedly, it would have spared London from the bombings and possibly kept its dominions out of the war in Europe, but even as King, he couldn’t order the government not to come to the aid of Poland after Hitler invaded it.  And that is what the British did. But first, they declared war on Germany.

There was no precedent for an abdicated sovereign assuming an active public role on behalf of the current sovereign.  The Duke of Windsor was frustrated that he was expected to live a quiet life in exile. It had been suggested by Sir Dudley Forwood that Edward’s trip to Germany was an unofficial trip and not a bid to support the Nazi regime, but instead the trip was to enable the duchess to experience a state visit.

I find that hard to believe that was Edward’s real purpose for the trip.   There were other European countries that they could have visited but instead, the duke chose the one the British government asked him not to visit. Perhaps he envisioned himself in the future of having a diplomatic role for himself as a mediator between Britain and Germany. If that was his wish, it would be a wish unfulfilled since no one in the British government would accept him as a mediator between Germany and Great Britain. Despite being thrilled at the time, the couple later realized they had made a ghastly mistake after their actions upset American trade unions and Jewish organizations.

In May 1939, the Duke was commissioned by NBC to give a radio broadcast (his first since abdicating) during a visit to the battlefields of Verdun. In it he appealed for peace, saying;

 "I am deeply conscious of the presence of the great company of the dead, and I am convinced that could they make their voices heard they would be with me in what I am about to say. I speak simply as a soldier of the Last War whose most earnest prayer it is that such cruel and destructive madness shall never again overtake mankind. There is no land whose people want war." unquote

Hitler had already seized Austria and Czechoslovakia by the time he gave that speech. The broadcast was heard around the world including millions in the United States.  His speech was widely seen as supporting appeasement and letting Hitler do what he wanted to do in Europe. The BBC refused to broadcast it. However, it was broadcasted outside the United States on shortwave radio and was reported in full by British newspapers.

On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the Duke and Duchess were brought back to Britain by Louis Mountbatten on board HMS Kelly, and the Duke, although an honorary field marshal, was made a  major-general  attached to the British Military Mission in France. In February 1940, the German ambassador in The Hague, Count Julius von Zech-Burkersroda, claimed that the Duke had leaked the Allied war plans for the defence of Belgium,

That betrayal was not only terribly wrong, it was treason and treason committed during a time of war is punishable by death. Obviously, the British had no intentions of executing their former king. The last time that was done was centuries ago when the British Parliament sentenced King Charles I to death for treason.

Edward and Wallis Simpson asked Lord Halifax to persuade the British cabinet to demand that Winston Churchill resign and surrender Great Britain to Germany. They promised in return that Lord Halifax would be prime minister.  However British Intelligence had Informed King George VI of Edward’s proposal who wasn’t pleased at all when being given that information.  

When Germany invaded the north of France in May 1940, the Windsors fled south, first to Biarritz, then in June they went to Spain. In July the pair moved to Lisbon, where they lived at first in the home of Ricardo de Espírito Santo, a Portuguese banker who had both British and German contacts.

Under the code name Operation Willi, Nazi agents, principally Walter Schellenberg, plotted unsuccessfully to persuade the Duke to leave Portugal and return to Spain, kidnapping him if necessary.

 Lord Caldecote wrote a warning to Winston Churchill in which he said. ‘The Duke is well-known to be pro-Nazi and he may become a centre of intrigue.”

Churchill (who was by then the new Prime minister) threatened the Duke with a court-martial if he didn’t immediately return to British soil.

The prime minister really didn’t want him to return to England so in 1940,  he appointed him to be the new governor of the Bahamas. On the 1st of  August, the Duke and Duchess left Lisbon on the American Export Lines steamship Excalibur, which was specially diverted from its usual direct course to New York City so that the Duke and Duchess could be dropped off at Bermuda on the 9th.  They left Bermuda for Nassau on the Canadian steamship Lady Somers on the 15th of August, and arrived two days later.

Edward didn’t enjoy being the governor and he referred to the islands as a third-class British colony. Surely he didn’t expect to be appointed as the British emperor of India.                                                                                       

The British Foreign Office strenuously objected when the Duke and Duchess planned to cruise aboard a yacht belonging to a Swedish magnate, Axel Wenner-Gren, whom American intelligence wrongly believed to be a close friend of Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring.  

The Allies had previously become sufficiently disturbed by German plots that US President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered covert surveillance of the Duke and Duchess when they visited Palm Beach, Florida, in April 1941. Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg (then a monk in an American monastery) had told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the Duchess had slept with the German ambassador (von Ribbentrop) in London.

Despite the Duke’s misgivings about this role as governor, The Duke was praised for his efforts to combat poverty on the islands, although he was as contemptuous of the Bahamians as he was of most non-white peoples of the Empire. He said of Étienne Dupuch, the editor of the Nassau Daily Tribune: "It must be remembered that Dupuch is more than half Negro, and due to the peculiar mentality of this race, they seem unable to rise to prominence without losing their equilibrium.” 

He was praised, even by Dupuch, for his resolution of civil unrest over low wages in Nassau in 1942, even though he blamed the trouble on "mischief makers – communists" and "men of Central European Jewish descent, who had secured jobs as a pretext for obtaining a deferment of draft".[96] He resigned the post on 16 March 1945

Many historians have suggested that Hitler was prepared to reinstate Edward as king in the hope of establishing a fascist Britain. It is widely believed that the Duke and Duchess sympathized with fascism before and during the Second World War, and were moved to the Bahamas to minimize their opportunities to act on those feelings.

In 1940 Edward said: "In the past 10 years Germany has totally reorganized the order of its society. Countries which were unwilling to accept such a reorganization of society and its concomitant sacrifices should direct their policies accordingly.”

While the Duke and Duchess were in Nassau during the German occupation of France, the Duke asked the German forces to place guards at his Paris and Riviera homes; they did so. 

In December 1940, the Duke gave Fulton Oursler of Liberty magazine an interview at at Government House in Nassau. The interview was published on 22nd of March 1941 and in it the Duke was reported to have said that “Hitler was the right and logical leader of the German people”  and that the time was coming for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to mediate a peace settlement. Oursler conveyed the content of the interview to the President in a private meeting at the White House on 23 December 1940. The Duke later protested that he had been misquoted and misinterpreted.

The Allies became sufficiently disturbed by German plots revolving around the Duke so President Roosevelt ordered covert surveillance of the Duke and Duchess when they visited Palm Beach, Florida, in April 1941. Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg (then a monk in an American monastery) had told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the Duchess had slept with the German ambassador in London, Joachim von Ribbentrop, in 1936, had remained in constant contact with him, and had continued to leak secrets to him.

Author Charles Higham claimed that Anthony Blunt, an MI5 agent, acting on orders from the British Royal Family, made a successful secret trip to Schloss Friedrichshof in Germany towards the end of the war to retrieve sensitive letters between the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis.

Author Charles Higham claimed that Anthony Blunt, anMI5 agent, acting on orders from the British Royal Family, made a successful secret trip to Schloss Friedrichshof in Germany towards the end of the war to retrieve sensitive letters between the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis. 

After the war, the Duke admitted in his memoirs that he admired the Germans, but he denied being pro-Nazi. Of Hitler he wrote: “The Führer struck me as a somewhat ridiculous figure, with his theatrical posturings and his bombastic pretensions.”  

In the 1950s, journalist Frank Giles heard the Duke blame British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden for helping to precipitate the war through his treatment of Mussolini. “That's what Eden did.  He helped to bring on the war and of course Roosevelt and the Jews.”

At the end of the war, the couple returned to France and spent the remainder of their lives essentially in retirement as the Duke never occupied another official role after his wartime governorship of the Bahamas. The Duke's allowance was supplemented by government favours and illegal currency trading.  

The City of Paris provided the Duke with a house at 4 Route du Champ d'Entraînement, on the Neuilly-sur-Seine side of the Bois de Boulogne, for a nominal rent. The French government exempted him from paying income tax, and the couple were able to buy goods duty-free through the British embassy and the military commissary. 

In 1951, the Duke produced a ghost-written memoir, A King's Story, in which he expresses disagreement with liberal politics. The royalties from the book added to their income.  Nine years later, he penned a relatively unknown book, A Family Album, chiefly about the fashion and habits of the Royal Family throughout his life, from the time of Queen Victoria to that of his grandfather and father, along with his own tastes.

The Duke and Duchess effectively took on the role of celebrities and were regarded as part of café society in the 1950s and 1960s. They hosted parties and shuttled between Paris and New York.

In June 1953, instead of attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London, the Duke and Duchess watched the ceremony on television in Paris. The Duke said that it was contrary to precedent for a Sovereign or former Sovereign to attend any coronation of another. That is not so.

The Duke was paid to write articles on the ceremony for the Sunday Express and Woman's Home Companion, as well as a short book, The Crown and the People, 1902–1953.

In 1955, they visited President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House. The couple appeared on Edward R. Murrow's television interview show Person to Person in 1956, and a 50-minute BBC television interview in 1970. That year, they were invited as guests of honour to a dinner at the White House by President Richard Nixon.

The Royal Family never fully accepted the Duchess. Queen Mary refused to receive her formally. However, the Duke sometimes met his mother and brother George VI, and attended George's 1952 funeral. Queen Mary remained angry with Edward and indignant over his marriage to Wallis. She said, "To give up all this for that woman.”

 In 1965, the Duke and Duchess returned to London. They were visited by Elizabeth II, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, and Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. A week later, the Princess Royal died, and they attended her memorial service. In 1967, they joined the Royal Family for the centenary of Queen Mary's birth. The last royal ceremony the Duke attended was the funeral of Princess Marina in 1968. He declined an invitation from Elizabeth II to attend the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969, replying that Prince Charles would not want his “aged great-uncle” there. His conclusion may have been right.

In the 1960s, the Duke's health deteriorated. In December 1964, he was operated on by Michael DeBakey  in Houston  for an  aneurysm  of the abdominal aorta, and in February 1965 a detached retina in his left eye was treated by Sir Stewart Duke-Elder. In late 1971, the Duke, who was a smoker from an early age, was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent cobalt therapy. Queen Elizabeth II visited the Windsors in 1972 while on a state visit to France; however, only the Duchess appeared with the royal party for photos being taken.

On 28 May 1972, the Duke died at his home in Paris, less than a month before his 78th birthday. His body was returned to Britain, lying in state at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. The funeral service was held in the chapel on the 5th of June in the presence of the Queen, the Royal Family, and the Duchess of Windsor, who stayed at Buckingham Palace during her visit. Edward was buried in the Royal Burial Ground behind the Royal Mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Frogmore. Until a 1965 agreement with Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke and Duchess had planned for a burial in a cemetery plot they had purchased at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, where the Duchess's father was interred. Frail and suffering increasingly from dementia, the Duchess died 14 years later, and was buried alongside her husband as "Wallis, Duchess of Windsor"

As to the royal jewels Edward pilfered soon after he abdicated, I have no idea what happened to them. 

No comments: