10 Mysteries And Secrets Surrounding British Royalty

1. The Duke Of Windsor And The Nazis

Edward with Nazis

Photo credit: Georg Pahl

On December 10, 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The couple was thereafter snubbed by the royal family and the British public and went into exile. At first blush, it seems like a movie romance where love triumphs over the barriers of social status. But now, it appears that more sinister forces were at work behind Edward and Wallis.

In an interview with the FBI, a Benedictine monk named Friar Odo, the former Duke of Wurttemburg, alleged that Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop had been Wallis’s lover while he was ambassador to Britain in 1936. Wallis was also a close friend of Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a suspected German spy whose sophisticated lifestyle was personally maintained by Hitler with a generous allowance. It comes as no surprise that Wallis was pro-Nazi in her views, just like Edward. As Prince of Wales, Edward was proud of his German origins (the family had changed its name from Saxe-Coburg Gotha to Windsor to de-emphasize the German connection), spoke fluent German, and thus felt ties of kinship to the Nazi leadership.

MI5 believed that Wallis was passing information to Ribbentrop and kept her under surveillance. Hitler, of course, would have liked nothing better than having allies on the British throne. After Edward renounced his kingship, he and Wallis, now Duke and Duchess of Windsor, visited Hitler at the Berghof in October 1937. Seeing the Reich firsthand only increased Edward’s admiration for Hitler.

When war reached the Windsors’ place of exile in France, Winston Churchill told them to move to Lisbon, fearing that the Nazis could use Edward for their own ends. Churchill was right. Though he didn’t know it, the Nazis had unveiled Operation Willi, a plot to kidnap and restore Edward to the throne as puppet king. Edward himself believed that Britain would lose the war and hoped a revolution at home would result in peace with Hitler. Churchill at once ordered the Windsors out of the Nazis’ reach to the Bahamas. The prime minister warned the hesitant Edward that as a serving army officer, he would be court-martialed if he disobeyed. The duke and duchess left Lisbon on August 1940, narrowly missing the SS team on a kidnap mission.

The FBI took up surveillance, and in 1941, word reached FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that Hermann Goering intended to overthrow Hitler once Germany won and reinstall Edward as king. The Nazis never got to Edward in the Bahamas, and after the war, the royal family went into full damage-control mode. The evidence for the kidnap plot and Edward’s Nazi connections was covered up. There is no mention of either in the Duke of Windsor’s memoirs.

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