THE DUKE OF WINDSOR, HIS MISTRESS AND HITLER - WE WOULD ALL SPEAK GERMAN
zoom17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History,
By:Robert CollisonSpecial to the Star,Published on Sun Mar 08 2015
On the 17th of July 1945 a young British historian named Rohan Butler happened on a file while working in the archives of the Foreign Office in London. It contained the translated contents of Top Secret microfilmed documents from the German Foreign Ministry that the Allies captured at the conclusion of World War II, and the negatives B002527 to B003018 were so incendiary it was thought they could potentially threaten the monarchy. They became known as the Windsor File and their cover-up is the subject of Andrew Morton's newest book chronicling yet another chapter in the dysfunctional history of Britain's — and Canada's — Royal Family.
At its essence, the Windsor File contained damning evidence that the one-time king of England, Edward VIII, then the Duke of Windsor, may have been guilty of collaborating with the Nazis in the summer of 1940 as a prelude to Hitler returning him to the throne as a "puppet king" in the wake of an expected German victory over the British in 1940/41.
The long-rumoured treasonous behaviour of the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor is only one aspect, however, of the material covered in 17 Carnations, The Royals, The Nazis and the Biggest Cover-up in British History. The first half of the book documents the fateful romance of the newly minted King of England and his twice-divorced American love, Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson. Less than a year after succeeding his father as monarch in 1936, Edward abdicated because of "his inability to carry the heavy burdens of kingship without the help and support of the women he loved."
Morton is, of course, the chronicler of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, so it is not entirely surprising that the Duke of Windsor would appeal to him as a biographical subject. Both Diana and "David," as the Duke of Windsor was known inside the Royal Family, were in their heyday the most popular members of The Firm. But behind the glamorous royal mask was a self-indulgent man seething with insecurities and who so loathed his job of "princing" that he contemplated suicide on several occasions. Notes Morton, "The mute immovable reality was that he did not believe either in himself or his future position as Sovereign."
Over in Berlin, however, Adolf Hitler believed the real reason the British government wanted to rid themselves of their new king was because he was rabidly pro-German and sympathetic to Nazism, or certainly that was the skinny given to them by the German ambassador to the U.K. Joachim von Ribbentrop, who allegedly shared Wallis Simpson's affections with the King. The 17 carnations of the book's title is the floral arrangement the ambassador sent her each day and which was rumoured to commemorate the number of times they'd made love.
Though evidence that the Windsors actually committed treason is far from conclusive, there is no question the Germans harboured plans to use the exiled ex-king if they'd succeeded in defeating Britain, and it is this diplomatic intrigue during the period when the Duke and Duchess were in transit in Spain and Portugal en route to The Bahamas that is central to Morton's rather gripping conspiratorial narrative.
At one point, the Germans devised a plan — Operation Willi — to kidnap the Duke if he wouldn't play ball. When he finally decided to obey orders to become Governor of the Bahamas, the German agent cabled Berlin, "Willi won't play. Willi says no." Did the Duke have a choice? His brother, George VI, and Prime Minister Churchill wanted him as far away from Europe as possible and the PM threatened to court martial the recalcitrant royal if he didn't buckle down.
For years after the war Buckingham Palace did everything it could to suppress the Windsor File — even though the late Queen Mother loathed the Duchess. But when it finally surfaced, the expected tsunami was rather more like a gentle ripple across the regal pond. The House of Windsor hasn't survived for centuries without successfully mastering the art of suppressing nasty information until the point when it finally surfaces, nobody cares.
Andrew Morton has written a very readable sequel to his seeming ongoing series about the wars of the Windsors.