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Edward VIII / Duke of Windsor

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick, Prince of Wales, and briefly Edward VIII, and Duke of Windsor, was born 23 June 1894. He was great grandson of Queen Victoria, grandson of Edward VII, son of George V, and cousin of the German Emperor and the Czar of Russia.

As Prince of Wales, Edward VIII (reigned January-December 1936) had successfully carried out a number of regional visits (including areas hit by economic depression) and other official engagements. These visits and his official tours overseas, together with his good war record and genuine care for the underprivileged, had made him popular.

As Prince of Wales he was someone who tried to help his brothers and sister who in different ways were crippled mentally by their unbelievably uncaring and cruel parents. Prince George, bisexual and addicted to morphine was cared for by his brother at the Fort, and was weaned from the drug as a result. The Duke of Gloucester was an alcoholic and the Duke of York was also dependant, a very simple and nervous man. His sister, Princess Mary was unable to find a husband until she was married of to the much older Earl of Harewood. His young brother Prince John who suffered from epilepsy was removed from the family to another house.

The first monarch to be a qualified pilot, Edward created The King's Flight (now known as 32 (The Royal) Squadron) in 1936 to provide air transport for the Royal family's official duties.

When the prime minister advises the king, the king is bound to accept the decision of the Government. If he refuses to do so, the Government is wont to resign, and a general election will ensue. As the ruling Sovereign, the King could have overpowered the objections posed by the Prime Minister. He possessed the constitutional right to marry whomever he wished as long as his wife was not Catholic, but Edward did not defend himself or combat the force of the Government. His weakness contrasted with the strength and boldness of Stanley Baldwin.


Edward the Duke of Windsor became part of a master-plan whereby Hitler would restore him to the throne, once Britain had been conquered, and subsequently become part of a puppet regime similar to that of Vichy France. The Nazis even had a code name for the plot – Operation Willi. The speculation that Hitler conspired to install a pro-Nazi monarch in the United Kingdom has failed to be discredited, given affirmative circumstantial evidence, and the continued closure of archives during this period under a hundred year rule. The Duke of Windsor regularly acted against the national interest, and gave aid and comfort to the Germans before and during the war.

The British king, Edward VIII, who supposedly gave up the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, openly sympathized with the Nazis. After the abdication in 1937, the King with his new wife visited Hitler presenting a propaganda coup to the Fuehrer.

British diplomat Sir Robert Gilbert Vansittart wrote in his diaries that in the early 1930s Edward, then the Prince of Wales, expressed his full support to Hitler's dictatorship, turning a blind eye to the persecution of Jews. After abdicating in 1936, Edward, who became the Duke of Windsor, visited Germany in 1937 and met Adolf Hitler personally. Confidental data, released in 2003, indicated that Nazi officials planned to reinstall him as a king once Germany invaded Great Britain.

In Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies Martine Allen investigates the relationship between Charles Bedaux, a Nazi spy, and the Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII). According to Allen, the duke passed Allied military secrets to the Nazis via Bedaux, information that proved crucial to the conquest of France. This act of treason was subsequently covered up by a royal family fearful of a backlash. The assertion of treason is indeed dismaying, but though Allen shows that the duke consorted with a known spy (not entirely news to informed readers), he does not present persuasive evidence that he was actually feeding information to the Nazis.

The shortsightedness of France and Italy in supporting Ethiopian membership in the League of Nations in 1927 put into strong relief the common sense of England, which expressed serious doubt that Ethiopia could be classed as a modern civilized country; this membership — a boomerang — was invoked against Italy in 1935. Italy invaded Abyssinia on 03 October and reached Adowa on the sixth. The League assembly was convened on 09 October and on the eleventh Italy was named as the "aggressor."

The Duke of Windsor, who as King of England had most unusual opportunities to look candidly behind the scenes of international politics, objected to this brusque term in a radio appeal for tolerance; the casual classification of "aggressor" and "victim" had become a naive but deadly piece of prejudiced propaganda, on a par with the very clever appellation of "loyalists" in the Spanish Civil War, which has given an undeserved "moral tone" to the Barcelona Government and a "black eye" to Franco's political adherents.

In 1930, the Prince, who had already had a number of affairs, had met and fallen in love with a married American woman, Mrs Wallis Simpson. She was a bony, unattractive, rapacious, social climbing, manipulative phony. Wallis Simpson was said to have traveled to China where she supposedly acquired skills in erotic arts in a brothel in Shanghai. There was rumored to be a "China dossier" which detailed the intimate techniques she'd perfected, but this seems to have been a forgery.

Among her other possible lovers was the German Ambassador von Ribbentrop, who was said to be in the habit of sending her bouquets of 17 roses or carnations in memory of the number of their rendezvous. If Edward VIII thought she was the sun and the moon, he really wasn't very bright after all. Concern about Edward's private life grew in the Cabinet, opposition parties and the Dominions, when Mrs Simpson obtained a divorce in 1936 and it was clear that Edward was determined to marry her.

British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said that Mrs Simpson's marriage to Edward, as "a lady of American birth, twice divorced" would be inconsistent with him remaining on the Throne, and would invoke "widespread condemnation." British Commonwealth countries especially, with Australia at the forefront, objected to their King marrying Wallace Simpson.

Eventually Edward realised he had to choose between the Crown and Mrs Simpson who, as a twice-divorced woman, would not have been acceptable as Queen. The British establishment used Edward's love for Wallis Simpson as a pretext to force his abdication because of his pro-German views. America believed the king's decision was due to the duchess being a Nazi supporter and this was totally unacceptable to the prime minister at the time, Stanley Baldwin.

Duke of Windsor

On 10 December 1936, Edward VIII executed an Instrument of Abdication which was given legal effect the following day, when Edward gave Royal Assent to His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act, by which Edward VIII and any children he might have were excluded from succession to the throne.

In 1937, Edward was created Duke of Windsor and married Wallis Simpson in a ceremony in France.

The Duke of Windsor and his wife were openly pro-Nazi. Robert Bruce Lockhart, a journalist and spy, described a conversation he had with the Duke in 1933, when the Duke was still the Prince of Wales. The Duke, who 'was quite pro-Hitler, said it was no business of ours to interfere in Germany's internal affairs, either re Jews or re anything else, and added that Dictators were very popular these days and we might want one in England before long'.

Edward's flirtation with Hitler's regime threatened to undermine years of work by the royal family to distance themselves from their German roots. The Duke of Windsor was not unlike many Englishmen who had been through the horror of the Great War. Anything was better than another war. Many in Britain were afraid that Hitler was the only thing standing between them and Communism. Much of the European and American elite supported Hitler. Fascism was just another right wing philosophy, and the royals and aristocrats who believed in Hitler were not interested in committing genocide.

As soon as Edward had abdicated, promising to 'quit altogether public affairs', he was actually busy trying to manipulate them. He consorted with Adolf Hitler, and enjoyed Nazi hospitality at a time of increasing political strain between Britain and Germany. In October 1937, Edward and his wife - by now the Duke and Duchess of Windsor - visited Nazi Germany. They met Hitler, dined with his deputy, Rudolf Hess, and even visited a concentration camp.

The Duke and Duchess were seen by the Nazis as potential for propaganda purposes. Edward, who felt he had been ostracised and humiliated in the wake of his abdication in 1936, was outspoken in his criticism of Churchill and the war and was convinced that, if he had stayed on the throne, conflict could have been avoided.

Apparently his tacit support for the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 tilted the odds in favor of this high-risk operation, giving Hitler his first taste of appeasement. When World War II broke out the Duke made some even more ill-advised statements about the inevitability of German victory. As a major-general in Paris in 1939-40, he apparently used his position to pass tactical information to the enemy.

With the fall of France, he essentially abandoned his post as a general officer in France, and fled from Paris to the south of France. Churchill, threatened him with court martial unless he obeyed military orders. Eventually he moved to Franco's Madrid, a German ally, still maintaining communication with Nazi officials in Madrid. He moved to Lisbon, Portugal and still seems under the influence of Nazi friends/companions.

In July 1940 the German ambassador in Lisbon passed a message to Berlin saying: “The Duke believes with certainty that continued heavy bombing would make England ready for peace.” At face value, the Duke was speaking treason, giving succour to the enemy when Britain faced its darkest hour of the war.

His wife the Duchess of Windsor was under the influence of Nazi friends/companions. Whether or not she was Ribbentrop's lover (possible but unlikely, given the short overlap when they were both in England), she would have had ample opportunities to charm any number of the double-agents who were swarming around Paris at that time. Wallis was far shrewder and a more unscrupulous character than her husband, and a far likelier spy. Some US authorities believed the duchess had an affair with the Nazis' foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop when he was ambassador to Britain in 1936. Ribbentrop was thought to have been supplied with information by the duchess during the German invasion of France in 1940.

According to German diplomats, the Duke was seen as ‘the only Englishman with whom Hitler would negotiate any peace terms, the logical director of England’s destiny after the war’. Like Vidkun Quisling, the Nazi appointee to rule Norway, and Marshal Petain in occupied France, the Duke of Windsor was the perfect puppet. ‘The Duke believed that Great Britain faced a catastrophic military defeat which could only be avoided through a peace settlement with Germany,’ observed historian Michael Bloch.

The plot originated with Nazi foreign minister Ribbentrop, who convinced Hitler that the Duke of Windsor had lost his throne because of his pro-German sympathies, and would be delighted to recover it through collaboration with the Nazis. The plan was to lure the Duke to Spain, invite him to collaborate, offer to restore him to the throne of England and ask the Spanish government to imprison him if he refused. But the men required to carry it out were either lukewarm or skeptical or incompetent, and, as Bloch notes, what was most surprising about the plot was not that it failed but that it got as far as it did.

The Duke of Windsor was then appointed Governor of the Bahamas, a position he held until 1945. The Duke stunned the American journalist Fulton Oestler by saying: ‘It would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown, Hitler is the right and logical leader of the German people. Hitler is a very great man.’ While serving as Governor-General of Bermuda, he tried to convince a journalist into talking to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and subsequently using Roosevelt as part of a grand plan to create a negotiated peace settlement, giving Hitler most of his territorial gains.

At the end of World War II Nazi government files, including some dealing with the Windsors, were discovered and brought to safety in the British and American occupation zones in Germany. Efforts were made by British officials to keep the embarrassing details about the Duke's dealings with Hitler and other Nazis from becoming public. Anthony Blunt was sent by King George VI in Germany to retrieve all the correspondance of the Duke and the Duchess.

Post War

Written in 1951, the autobiography of the late Duke of Windsor tells the story of the future king's early youth at Sandringham, his years at Naval School on the Isle of Wight, at Magdalen College, Oxford, in the army in World War I, and his tours of Canada, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Eventually he becomes king, on the death of his father. He defies the wishes of Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, when he insists on marrying Wallis Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor.

On the advice of his New York physician, Dr. Arthur Antenucci, the Duke of Windsor requested a consultation with DeBakey in December 1964 regarding treatment for an aneurysm of the abdominal aorta. DeBakey repaired the aneurysm on December 16, 1964 in Houston, and the Duke made an uneventful recovery.

At the time of the Duke's initial call, DeBakey was at the White House, waiting to meet with President Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss the findings of the Committee on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke, which DeBakey chaired. The President then had to wait a short time, while DeBakey finished his conversation with the Duke.

Franklin D. Roosevelt met with the Duke of Windsor at Eleutheria Island, 13 December 1940. the Duchess of Windsor and the Duke of Windsor were received by Richard M. Nixon on 04 Aoruk 1970. The Duke ended up as a sad fixture on the international cocktail party circuit.

He lived abroad until the end of his life, dying in 1972 in Paris of cancer (he is buried at Windsor). Edward was never crowned; his reign lasted only 325 days. His brother Albert became King, using his last name George.

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Page last modified: 13-10-2022 16:09:41 ZULU