Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in
“For fans of the
Netflix series The Crown, a meticulously researched historical tour
de force about the secret ties among Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston
Churchill, the Duke of Windsor, and Adolf Hitler before, during, and
after World War II--now in paperback.
Andrew Morton tells
the story of the feckless Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor, his
American wife, Wallis Simpson, the bizarre wartime Nazi plot to make
him a puppet king after the invasion of Britain, and the attempted
cover-up by Churchill, General Eisenhower, and King George VI of the
duke's relations with Hitler. From the alleged affair between Simpson
and the German foreign minister to the discovery of top secret
correspondence about the man dubbed "the traitor king" and
the Nazi high command, this is a saga of intrigue, betrayal, and
deception suffused with a heady aroma of sex and suspicion.
For the first time,
Morton reveals the full story behind the cover-up of those damning
letters and diagrams: the daring heist ordered by King George VI, the
smooth duplicity of a Soviet spy as well as the bitter rows and
recriminations among the British and American diplomats, politicians,
and academics. Drawing on FBI documents, exclusive pictures, and
material from the German, Russian, and British royal archives, as
well as the personal correspondence of Churchill, Eisenhower, and the
Windsors themselves, 17 CARNATIONS is a dazzling historical drama,
full of adventure, intrigue, and startling revelations, written by a
master of the genre.”
Edward the Nazi King of England: Princess Diana's biographer reveals
the Duke of Windsor's collusion with Hitler… and a plot to regain
revealed the innermost workings of the Nazi regime
incriminating correspondence relating to former King of England
New book by Diana
biographer reveals the Duke of Windsor was willing to deal with
Hitler to win back his throne
Called Hitler a
'great man' and openly criticised Churchill the 'warmonger'
conflict could've been avoided if he stayed on the throne
The Nazi leader
would put the Duke back on the Throne as a puppet king
of the secret deal were ordered destroyed after the war
Churchill, Clement Attlee and American President Eisenhower among
those who attempted to cover up damning dossier
By Andrew Morton For
The Mail On Sunday
GMT, 28 February 2015 | UPDATED: 19:50 GMT, 1 March 2015
It was the most
unlikely place to find a treasure trove: tucked inside a battered
metal canister covered in a tatty plastic raincoat and hidden in a
remote German estate, where it had been hastily buried in the dying
days of the Nazi regime.
The men who
discovered it in the weeks following the end of the war were dubbed
‘documents men’, Allied soldiers charged with finding the secrets
of Hitler’s Third Reich. Inside was unique microfilm that revealed
the innermost workings of the Nazi regime. Back in London, the haul
was triumphantly called pirates’ gold.
But within days,
they realised with horror that the thousands of files detailing every
part of the Nazi regime’s inner workings contained incriminating
correspondence relating to the former King of England, Edward VIII,
his wife – the divorced American Wallis Simpson, whom he married in
1937 – and their links to dictator Adolf Hitler.
Edward and Wallis depart Hitler’s mountain retreat in October 1937,
after meeting the Fuhrer
The book claims that
the Duke, center, was angered at being forced to abdicate the throne
in 1936 and was willing to work with Adolf Hitler, right, to regain
This was dynamite
that could explode beneath the Monarchy.
For the next 12
years, war leader Winston Churchill, post-war Prime Minister Clement
Attlee, American President Eisenhower and others in the political
elite attempted to destroy or cover up the damning Windsor dossier.
Even King George VI,
at loggerheads with his elder brother, the Duke of Windsor, since his
abdication in 1936, was ‘greatly agitated’.
Now my three years
of research have uncovered the extent of Edward’s Nazi sympathies
and the monumental efforts lasting more than a decade by the
Establishment on both sides to trace, conceal and destroy vital
documents that they feared could bring down the House of Windsor.
contents of the file concerned the wartime activities of the Duke and
Duchess of Windsor, particularly their brief stay in Spain and
Portugal after the fall of France in 1940. The secret papers painted
an astonishing portrait of a man who was disaffected with his
position, disloyal to his family and unpatriotic towards his country.
The file revealed
that such was his disaffection that Churchill, his friend and
supporter, had threatened him with court martial unless he obeyed
During this Iberian
sojourn, many of Edward’s unguarded utterances were secretly
recorded by German diplomats and pro-Fascist Spanish aristocrats who
sent the material in minute detail to Berlin, where Hitler and his
right-hand man, foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, pored over
the Royal runes.
reveal that 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.
He was angered at
being forced to abdicate the throne in 1936 because he wanted to
marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, left, and was willing to work
with Hitler, right
The Duke of Windsor
chats to Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels at a party in
Berlin in 1937
Only the continued
heavy bombing of British cities, he believed, would bring the United
Kingdom to the negotiating table. Taken at face value, the Duke was
speaking high treason, giving succour to the enemy when Britain faced
its darkest hour of the war. If the German files were to be believed,
here was a man who had no faith in his country’s leaders or his own
family. He was also a man who fully approved of Hitler and his
spurious plans for peace.
chimed with Washington’s intelligence. American ambassadors to
Spain and Portugal who met the couple at this time were so alarmed
that they sent messages to Washington reporting that the couple were
‘indiscreet and outspoken against the British government’.
Historian John Costello later described the Duke’s sentiments as
‘tantamount to treason’.
Such was the
dangerous importance of these unguarded private utterances that it
gave the Nazi high command complete faith in a sinister plot to
entice the Duke and Duchess to stay in Spain, where he would wait for
the Germans to invade and conquer his homeland. Then the man who
spent his honeymoon in Austria before the war and visited Germany in
October 1937 as Hitler’s honoured guest would return to Britain as
the Fuhrer’s puppet king.
The Nazis even had a
code name for the plot – Operation Willi – which was the
extraordinary climax to a bizarre entanglement between the Duke, the
Duchess and Hitler which began shortly after he was elected German
Chancellor in 1933.
Not only did Hitler
try to marry Edward, then Prince of Wales, to a young German
princess, but he then flooded London with a slew of Nazi supporting
aristocrats with orders to find out what their Royal cousins were
thinking. The stammering Duke of York, Edward’s brother and later
King George VI, was blunt about this blue-blooded Nazi courtship. ‘My
own family relations in Germany have been used to spy and get
particulars from other members of my family,’ he later observed.
Edward and Wallis welcomed them with open arms.
pictured, married at a private ceremony on June 3, 1937 in France and
honeymooned in Germany
celebrates his marriage to Wallis Simpson in France in June 1937 with
a cup of tea
The Duke of Windsor
marries Wallis Simpson in 1937
As serious doubts
began to be raised at home about Edward’s fitness to be King, he
was viewed inside the Third Reich as a friend and ally of the Nazi
Wallis Simpson came
under special scrutiny from both sides. Even Hitler was intrigued by
her relationship with the pompous but charming Von Ribbentrop, who
had singled her out for special attention when he was Nazi ambassador
in London in the 1930s.
It was said Von
Ribbentrop sent Wallis bouquets of flowers, ordered from society
florist Constance Spry, to her home. The Prince of Wales’s cousin,
the well-informed Duke of Württemberg stoked the rumour mill,
stating that the bouquets of 17 carnations (some say they were roses)
represented the number of occasions Wallis and Von Ribbentrop had
Hitler is a great
man... Churchill's a warmonger
Such was the concern
about the proximity of Wallis and her then husband Ernest to the
future King that at the height of her clandestine affair with Edward
in 1935, Scotland Yard detectives were ordered to watch the couple
and delve into their private life.
It emerged that not
only was Ernest hoping for a high honour when the new King took the
throne, but his wife was two-timing him and Edward with a third man,
Ford car salesman Guy Trundle.
It was also
discovered that a neighbour in Wallis’s apartment block, Bryanston
Court in Central London, was Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe – a
woman who had been monitored by the security services since 1928.
They considered her a political intriguer – possibly a Nazi spy,
but certainly a woman with direct access to Hitler himself. It was
not long before worried Establishment figures wondered if Princess
Stephanie and Wallis were working hand-in-glove, and Bryanston Court
was a nest of espionage and plotting.
Military leaders had
serious concerns about the Duke of Windsor, right, and his wife
Wallis Simpson, left
MRS Simpson had
already been described by Palace courtiers as a witch, a vampire and
a high-class blackmailer. Soon she was being spoken of as a Nazi spy.
Within weeks of Edward ascending the throne in January 1936, there
was considerable concern that the Government red boxes – which to
this day are ferried to the Palace containing intelligence reports,
policy briefings and important documents needing Royal approval or
signature – were being treated in a cavalier manner, their contents
accessible to prying eyes.
The pre-war Prime
Minister, Stanley Baldwin, learned that the French and Swiss
governments knew that the King was discussing everything with Mrs
Simpson. As she was believed to be ‘in the pocket of Ribbentrop’,
this was a matter of grave concern.
Robert Worth Bingham reported to President Roosevelt: ‘Many people
here suspect that Mrs Simpson is in German pay. I think this is
All the while Hitler
was observing developments from afar, sitting in his private cinema
watching newsreels of the new young King, Edward VIII, and his
American mistress. At least it made a change from his usual diet of
possible reaction was on Hitler’s mind when he occupied the
Rhineland in March 1936 – effectively tearing up the Treaty of
Versailles. His calculation that Edward would give him tacit support
proved correct. That April the King sent Hitler a telegram wishing
him ‘happiness and welfare’ for his 47th birthday.
For all his scrutiny
of the youthful and glamorous new King, Hitler badly misjudged his
quarry. He felt Edward was a man of the world, a man of power and
ambition. And Von Ribbentrop had grossly overestimated Edward’s
influence over British politics, believing he was capable of
dictating foreign policy.
the Duke of Windsor made trips to the War Office, pictured, during
So the Fuhrer was
astonished when, in December 1936, Edward gave up his empire for
Wallis, the twice-divorced American. Propaganda minister Joseph
Goebbels caustically observed: ‘He has made a complete fool of
himself… it was lacking in dignity and taste.’ Hitler believed
Edward had been ousted by Churchill, who had manoeuvred him into a
But even after the
abdication, the Nazis still kept faith, inviting him to visit the
Fatherland in October 1937.
During the 12-day
visit, Germany was bedecked with alternating Union Flags and
swastikas, and Wallis accepted curtsies from high and low-born alike.
She was even referred to as ‘Her Royal Highness’, a title King
George VI had pointedly denied her.
The Nazi leadership
was impressed, seeing in the Duke one of their own. Goebbels
described him as a ‘tender seedling of reason’. Nonetheless the
couple’s phones were tapped throughout their visit.
Controversially, the former King gave a Nazi salute when he met
Hitler and other leaders. He later confirmed he did salute Hitler
during their private 50-minute conversation at his mountain retreat
at Berchtesgaden, but insisted ‘it was a soldier’s salute’.
After taking tea, they bade each other a fond farewell, never to meet
again. As they drove away Hitler remarked to his interpreter: ‘The
Duchess would have made a good queen.’
emphatically not the view of Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother.
Once war was declared in September 1939 and Wallis and Edward paid a
short visit to London before being packed off to France, she could
barely contain her loathing. She wrote to Queen Mary – mother of
her husband George and Edward: ‘I trust she will soon return to
France and STAY THERE. I am sure she hates this dear country and
therefore she should not be here in wartime.’
Such was the routine
suspicion and hostility felt towards the couple that when Churchill,
as First Lord of the Admiralty, showed the Duke around the Secret
Room – where the exact position of the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine
fleets were plotted – the Earl of Crawford, a government Minister,
warned: ‘He will blab and babble out state secrets without
realising the danger.’
did not inspire confidence. Though he schemed briefly to lead an
international peace movement – which many believed would only add
succour to the Nazi cause – he expended more effort playing golf
and agitating to have his French chef released from Army duty. And
there remains considerable circumstantial evidence that loose-lipped
table talk by the Duke while he was in Paris made its way back to
Berlin and influenced Hitler’s military strategy.
The Duke, pictured
here making his abdication speech, believed Britain could be bombed
playwright Clare Boothe Luce, recalled an evening in May 1940 when
the Windsors were playing cards in their Paris home. Luce was
listening to BBC radio news describing a Luftwaffe fighter attack on
coastal towns. When she remarked how sorry she felt for the
casualties, the Duchess looked up briefly from her cards and replied:
‘After what they did to me I can’t say I feel sorry for them –
a whole nation against one lone woman.’
of Edward and Wallis meant it was entirely in character that, when
the Germans advanced south through France in 1940, he demanded that a
Royal Navy ship pick them up from Nice.
The former King was
bluntly told to drive to Spain, ostensibly a neutral country, and
take his chances.
convoy included a hired van just for the Royal luggage. They were
however motoring into a trap, one partially of their own making.
Within days of their arrival in Madrid, German diplomats were working
with their Spanish allies to ensure the former King remained in
Spain. The couple were offered a small fortune and a palace in Ronda
in southern Spain to sit out the war.
Edward was so
tempted by the offer that he telegraphed Churchill and asked if there
was any need for a prompt return to London. Churchill ordered that he
be moved to neighbouring Portugal.
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.
Operation Willi was
treated with deadly seriousness by Hitler and Von Ribbentrop, the
Fuhrer ordering his top spymaster Walter Schellenberg to travel to
Lisbon to entice or if necessary kidnap the Windsors. Their every
move, gesture and sentiment was pored over, with German diplomats
looking for signs of encouragement.
The Duke twice
secretly contacted the Nazis via a Spanish diplomat, asking first if
they would protect his two rented houses in Paris and Cannes and
their contents. The captured microfilm revealed the potentially
explosive negotiations – the Germans agreed to his request. Even
the ambassador brother of Spanish dictator Franco was shocked by
Edward’s behaviour. ‘A prince does not ask favours of his
country’s enemies. To request the handing over of things he could
replace or dispense with is not correct.’
couple’s defeatist attitude in private conversations greatly
concerned the British ambassador. ‘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 Duke even
stunned the American journalist Fulton Oestler by saying in an
interview during the war, when he had been appointed Governor of the
Bahamas: ‘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.’
Little wonder that a
draft letter written on Churchill’s behalf in 1940 informing the
prime ministers of the Dominions about the decision to appoint the
Duke Governor of the Bahamas focused on his ‘pro-Nazi inclinations’
and the fact that he may become a centre of intrigue.
disloyalty knew no boundaries. The Duke considered his younger
brother George ‘utterly stupid’, the Queen an intriguer and
Churchill a warmonger. At least that was how the Germans described
it. Such was the collapse in relations between Edward and the British
Government when he was in Portugal that the Duke believed he would be
arrested if he went to the British Embassy in Lisbon. Little wonder
that the Windsor File was so potentially incendiary.
When he was shown
the dossier after the war, Churchill immediately insisted that it be
destroyed lest it damage the standing of the Monarchy. So did the
King, the Prime Minister and Allied Supreme Commander Dwight
copies had been made, some lodged with the Americans. American
academics, drafted in to the wartime State Department, warned that
they would be breaking the law if they destroyed the Windsor file.
prevailed. But it took another 12 years, after years of British
delaying tactics, for the file to be published.
The Duke of Windsor,
who was worried about the publication, largely escaped scot-free, the
media briefed to see him as an unwitting and innocent victim of
misguided Nazi intrigues.
Today, with the help
of new documents and letters never previously seen, we can see this
dark corner of British history in a more honest light – how
seriously the Windsors’ Nazi sympathies were taken at the time and
the deep alarm the postwar discovery of the Nazi files caused at the
between the British and their American allies about the Windsor File
was not without cost. It created a sour climate of suspicion and
distrust that endured, with the Americans perplexed that the British
would expend so much diplomatic and political capital on a man
without public position who was effectively exiled from his homeland.
It was seen in
Westminster as a small price to be paid to maintain the illusion of
Monarchy as the national crucible of honour, duty and loyalty.
17 Carnations by
Andrew Morton is published by Michael O’Mara, priced £20.00.
somewhat venturesome subtitle suggests that she has discovered some
hitherto undiscovered truth about the abdication.
Whatever this may
be, it is certainly not based on new facts. There is no material in
her book that was not already available - to this biographer at least
- except for the Special Branch reports. These are of interest in
that they show the police considered it their duty to monitor the
activities of the Prince of Wales and his mistress, but otherwise are
no more than modestly entertaining. The most pungent charge they
contain is that Mrs Simpson, while married to Ernest Simpson and in
hectic pursuit of the prince, was simultaneously conducting an affair
with a raffish motor-car salesman, Guy Trundle, on whom she lavished
expensive gifts and cash.
reasonably doubts whether Wallis Simpson could have found time to fit
Trundle into her life. She might also have pointed out that giving,
rather than receiving, expensive presents was not Mrs Simpson's
style, but references to the Duchess of Windsor's meanness would not
have fitted comfortably into Williams's master vision.
This book is an
exercise in rehabilitation. As such it is overdue. The Duke of
Windsor has been spectacularly traduced in recent years; the
culmination being a programme called Edward: the Traitor King,
without even the courtesy of a question mark. Williams reminds one of
Edward's extraordinary charm, his ability to talk with people of
every kind, his wit, his genuine concern for the underprivileged. But
she lays it on a bit thick. To refer to the "democratic
leanings" of a man who believed in strong and authoritarian
government is wholly to misinterpret Edward's political opinions; the
real dismay that lay behind his comment on the horrors of
unemployment in South Wales - "Something must be done" -
needs to be set against his conspicuous failure to do anything about
it when preoccupations about his love life absorbed his energies.
determination to present the Windsors in a favourable light leads to
occasional unfairness to other people. Cosmo Gordon Lang is perhaps
fair game, but Williams does less than justice to Stanley Baldwin's
affection for Edward and anxiety to keep him on the throne. When Mrs
Simpson took on the role of hostess at Balmoral, and stepped forward
to greet the Yorks, Williams describes her behaviour as being a
"gesture of friendship" and reprimands the future Queen
Mother for snubbing her sister-in-law-to-be. Others might feel that
only a woman of extraordinary insensitivity would not have thought it
better to keep discreetly in the background at such a moment.
energetically exploited source is the mountain of letters written by
members of the public to Edward VIII, as well as letters to
Churchill, Baldwin and other dignitaries, contemporary diaries and
other manifestations of vox populi. Williams's contention is that
Baldwin "misjudged the feelings of the British public";
that there was more support for the King and readiness to accept Mrs
Simpson than was acknowledged by the Establishment; and that the
working classes and the liberal elements of the bourgeoisie believed
that Edward VIII should follow his heart and marry the woman he
There is quite a lot
in this; she assembles a dossier to suggest that, if there had been a
plebiscite in 1936, the result might not have been as conclusively
against the King as ministers assumed. But again she weakens her case
by its tendentious presentation. Voices expressing the other point of
view are from time to time audible. "Dear Ted. I think you are a
bugger. Bill" was one succinct example, but the King's
supporters get the lion's share.
It is interesting to
speculate whether, if Edward VIII had stuck to his guns, Baldwin had
resigned, and Churchill had led the Cavaliers into an election, the
King's party might have won the day.
Probably not, but
Williams's book suggests that it might have been a close-run thing.
Her thesis is not totally convincing, but it is well worth presenting
for all that.
The People's King
follows the six intense weeks leading up to the abdication of Edward
VIII, considered by many to be among the most compelling love stories
of the last century. Just six months before their wedding, the only
people who had heard of Wallis Simpson were those people who belonged
to the tiny social circle surrounding the royal family. Press
coverage and newsreels were strictly censored. Through contemporary
letters and diaries, many never before published, Susan Williams
demonstrates the huge popularity of the King and the events that led
to his downfall.
vilification of Wallis Simpson
VIII’s abdication on 11 December 1936 was an event that shocked the
nation. Susan Williams investigates how Wallis Simpson, the woman for
whom Edward gave up the throne, was savaged by society.
This article was
first published in the December 2006 issue of BBC History Magazine
In the summer of
1936 Lady Diana Cooper remarked that “Wallis is wearing very very
badly. Her commonness and Becky Sharpishness irritate”. As far as
the English upper classes were concerned, Wallis Simpson was a
cunning social climber, like Becky Sharp in William Thackeray’s
novel Vanity Fair. They simply could not understand what King Edward
VIII saw in her – a woman considered too lower-class to qualify for
any kind of royal attention, as well as being a divorcee and an
But Edward adored
her. He had met her in 1931, when he was Prince of Wales, and she was
married to her second husband, Ernest Simpson. It was not long before
they were in love. “My own beloved Wallis”, he wrote in 1935, “I
love you more & more & more & more… I haven’t seen
you once today & I can’t take it. I love you”.
Winston Churchill believed that Wallis was good for him. “Although
branded with the stigma of a guilty love,” he said, “no
companionship could have appeared more natural, more free from
impropriety or grossness”. Well-read, with a lively sense of
humour, Wallis had a warm and sincere heart. She was devoted to her
mother and her aunt and she did not conceal – even in circles where
paid work was thought to be vulgar – the fact that her aunt worked
for a living. Her servants liked her as well. “All the maids,”
said a kitchen maid, “spoke well of Mrs Simpson”.
The Prince of Wales
with Churchill in 1919. Churchill thought that Wallis, who Edward
first met in 1931, five years before he became king, gave him "more
confidence in himself". (Getty Images)
By January 1936,
when Edward became king, he had decided to marry Wallis. It was said
in court circles that Wallis was scheming to be queen. But this was
not true: rather, she wondered if it might be better to “be content
with the simple way” – where she would be his mistress, rather
than his wife. But Edward swept aside her misgivings and persuaded
her to start proceedings for divorce. In November 1936, when she had
obtained her decree nisi, he announced his marriage plan to the prime
minister, Stanley Baldwin. As sovereign, he was free to marry anyone
he liked, except a Roman Catholic, under the Royal Marriages Act of
1772. But Baldwin said it was impossible: public opinion would not
approve of a divorced woman becoming queen. Churchill, Lord
Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere came up with a solution – a
morganatic marriage, by which Wallis would become Edward’s wife,
but not his queen. It became known as the “Cornwall plan”,
because Churchill suggested that Wallis could be styled the Duchess
Until the start of
December 1936, only the tiny world of Society, with a capital “S”,
knew about Edward’s love for Wallis, because it had been kept out
of the news. But on 2 December 1936, the story broke. The nation was
stunned: the streets were packed and newspapers sold as fast as they
were printed. “Papers full of harpy & the King”, wrote Mrs
Baldwin in her diary.
led by Baldwin, the Church of England, the Tory press and the royal
court, had expected the nation to oppose Edward’s plan for
marriage. But to their horror, most people wanted to keep him as
their king on any terms. He was immensely popular: like Princess
Diana many years later, he had a star quality that was irresistible.
But more than anything, he was appreciated for his concern for
ordinary people, with whom he had served at the front in the years of
war, and for his many visits to the poor. Many people also liked the
idea that Wallis, like them, was not rich and privileged. “It is
character that Counts here, & in the Great Beyond, not a Tytle”
[sic], wrote a woman from South Wales to the king.
The country was
divided, just as it was split in 1997 after the death of Diana. On
the one side, there was the Establishment. On the other, there was
the mass of ordinary people, as well as middle-class liberals and
intellectuals, like George Bernard Shaw. “The People Want Their
King” insisted a Daily Mail headline. Diners rose in restaurants to
propose a toast to Edward and in the cinema, the National Anthem was
heard with enthusiastic clapping and shouts of “We want the King”.
The newsreels acknowledged there was a crisis, but presented it as a
love story, not a scandal. In the Commons, MPs cheered when Churchill
stood up to demand that no pressure be put on the king. Many people
suspected that Baldwin wanted to get rid of Edward – that Wallis
was “a godsend”, because she provided the perfect excuse to
bounce him off the throne.
But over the weekend
of 4–6 December, there was a proliferation of rumours through the
nation, planting seeds of doubt. There was widespread speculation
that Churchill was going to form a “King’s Party” and bring
down the government. It was also rumoured that, in the words of Sir
Horace Wilson, Baldwin’s advisor, Wallis was “selfish,
self-seeking, hard, calculating, ambitious, scheming, dangerous”.
Most damaging for Edward, a story was spread that Wallis was a friend
of von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador, and was selling the
nation’s secrets. These sorts of things, observed the publisher
Francis Meynell, “were bound to be said but other incidents of
which I heard made one view her with much suspicion on this point”.
portrait of Wallis Simpson in 'The Bystander', April 1937: she wrote
in an October 1936 letter to Edward “I feel like an animal in a
trap”, which is rather how she appears here. (Credit Illustrated
But Wallis had met
Ribbentrop only twice; the first occasion was a large luncheon, which
was also attended by Churchill. Neither she nor Edward were part of
any social circle frequented by Hitler’s ambassador. He was a
favourite guest of Lord and Lady Londonderry and of the social
hostess, Mrs Ronnie Greville, who admired Hitler and fascism. But Mrs
Greville’s royal friends were Albert, the Duke of York, and his
wife Elizabeth (the future George VI and Queen Elizabeth) – not
Wallis and Edward.
On 3 December, the
day after the story broke, Wallis had fled to the south of France to
stay with friends. She was a resourceful woman: she had survived an
abusive first marriage and had travelled extensively through Europe
and Asia. But she had sensed a “mounting menace in the very
atmosphere” and felt close to a nervous breakdown. Once away from
England, she became aware that Edward, who had by now been told by
Baldwin that a morganatic marriage was impossible, had decided to
abdicate. She tried to stop him. On 7 December, she issued a
statement to the press – that she was willing to renounce the king.
Baldwin was unnerved: “Only time I was frightened. I thought [the
king] might change his mind”. He quickly sent a telegram to the
Dominion prime ministers, stating that he had “every reason for
doubting bona fides of Mrs Simpson’s statement”.
Edward stood firm in
his decision to go. On 10 December, knowing Baldwin was going to make
an announcement to the House of Commons, Edward sent him a note,
asking him to tell the House of Mrs Simpson’s efforts to prevent
him from giving up the throne. Horace Wilson pinned a note of his own
to the one Edward had sent: “I asked the PM whether he had any
intention of mentioning Mrs Simpson (If he had, [I] was quite willing
to draft appropriate passages!). The PM said he would make no
On 11 December,
Edward gave his own speech to the nation, which Churchill had helped
him to write. It had become impossible for him, he said, “to
discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help
and support of the woman I love”. Wallis listened in France, lying
on a sofa with her eyes closed. “Darling,” she wrote to him
afterwards, “I want to see you touch you I want to run my own house
I want to be married and to you”.
Edward VIII asked Baldwin to tell the House of Commons that Wallis tried to dissuade him from abdicating. The prime minister’s advisor noted (pictured below) that Baldwin had no intention of doing so. (Credit The National Archives)
(Credit The National
They were finally
married on 3 June 1937, in France. But the new king, George VI,
forbade any of Edward’s brothers or his sister from attending the
wedding. Then he sent word that the title of HRH – Her Royal
Highness – would not be extended to Wallis. She would be simply
Duchess of Windsor. It was a wounding blow to Edward – and it meant
that in the end, his marriage to Wallis was morganatic. “I hope you
will never regret this sacrifice,” Wallis wrote to Edward, “and
that your brother will prove to the world that we still have a
position and that you will be given some jobs to do”.
But this was not to
be. The couple made repeated requests for useful employment, but were
turned down. It was feared in court circles that, as Horace Wilson
told Neville Chamberlain in December 1936, Mrs Simpson intended “not
only to come back here but… to set up a ‘Court’ of her own and
– there can be little doubt – do her best to make things
uncomfortable for the new occupant of the Throne. It must not be
assumed that she has abandoned hope of becoming Queen of England”.
“I think you
know,” wrote George VI in December 1938 to Chamberlain, now prime
minister, “that neither the Queen [Elizabeth, later the Queen
Mother] nor Queen Mary have any desire to meet the Duchess of
Windsor”. Churchill observed sadly of the Duchess of Windsor,
“No-one has been more victimised by gossip and scandal”.
The ugly rumours
lingered on, even beyond Wallis’s death in 1986. In a sense, they
became worse, because the Establishment’s perception of Wallis in
1936 prevailed, eclipsing the sympathetic view of ordinary people at
the time. It is maintained that a China Dossier exists, listing
sexual tricks learnt by Wallis in Shanghai, which she had used to
ensnare the king – but nothing has been found in any archive. The
allegation that she was a Nazi agent is still current, even though
there is no reliable evidence in either the British or the German
In 2005, Prince
Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles, a divorcee, on the very
morganatic basis denied to Edward: Camilla became Duchess of Cornwall
and was styled HRH. If this solution could be achieved for Charles
and Camilla, then why had it not been possible for Edward and Wallis?
“I am profoundly grieved at what has happened,” wrote Churchill
to Lloyd George on Christmas Day 1936. “I believe the Abdication to
have been altogether premature and probably quite unnecessary.”
Susan Williams is a
senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies,
University of London, and author of The People's King: The True Story
of the Abdication (Penguin Books, 2003).
the people want Wallis?
Roberts reviews The People's King by Susan Williams
Back in January this
year the Public Record Office released hundreds of files relating to
the Abdication Crisis of 1936, and the historical advisor to this
important event was the University of London historian Susan
Williams. Having been there, I can attest to her diligence and
scholarship on that occasion, and this book is based on the work she
has done on that vast labyrinth of documentation.
The book's title - a
quote from a letter to the King from a member of the public - was
presumably chosen for its conscious reference to Diana, Princess of
Wales, and indeed the similarities between Edward VIII and "the
People's princess" are striking. Both were seen as unstuffy
representatives of a new Zeitgeist, standing up for society's
underdogs against a snobbish and hidebound Establishment.
Edward VIII's remark
that "Something must be done" for the unemployed, made on a
visit to South Wales in November 1936, was a precursor to the
Princess of Wales's work for the dispossessed and marginalised. Yet
there was always something disgraceful about the King - who had
already made up his mind to abdicate when he made that radical and
open-ended commitment - writing such a vast blank cheque that he
secretly knew he was never going to have to be around to cash.
Just as after
Diana's death huge numbers of people wrote to express their sympathy
and support, so Edward VIII was deluged during the Abdication Crisis,
and Susan Williams has trawled her way through thousands of the
letters to extrapolate common themes. She suggests that ordinary
people in Britain and the Empire were quite ready for Wallis Simpson
to be Queen. Huge numbers of people, she argues, simply wanted the
King to be happy.
The major media
story back in January was the discovery that Special Branch believed
that a car salesman called Guy Trundle was Mrs Simpson's secret
lover. But Susan Williams does not accept that he necessarily was:
"She found it difficult enough, as she told her aunt, to manage
her marriage and the relationship with Edward, and was also caught up
in a whirlwind of activities and social occasions which she found
exhausting." Sex is something that people often seem to be able
to make time for, however. I think the best argument against the
relationship having taken place is that Mrs Simpson had an altogether
greater catch in mind and wouldn't have wanted to take unnecessary
It is a shame that
the author did not use any of the information that was unearthed by
our newspapers when Trundle's name became public earlier this year,
including the testimony of his surviving friends and members of his
family. They told us much about his background that would have
strengthened her case.
Williams's political feel for the Thirties is generally good, it
occasionally utterly deserts her, as when she states that "Even
without any backing from Germany and Italy, the King of Britain (sic)
could have sought absolute rule, as a kind of benevolent despot."
Does the author seriously imagine that the Household Division would
have surrounded Parliament on Edward VIII's orders, with the
Coldstream Guards clearing the Commons chamber of MPs?
Much of the "true
story of the abdication" has already been told, principally in
Michael Bloch's various works on the period, but it is good to have
the newly released Cabinet minutes of the Crisis between hard covers,
and much else besides. That this book is written from a point of view
very sympathetic to the couple is no bad thing either, although the
author did not change my view that the Empire was far better off
three years later with George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham
Palace than it would have been with King Edward and Queen Wallis.
myth - that the Duke of Windsor was a quisling-in-waiting and friend
of the Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop - is dealt a firm
and welcome blow. As for the duchess, who was recently described in
the Guardian as a lover of Ribbentrop's, she only met him twice, both
times in large groups and once when Winston Churchill was present
(and uncharacteristically silent.)
It is intriguing to
think that, since the British state took 67 years to release the
secret papers on the 1936 Abdication, some time in January 2064
journalists and historians might be crowding into the Public Record
Office to read Special Branch and other reports on the events
surrounding the Princess of Wales's death. I hope that when it
happens there will be a historical advisor of the skill and sympathy
of Susan Williams.
'Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership' is published by
Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
It’s 1923. He’s
a poor young man, she’s a wealthy widow in a Holland Park mansion.
There’s a jealous housekeeper and a weighty candlestick in the
drawing room. It’s Agatha Christie on Boxing Day.
I don’t think I’ve
had a happier hour all Christmas than last night’s opening episode
of The Witness for the Prosecution (BBC1). Perfectly crafted,
expertly cast and beautifully scripted by Sarah Phelps, who gave us
her brilliant adaptation of And Then There Were None last year, it
was simply all you could want from your Boxing Day treat.
Sex and the City’s
Kim Cattrall (to give her her full official title) is the wealthy
widow, Emily French, who buys and discards young lovers under the
watchful, appalled and fascinated eyes of her housekeeper Janet
(Monica Dolan). It sounds like a retread of her Samantha role in
SATC, but in fact she made French tender and quietly desperate by
turns in a performance far more akin to her subtle, heartbreaking
turn as Rudyard Kipling’s wife in My Boy Jack a few years ago. And
may I say that her English accent survived the line: “After that
debacle with plates and glasses, what will you do?” – which is
quite the cruellest collection of words ever put into the mouth of
anyone charged with reproducing postwar British vowels without being
born to the purple – with an aplomb that I think deserves a special
Bafta. See to it, please, could you?
The story, at least
so far, is relatively simple. French is found bludgeoned to death in
her home shortly after Leonard Vole (Billy Howle), her latest lover,
whom she has made sole beneficiary of her will, is – according to
Janet – seen leaving the house. Vole’s girlfriend Romaine Heilger
(Andrea Riseborough, genuinely enigmatic, and genuinely shocking in
her pivotal scene) says she can alibi him but when she finds out the
extent of his infidelity, withdraws her testimony and is immediately,
gleefully gathered to the bosom of the Crown to become a witness for
His lawyer, John
Mayhew (Toby Jones, as delicate and nuanced as ever) remains
convinced of Vole’s innocence. But is Janet or Romaine lying? Or
both? Or, double-bluffingly, neither? Maybe Vole – who, in Phelps’
and Howle’s version, seems less of a chancer or con artist than a
naive young man as hopelessly out of control of his destiny in
French’s world as he was in the trenches of France where we first
meet him – finally rebelled against life as a lapdog and killed
her. All will be revealed, but it is a measure of the production’s
quality that it almost doesn’t matter. The evocation of this
shell-shocked, grief-stricken period of history is really the thing –
in the hostility of her fellow chorus girls to the Austrian Romaine,
to Howle’s reduction to “being priced like a piece of meat”
instead of coming home to the hero’s welcome his savaged generation
were promised, to Mayhew’s ruined lungs and his broken wife (Hayley
Carmichael, mesmerising with barely a word spoken) sitting in their
late son’s empty bedroom, there is an all-pervading sense of people
moving reluctantly into and about in a world where any evil is now
possible. No certainties any more, and no comfort anywhere.
I doubt there has
ever been more brought by a cast, crew and writer to Agatha Christie.
It is the most gorgeous gift to the viewer and this one at least
looks forward with delighted anticipation and gratitude to unwrapping
its second half next week.
Sir Charles Carter
Last updated: 12.12.2016 at 14.54
Burdened by poverty
and guilt, John Mayhew lives a grey and passionless existence.
Leonard’s case changes everything for this exhausted solicitor; his
personal connection to the young man fires Mayhew with an unexpected
determination to fight for him, to stop at nothing to prove Leonard's
Played by Andrea
A child of the First
World War, Romaine Heilger emerges from the depths of the European
bloodbath an ingenious survivor and afraid of nothing. At heart a
loner, this Austrian singer’s enigmatic allure commands attention
wherever she roams; Romaine is destined to enter the limelight sooner
Played by Billy
Haunted by his time
at the front, Leonard Vole has been spat out of the war restless,
disillusioned and incapable of settling on a job. A friendless
innocent in a corrupt world, the odds stacked against him, Leonard is
accused of a brutal murder and only one person can save him from the
Played by Monica
Devoted to the point
of possessive, Emily French’s loyal housekeeper has an uncanny
ability to pre-empt her mistress’s practical as well as emotional
needs, suggesting a bond that surpasses a platonic master-servant
relationship. However, Janet’s carefully controlled universe is
challenged with the arrival of Leonard Vole…
Played by Kim
wealthy widow Emily French is beautiful, glamorous and bored. Used to
getting exactly what she wants, she glides through the London
highlife, indulging in champagne, raucous nightclubs and meaningless
affairs with her favourite pastime: younger men.
Played by Hayley
Stifled by years of
repressed emotion, Alice has as much verve and vigor as the grey
meals she makes Mayhew for dinner. Haunted by the memory of her son
who died at war, her few, precious moments of happiness are spent in
his bedroom, left perfectly intact since the moment he left.
Sir Charles Carter
Played by David Haig
Whilst he enjoys a
hearty lunch, this wealthy barrister salivates even more over the
prospect of arguing sensational crime cases. He considers Leonard’s
case to be a lost cause, until he finds out just how wealthy Leonard
will be if he’s proved innocent.
Gentleman's Farm: Elegant Country House Living
by Laurie Ossman and Debra A. McClane, Photographed by Walter
sumptuous volume features gracious country homes that blend the very
best of vernacular tradition, classical architecture, and high-style
elegance. For four centuries, the ideal of the gentleman’s farm has
inspired Virginians to create extraordinary homes on landscapes of
unparalleled beauty. Often places of retreat, these houses display
the virtues of the very best of American historic and classical
architecture, incorporating harmonious proportion, elegant interiors,
and thoughtful design in traditional styles. Each one in its way a
model of taste and beauty, the houses of The Gentleman’s Farm are
an expression of an American ideal of domestic happiness, the very
picture of home, which has served to influence the style of
residential building across the country. The houses featured,
including a centuries-old home for a president as well as recently
built residences, present a stylish, traditional aesthetic, hallmarks
of which include warm, wood-paneled libraries, plaster walls hung
with paintings of horse riding scenes, classical motifs, lovingly
wrought architectural detail, screened porches, large windows that
frame inspiring vistas of the country landscape—all those things
that say home to the country and suburban gentleman and gentlewoman”
Ossman is director of museum affairs at the Preservation Society of
Newport County, Newport, Rhode Island, author of Great Houses of the
South, and coauthor of Carrère & Hastings: The Masterworks.
A. McClane is an architectural historian and preservationist and the
author of Botetourt County, Virginia, Revisited.
Smalling is a widely published architectural photographer whose books
include Uncommon Vernacular: The Early Houses of Jefferson County,
West Virginia, 1735–1835.
During my last visit
in Lisbon, the city where I was born, I took the opportunity to visit
Diniz & Cruz http://www.dohomem.pt/dinizcruz/eng/index.htma top Factory and Creation Platform, which combines
European Standards with Portuguese “gentillesse” and “savoir
They have important
international customers and they also create and produce for each
season, their own collections very well balanced between tradition of
craftmanship , technological development , great quality of materials
and good taste with a dashing touch.
I was very well
received with uncomparable Portuguese hospitality.
I had in the back of my mind
the prototype / three piece green tweed suit, used in the making of the
promotion film “The Lisbon Connection” …
After a very useful
and pleasant day chatting and visiting the important production line
and seeing lots of beautiful men's cloths, I left.
Then, when i was
already standing at the bus stop, I was really suprised with the
unique, warm and “gentile “ Portuguese touch . They had found the
unique suit and a car appeared to take me back to my desired piece.
The Wolseley Hornet built at Longbridge was a revival of a previous name from the 1930’s Wolseley Hornet. This was applied to this special version of the Mini, in a similar manner to the Riley Elf, featuring a longer tail and enlarged boot, but with the appropriate Wolseley grille and better-equipped interior.
Initially the Wolseley Hornet had rubber-cone suspension along with the standard 848cc engine as with the mini, but with improved interior and more sound-deadening material than the standard Mini.
In 1963 the Mk II appeared with a larger 998cc engine increasing the power to 38 bhp, top speed to 77 mph and 0-60 in 24.1 seconds. Fuel consumption improved slightly to 35 mpg. Shortly after the Mk II launched Hydrolastic suspension was introduced in 1964.
The Mk III appeared in 1966, a notable change being the sliding windows upgraded to wind-up windows, and face level ventilation added to the fascia.
1969 saw the end of the long-tail derivative of the Mini for both the Wolseley Hornet and the Riley Elf.