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Duke and Duchess of Windsor's 1937 tour of Germany

Contemporary photograph of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson on holiday together in 1936
King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson on the Yugoslav Mediterranean on a 1936 holiday

Edward, Duke of Windsor, and Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, visited Nazi Germany in October 1937. Having abdicated the British throne in December 1936, and married Wallis Simpson in June 1937, the Duke of Windsor announced in September the same year that he intended to travel privately to Germany and the United States to tour factories. His interests, officially into researching the social and economic conditions of the working classes, were also entwined with the looming threat of war in Europe, and it may be that he saw himself as being something in the role of peacemaker between Britain and Germany. However, the British Government was firmly against such a visit; they suspected—correctly, as events showed—that the Nazis would use Edward's presence as a propaganda coup while revealing nothing to him that they did not wish him to see. However, the Duke was keen that his wife—who had not been accepted by the British establishment—experience a State Visit as his consort. He promised the government to keep a low profile, and the tour went ahead, taking place between 12 and 23 October.

The couple were chaperoned in Germany by Robert Ley, and they visited many factories—some producing materiel as part of the arms race—being greeted by the British national anthem and Nazi salutes, which were often returned by the Duke. They also dined regularly with high-ranking Nazis such as Goebbels, Göring, Ribbentrop, Speer, and, the highlight of their tour, Hitler in Berchtesgaden. There, Hitler and the Duke had a long discussion, although it is uncertain precisely what they talked about, as the minutes of their meeting were later lost. At the same time, the Duchess took afternoon tea with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess. Hitler was openly sympathetic to the Windsors, while the British Government, for its part, was helpless to affect the course of events, particularly as it had forbidden its diplomatic staff in Germany to have any high-level interaction with the couple. Popular opinion of the couple in Britain soon declined, and the second leg of the Windsors' tour to America was cancelled. Modern historians tend to consider their 1937 tour of Germany to be more indicative of a lack of good judgement, rather than outright Nazi leanings.


Edward VIII had become king on his father's death in early 1936.[1] He almost immediately created a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to Mrs Wallis Simpson.[2] Simpson was a twice-divorced American.[3] Both politically and morally, this made her unacceptable as a royal consort to the British Government and the royal family.[4] As King, Edward was titular head of the Church of England. At that time the church forbade remarriage for the divorced while their spouse lived. Simpson would have had to convert to Anglicanism, but, since her previous husbands were still alive, this was impossible. Such a marriage was viewed as being directly in breach of Edward's coronation oath; it would also weaken his position as constitutional monarch.[5] Edward knew that Stanley Baldwin's government would almost certainly resign en masse if the King forced the issue.[6] As it became increasingly clear that neither his family, government nor people would support him, in December 1936 he abdicated.[7] His younger brother Albert succeeded as George VI. Edward was given the title of Duke of Windsor,[8] and he married Simpson in France in June the following year.[9]

Windsor was already a well-known admirer of all things German.[10] He had studied at Oxford under Hermann Fiedler,[11] and had already toured Germany twice, before the First World War.[9] Bradford has described Windsor's views as "pro-German and even more pro-Nazi",[12] and one of Windsor's own supporters, Chips ChannonConservative MP for Southend West—commented in 1936 that the Duke "is going the dictator way, and is pro-German".[13][14] The Duchess was also pro-German on account of her rejection by the British ruling class.[15] Following their wedding, they honeymooned in Vienna, and then returned to Paris, where they intended to headquarter themselves.[16]

Overture and organisationEdit

Colonel Oscar Solbert, seen sometime in the 1920s, who eventually presented Windsor with an invitation to Germany

Original overtureEdit

The Duke may have been approached to visit Nazi Germany even before his June wedding, by the French businessman Charles Bedaux, whom Michael Bloch describes as an "enigmatic time and motion tycoon".[17][note 1] At the same time, Edward was keen for something to restore his public image and standing and may have personally approached Bedaux for suggestions on how to do so.[19] In any case, by April 1937 Colonel Oscar Solbert, on behalf of the German Government, had formally presented the offer of a tour of Germany to the Duke. Solbert had been with the Duke on his 1924 tour of the United States, and had been sufficiently impressed by Windsor's gravitas and professional demeanour to suggest that Windsor was perfect to "head up and consolidate the many and varied peace movements throughout the world", as he put it in his letter.[20] Bedaux made Windsor a similar proposal, and offered to organise it.[11] The Swedish millionaire Axel Wenner-Gren acted as a conduit between the parties in these early discussions,[17] and eventually, with Windsor's permission, Bedaux wrote back to Solbert saying:[16]

The Duke of Windsor is very much interested in your proposal that he lead a movement so essentially international. We all know that as Prince of Wales and as King, he has always been keenly interested in the lot of the working man and he has not failed to show both his distress and his resolve to alter things whenever he has encountered injustice...Yet he is not satisfied with the extent of his knowledge. He is determined to continue, with more time at his disposal, his systematic study of this subject and to devote his time to the betterment of the life of the masses...He believes his is the surest way to peace. For himself he proposes to begin soon with a study of housing and working conditions in many countries...[16]

— Charles Bedaux to Oscar Solbert, 23 August 1937

As a result, they began making arrangements for what was intended to be a brief tour of Germany followed by a longer one of the United States.[16] The trip had been orchestrated on the German side by Captain Fritz Wiedemann,[21][note 2] Hitler's adjutant,[16] who finalised arrangements with the Duke at his hotel, Le Meurice, Paris, in late September.[22] That same month, the Duchess wrote to her aunt in Washington how they were planning a trip to observe working conditions "as the Duke is thinking of taking up some sort of work in that direction. The trip is being arranged by Germany's No. 1 gentleman so should be interesting...This is all tentative and may not come off...".[16][note 3] Hugo Vickers has suggested that Edward believed he was the one man who could influence Hitler and avert war in Europe. If this was the case, says Vickers, Windsor "overestimated his own importance".[15]


Even before the tour was announced, the Windsors' hotel suite in the Le Meurice saw different contacts and visitors coming and going, which has encouraged speculation as to the nature of the discussions taking place. According to the British author Deborah Cadbury, one "colourful" theory by Charles Higham involved Bedaux organising a visit hosted by the Duke for Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess, his deputy Martin Bormann and the Hollywood actor Errol Flynn.[23][note 4] It is more likely, she says, that these meetings—probably held on Le Meurice's rooftop restaurant—were merely men such as Wiedemann finalising details of the visit.[23]

Adolf Hitler and his foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, savoured the prospect of a tour of Nazi Germany by Britain's ex-king. Of all the pieces moving swiftly across the chessboard of European diplomacy, the former king turning up in the heart of Berlin was an unexpected bonus.[23]

Deborah Cadbury

George VI was said to have been horrified by his brother's entry into European political affairs at such a delicate time,[note 5] particularly because, in his eyes, it was in direct contravention of his abdication oath to take a low profile (when he had sworn "to quit public affairs altogether").[23] Sarah Bradford has suggested that not only the visit itself but the high-profile manner in which it was organised, indicated that Windsor had no intention of lowering his public profile in the wake of his abdication.[12] Contemporaries were aware of the negative connotations of such a trip, and even those sympathetic to Windsor—such as Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook—attempted to dissuade him from going.[17][note 6] Even the intervention of an old friend of the Duchess, Herman Rogers, against the trip, proved unsuccessful.[22] Windsor was warned that the Nazis were "past masters in the arts of propaganda",[17] to which he promised "not to make any speeches".[17] The fact that he kept to this promise, says Sebba, means that "there are at least no words to be thrown back at him" by critics.[11]

Count Albert von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein—previously Austrian ambassador to the UK, and George V's second cousin—understood the Windsors to favour German fascism as a bulwark against communism; Windsor also, according to the Count, favoured an alliance with Nazi Germany, at least in the years before the war.[27] Windsor himself later contextualised his position in the 1930s as being a reaction to what he termed "the unending scenes of horror"[28] of the First World War. This, he said, led him to support appeasement with Hitler. The latter is known to have viewed the Duke as a personal ally of his regime, believing that Windsor would have massively improved Anglo-German relations if he had remained king. Albert Speer later reported Hitler as stating that he was "certain [that] through him permanent friendly relations could have been achieved. If he had stayed, everything would have been different. His abdication was a severe loss for us".[29] The Duke was motivated by both a wish to restore the close ties between the two countries that had been broken in World War I[11] and the personal wish to make his new wife the centrepiece of a state visit.[note 7] Historian Ted Powell has suggested that the Duke would have visited any country that would accept his wife on his terms,[19] and Windsor's equerry Dudley Forwood later said on this that "the only way such a state visit was possible was to make the arrangements with Hitler";[21] for their part, Hitler and von Ribbentrop determined that, although officially a private rather than state visit, the Windsors—and particularly the Duchess—were to enjoy all the trappings of such a visit in all but name.[30] If not a state visit then it would at least be a Royal progress.[13]

Dr Robert Ley was the Windsors' chaperone during their tour.

The German trip was very much against the advice of the British Government,[31] and indicative, suggests Bradford, of the Duke's personal lack of good judgement, and more broadly, his willingness to "undertake initiatives against the wishes and policy of the King and his Government",[12] and independent of them.[12] Anne Sebba puts Windsor's lack of judgement down to the fact that, whereas once he could call on a mass of counsel, now he had only at best his wife, at worst, men such as Bedaux.[11] Ted Powell has argued that being without the political and diplomatic support that he had enjoyed as Prince of Wales now meant that Windsor's reputation "was at the mercy of unscrupulous strangers".[30] There was concern that the high-profile nature of Windsor's visits would effectively allow him to gather a party around him and promote his own foreign policy independent of government.[23] The Duke, however, insisted that his purpose in Germany was "without any political considerations and merely as an independent observer studying industrial and housing conditions",[17] and that one could not ignore what was happening in Germany, "even though it may not have one's entire approval".[17] The Duke intended to rebuild himself a public position.[32]

Ted Powell has suggested that Windsor may have been sufficiently encouraged by the "enthusiastic" response from the German leadership towards his visit that he "decided to proceed at very short notice".[19] He first announced his tour in private correspondence to the British chargé d'affaires in Berlin, George Ogilvie-Forbes, on 20 September,[18] and then publicly two weeks later[17] in a telegram: "In accordance with the Duke of Windsor's message to the world press last June that he would release any information of interest regarding his plans or movements, His Royal Highness makes it known that he and the Duchess of Windsor are visiting Germany and the United States in the near future for the purpose of studying housing and working conditions in these two countries".[16] The government, says Petropoulos, knew there was nothing they could reasonably do to prevent what was, officially, merely a visit by a private individual.[33] Privately, however, "the news provoked indignation"[17] at both Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, and the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Robert Vansittart wrote to the king's Private Secretary Alec Hardinge that the news was "a bit too much";[17] Hardinge agreed, and described it as "private stunts for publicity purposes".[17] He also argued that their very premise was flawed: the visit could "obviously not bring any benefit to the workers themselves".[17] Windsor intended the trip to launch a global tour investigating the living conditions of working people and to promote its amelioration. However good a cause, says Bloch, starting the tour in Nazi Germany at such a time was nothing short of "disastrous".[17]

11–23 October 1937Edit

The Duke of Windsor inspecting SS troops at Ordensburg Krössinsee

The Windsors arrived at Berlin's Friedrichstraße station on 11 October. Susanna de Vries has described how the Duchess "covered in jewels ... did her best to look suitably royal" on their arrival,[34] while Cadbury called the Duchess–dressed in royal blue—as looking "regal" to their welcoming party.[23] However, says Cadbury, within moments of the Windsors appearing in public, 2,000 people tried to see them as they left the station, and a crush ensued; the couple were rapidly driven away with very few having actually seen them. SS guards clung—with "some discomfort", says Cadbury—to the Mercedes' running boards. While in Berlin the Windsors stayed at the Kaiserhof Hotel.[23] The German media set great store by the Windsors' visit; for his part, Windsor made full Nazi salutes.[31] Andrew Morton has written how the couple were "treated like royalty",[35] and, particularly towards the Duchess, "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".[10][35]

In Berlin, Joachim von Ribbentrop dined them at Horcher's—then the finest gourmet restaurant in the city—where they met Albert Speer (with whom they discussed classical music),[22] and Magda and Joseph Goebbels:[36] the former, at the time, was arguably de facto First Lady of the Reich[37] and the latter was Reich Minister of Propaganda.[38][note 8] The trip was ostensibly a response to Dr Robert Ley's personal invitation, in his capacity as head of the German Labour Front, and he acted as their chaperone.[23] Ley was not, however, a particularly satisfactory host, and he did not, says Bloch, give his guests a particularly pleasant experience.[17] Bloch describes Ley as "a coarse individual addicted to alcohol and high-speed driving"[17] and has been called a "loud-mouthed", brutal and "particularly odious Nazi thug" by Hichens.[10] On one occasion, Ley was sufficiently drunk at the wheel of the Windsors' Mercedes to crash it at speed through closed factory gates.[13]

Pathé caught the moment they emerged from the station into a large crowd that had gathered determined to see this unique couple: a king who had thrown away the greatest throne in the world for love, and the woman herself, who must possess some magical quality. Dr Ley, the head of the German delegation, wearing his brown Nazi uniform and for once not drunk, delighted them both by deferring to her as 'Her Royal Highness'.

Deborah Cadbury

Before the Windsors' arrival in Germany, his cousin the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha wrote to the Duke[39] on 10 October[40]—"addressing him in English but writing in German", notes Jonathan Petropoulos—"Dear David![note 9] I hear that you are coming to Germany...I naturally would be delighted if you could take this opportunity to see me; perhaps I could introduce you to a couple of interesting personalities whom you otherwise wouldn't meet".[39] They dined together on the 19th.[40][note 10] The UK resident, Ogilvie-Forbes, on the other hand, had been instructed not to receive the royal couple, give them residence or in any way assist them.[17][note 11]The couple and their entourage—which included the Duke's cousin Prince Phillip von Hessen[21]—travelled around Germany on Hitler's personal train, the Führersonderzug.[13] Their telephones were bugged by Prince Christoph of Hesse, under the orders of Hermann Göring, for the duration of their visit,[39] and the Nazi leadership was kept fully informed on events at every stage of the tour.[23] The German government were funding the Windsors' visit,[39] and so, says Vincent, it was "inevitably stage-managed" by them.[18]

Their first formal event in Germany was a reception held by his Coburg cousin, which was attended by over 100 guests including, the Duke later recalled, many with whom he had "hobnobbed" with at both his father's jubilee and then funeral.[39][note 12] For their part, says Mark Hichens, the Windsors "saw only what the Nazis wanted them to see, and the Duke saw what he wanted to see turning a blind eye on the horrors of Nazidom".[10] Bloch has described their itinerary as an "exhausting programme of visits to industrial complexes and housing developments".[17] The Duchess later wrote, in a letter from Leipzig, how although the tour was interesting, it was also exacting, involving walking "miles a day through factories".[17] Other sights included a Wagnerian concert[23] and inspecting the SS troops based at Ordensburg Krössinsee, Pomerania, and on 14 October[23] visiting Göring's jagdschloss in Carinhall,[36] where they were amused by Göring's miniature railway.[22] There, "the second most powerful man in the Third Reich"[36] gave them high tea, and they admired Göring's even-then large collection of looted art.[22] During Windsor's and Göring's discussion, the Duke noticed Göring's official map of the Third Reich, on which, reflecting the party's policy of Anschluss, Austria was shown as annexed. Continues Cadbury, "Goering's face wrinkled with amusement, observed Wallis. The Austrians would want to be part of the Reich, he said. The moment passed, the statement left unchallenged" by the Duke.[23]

Other events on their tour included a visit to an Academy for Youth Leadership, where they observed first-hand the training of Hitler Youth.[23] And in at least one factory they inspected—in Essen and owned by Krupp—the Windsors saw it already producing tanks and U-Boats.[23] On these occasions the Windsors met enthusiastic workers who were keen to extol their working conditions; the Duke, for his part, was at his most charming, and, says Hichens, even joined in rowdy drinking songs in their beer garden.[10] They were repeatedly greeted with the Nazi salute[23]—which the Duke reciprocated a number of times and which made him appear sympathetic to their views;[22] they were also given renditions of both the German and British national anthems.[23] Wallis, meanwhile, maintained the fiction in her letters to her friends and family that they were merely sight-seeing.[22]

Meeting with HitlerEdit

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor with Adolf Hitler in October 1937

The culmination of Windsor's tour was a personal[21]—and highly genial[18]—meeting with Hitler on 22 October.[10] Three days earlier, Hitler had been telephoned by Lord Halifax regarding Germany's expansionist policies in an attempt for their two governments to come to a mutual understanding. The Windsors' visit three days later, argues Sebba, must only have encouraged Hitler in his belief that Windsor was his ally.[11] Even so, says Vickers, Hitler made the Windsors "travel a long way to see him",[15] as he was at his Bavarian retreat known as the Berghof.[31] Hitler then kept them waiting for nearly an hour before seeing the couple;[17] Windsor had an hour-long discussion with Hitler. Hitler did most of the talking,[17][35] but the Duke is known to have encouraged Hitler to press on with his policies towards the east.[note 13][note 14] The meeting was minuted and a typed transcript subsequently produced, although it was either subsequently lost, presumed destroyed, in the war, or captured by the allies;[34] the meeting was of "particular concern"[21] to the British Government, for whom it was an unauthorised diplomatic summit in all but name.[44][note 15]

The Duchess did not attend Windsor's meeting with Hitler, which was private; she was given tea with Rudolf Hess instead,[11] with Ernst Wilhelm Bohle[47] acting as interpreter. A friend of the Windsors, French millionaire Paul-Louis Weiller, later reported that he believed it to have been the Duchess who had arranged the meeting with Hitler, and that she was subsequently enraged at being excluded from it.[15] The couple made a good impression on Hitler,[10] although the Duchess wrote how she was both "fascinated and repelled"[17] by him. Windsor was fluent in German, but an interpreter, Paul Schmidt[17] was also in attendance. Schmidt later described his memory of Hitler and the Duke's meeting:[17]

...Hitler was evidently making an effort to be as amicable as possible towards the Duke, whom he regarded as Germany's friend, having especially in mind a speech the Duke had made some years before, extending the hand of friendship to Germany's ex-servicemen's associations. In these conversations, there was, so far as I could see, nothing whatever to indicate whether the Duke of Windsor really sympathised with the ideology and practices of the Third Reich, as Hitler seemed to assume he did. Apart from some appreciative words for the measures taken in Germany in the field of social welfare, the Duke did not discuss political questions.[17]

The Duchess of Windsor was treated with full royal deference by Hitler at their meeting

Windsor's equerry, Dudley Forwood, on the other hand, is dismissive of Schmidt's recollection and has stated that the Duke raised criticisms of Nazi social policy to Hitler. At the same time, says Forwood, Forwood repeatedly accused Schmidt of mistranslating for Hitler, regularly interjecting Falschübersetzt! or "wrongly translated".[17] The Windsors had tea with Hitler,[33] and the Duke left under the impression that Hitler was a pacifist.[15] A contemporary observer described how, as they returned to their car, escorted by their host:[33]

“The Duchess was visibly impressed with the Führer’s personality, and he apparently indicated that they had become fast friends by giving her an affectionate farewell. [Hitler] took both their hands in his saying a long goodbye, after which he stiffened to a rigid Nazi salute that the Duke returned”.[33]

The last stage of their tour was in Munich, where they stayed at the Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel. On the final night, Windsor received a Kreisleiter of the NSDAP who had previously been Master of Ceremonies for Adolphus Frederick, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, who had been a personal friend of George V[33] and had committed suicide in 1918. The main event of the night was spent at the Munich home of Rudolf and Ilse Hess at a dinner party with other high-ranking Nazi officials, particularly from the Gauleitung and the German Labour Front. Petropoulos comments that although "there is no extant record of what transpired at the Hess’s is striking that the Duke and Hess, both future advocates of a negotiated peace, had the opportunity to spend the evening together and review the Windsors' tour".[33]


Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister throughout the abdication crisis

Baldwin's government had attempted to manage the public relations issues surrounding the visit, but Petropoulos suggests that "they had no control over the situation from the start".[33] The British Consul in Germany reported to London that Ley had announced at a GLF meeting that Windsor had praised Germany under Hitler's leadership. While they acknowledged that the Duke may not have actually used the words, Petropoulos suggests that it is indicative of how Germans had viewed the Windsors' visit.[48] Hitler also suggested that Wallis, in his opinion, "would have made a good Queen" for Germany.[49] Intentionally or not, the Windsor's visit undoubtedly suggested to Hitler that he was a man the Nazis could do business with, and probably gave sustenance to later suspicions that, on a successful outcome to Operation Sea Lion, the Duke would be appointed a puppet king.[50] The Earl of Crawford summed up Windsor's position to the political establishment thus:[21]

He had put himself hopelessly in the wrong by starting his visit with a preliminary tour in Germany where he was, of course, photographed fraternizing with the Nazi, the Anti-Trade Unionist and the Jewbaiter. Poor little man. He has no sense of his own and no friends with any sense to advise him. I hope this will give him a sharp and salutary lesson.[21]

To the British ruling class, comments Morton, the Windsors' "farrago was greeted with undisguised glee".[21] On the other side of the parliamentary divide, a Labour Party MP, Herbert Morrison—at the time leader of the London County Council—said, "if the Duke wants to study social problems he had far better quietly read books and get advice in private, rather than put his foot in it in this way".[15]


The consensus among later 20th century historians is that the visit reflected poorly on Windsor's judgement. For example, "the best that can be said" of the visit, comments Ted Powell, "was that it had been well-organised, albeit for the benefits of the hosts".[30] Adrian Philips calls the tour "an embarrassment at best, and at worse, glaring proof of his complete lack of judgement",[32] while Piers Brendon has described it as being "the worst blunder of his career".[13] Philip Ziegler has been slightly less judgemental, commenting that it may have been "ill-advised and ill-timed but [it was] not a crime",[11] and Vickers has suggested that "such incidents have been exaggerated into the theory that the Duke was an incipient Nazi. He was no such thing. But he was naive, and having been brought up with people to advise him all his life until December 1936 he was hardly competent or equipped to deal with men like Hitler. Nor should he have undertaken this trip independently".[15]

Aftermath and later eventsEdit

Michael Bloch has argued that the Windsors' German tour had not, in fact, garnered a great lot of interest from English commentators; the main criticism, such as there was, he says, was that Windsor probably should have been far more self-effacing than he had been during the first year of his brother's reign. Churchill, for example, wrote to the Duke, then in Paris, indicating that there did not appear to have been particular outrage against him from the anti-Nazi element of popular opinion and that Churchill himself was "glad it all passed off with such distinction and success".[17] Baldwin, for his part, clearly abhorred the tour and privately argued against it, but, comments Karina Urbach, "as a convinced monarchist did everything to keep the institution intact".[41] However, following the Windsors' German visit, attitudes strengthened against their perceived pro-German activities. Unofficially, many officials of the British Government suspected that the Duchess could have been engaged in espionage activities for Hitler,[51] although the Duchess later refuted such suggestions in her autobiography.[52] The FBI was also monitoring the Duchess throughout this period, also concluding that she had likely Nazi sympathies. It had also been rumoured that she and the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, had had a sexual relationship during his tenure as German ambassador in London in the mid-1930s.[53][note 16]

Later eventsEdit

The Windsors returned to Paris on 24 October, and had two weeks to prepare for the intended tour of the United States.[17] However, the week after the Windsors returned to Paris, the Nazis executed two KPD organisers and labour leaders, Adolf Rembte and Robert Stamm. They were widely admired for their trades unionist sympathies and anti-Nazism among the American labour movement, and their deaths swung popular opinion against the Duke's intended visit.[17] Bedaux, too, was irreparably damaged by the after-effects of the Windsors' German tour; the following year, his businesses there were confiscated by the Nazis for a second—and final—time, and his reputation suffered so badly in America that his businesses there were forcibly taken over by a US-based subordinate.[16] This, combined with criticism from Jewish-Americans, persuaded Windsor to cancel the tour;[17][note 17] Windsor may also have believed that "he had been taken in"[56] by Bedaux, and backed off from his US tour for that reason.[56] Either way, the cancellation of what was intended to demonstrate his leadership qualities to the world proved sufficiently traumatic for the Duke to induce him to retire from public life for the next year.[17][note 18] The British Government subsequently moved the Windsors to the Bahamas, where the Duke had been made Governor; it is generally assumed that the motivation for this appointment was government suspicions as to his sympathies and a desire to remove him from the European theatre for the duration of World War II.[20]


  1. ^ John Vincent has noted the irony of a man whose fortune came from designing a system by which workers had to work harder being part of a world tour to investigate working peoples' conditions. He also notes that this was clearly part of a disingenuous plan by Bedaux to use the Duke to regain possession of his German business—which had all been confiscated by the Nazis in 1933,[18] which he achieved in July 1937 thanks to both bribery of Nazi officials and concessions to them.[16]
  2. ^ Wiedemann had been the lover of Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a German princess and previously a golfing partner of the Duke of Windsor; President Roosevelt personally believed her to be a spy. Wiedemann was later Hitler's agent in San Francisco—"with an extensive spy network"—[21] and took part in peace negotiations between Nazi Germany and the United States in an attempt by the former to keep the latter country neutral.[21]
  3. ^ The American Ambassador to France of the time, William Bullitt—"a shrewd observer"—suggested to Roosevelt that he believed Windsor took "as serious an interest in housing and the other problems connected with the life of the industrial workers as his royal intelligence permits".[15]
  4. ^ Higham says that MI6 files back this story, but Cadbury notes that they have not so far surfaced in the archives.[23] Higham's works have been generally criticised by commentators, however. His—generally unauthorised—celebrity biographies earned him a description as "the most unreliable writer on Hollywood politics",[24] and his writing upon the Duchess of Windsor has been criticised for making outlandish claims such as that her "attractions included exotic sexual techniques that she had picked up on visits to the brothels of Peking", and that Higham "set a tone for vilification later explored by other biographers".[25]
  5. ^ The late 1930s was a period of increasing political tension in Europe; an arms race originally begun by Germany was now consuming the major European powers and concomitantly reducing their political room to manoeuvre.[26]
  6. ^ Michael Bloch has pointed out that although it was retrospectively a poor choice, "there was nothing unusual about a prominent Englishman visiting Germany in 1937. War was still two years away, curiosity about the Nazis was intense, and many respectable people accepted government invitations. It was fashionable to go to Germany and visit Hitler in the thirties just as it was to go to China and visit Mao in the sixties".[17] In illustration, the ex-Prime Minister, Lloyd George had also gone there two years before the Duke, and Lord Halifax, who would become foreign secretary in 1938, was to do so explicitly at Göring's invitation one month after the Windsors.[17]
  7. ^ Their first official state visit—to Paris—was not to be authorised until 1938.[11]
  8. ^ Following their meeting, Goebbels wrote in his diary that "The duke is wonderful—a nice, sympathetic fellow who is open and clear and with a healthy understanding of people...It’s a shame he is no longer king. With him we would have entered into an alliance".[36]
  9. ^ Windsor's full birth name was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, and he was commonly addressed by the last of his names among his family circle.[1]
  10. ^ The Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg were paid up members of the NSDAP, and did not just maintain contacts with the ex-King; his brother, the Duke of Kent, was, says Urbach, also a "useful ally", being, from their point of view, "very German-friendly. Clearly against France. Not especially clever, but well-informed. Entirely for strengthening German-English ties. His wife is equally anti-French", Ludwig of Hesse wrote.[41]
  11. ^ British diplomatic missions in Germany and the United States were, specifically, "forbidden to put him up in the house, or to give him a dinner, though they may give him a bite of luncheon, or to present him officially to anyone, or to accept invitations from him, except for a bite of luncheon, or to have him met at the station by anyone bigger than a junior secretary".[17]
  12. ^ Deborah Cadbury suggests that it was at a family gathering following King George's death in 1936 that Hitler may have first learned of the Prince of Wales' German sympathies. Charles Edward of Saxe-Coburg—himself a grandson of Queen Victoria—had agreed to spy for Hitler that year, and, says Cadbury, "extracted from the untried new King, Edward VIII, much useful information".[23]
  13. ^ The Duke wrote in 1966 that meeting Hitler had "made me realize that Red Russia [sic] was the only enemy and that Great Britain and all of Europe had an interest in encouraging Germany to march against the east and to crush communism once and for all...I thought that we ourselves would be able to watch as the Nazis and the Reds would fight each other".[42] In these aspirations, the Duke was in the company of a large swathe of the British ruling class: apart from Lloyd George and Lord Halifax, aristocrats such as Lord and Lady Astor and the Cliveden Set, as well as economists like Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England, were of the same view.[43]
  14. ^ Writing on his meeting with Hitler in 1937, Windsor later said that he had thought Hitler was "a somewhat ridiculous figure, with his theatrical posturings and his bombastic pretensions". Indeed, he later denied to his wife that he and Hitler had discussed politics at all. However, the Duke's interpreter, Dudley Forwood, also put down his—somewhat different—recollection of what was said, writing how "my Master said to Hitler the Germans and the British races are one, they should always be one. They are of Hun origin".[11]
  15. ^ It was of such concern that in March 1945, Owen Morshead and Anthony Blunt were dispatched to Friedrichshof to supposedly secure papers relating to the German Empress Victoria, the eldest child of Queen Victoria.[44] Modern historians now believe they were actually attempting to recover transcripts of Hitler's and Windsor's conversation and other correspondence.[45][46]
  16. ^ These records were released in 2002,[54] although Karina Urbach notes that they contain solely unsubstantiated rumours, and some of them very wild.[55]
  17. ^ The British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Lindsay, had already made it known that he viewed the prospect of Windsor's American tour with "unmitigated horror".[17]
  18. ^ Roosevelt did write to Windsor expressing the hope that the tour would not be long delayed, but, says Morton, this was only a "conciliatory" gesture on the President's part.[21]


  1. ^ a b Adams 1993, p. 35.
  2. ^ Beaverbrook 1966, pp. 28–33.
  3. ^ Sebba 2013, p. 60.
  4. ^ Ziegler 1991, pp. 305–307.
  5. ^ Beaverbrook 1966, pp. 39–44, 122.
  6. ^ Perkins 2006, p. 103.
  7. ^ Bloch 1990.
  8. ^ Taylor 1992, pp. 401–403.
  9. ^ a b Matthew 2004.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Hichens 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sebba 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d Bradford 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d e Brendon 2016.
  14. ^ Marr 2009, p. 338.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Vickers 2011, p. 322.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bloch 1988.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Bloch 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d Vincent 1984, p. 616.
  19. ^ a b c Powell 2018, p. 227.
  20. ^ a b Bloch 2012, pp. 79–80.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Morton 2015.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Morton 2018.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Cadbury 2015.
  24. ^ Meyers 1998, pp. 204–205.
  25. ^ Obituary 2012.
  26. ^ Kershaw 2015.
  27. ^ Rose 1983, p. 391.
  28. ^ Windsor 1951, p. 122.
  29. ^ Speer 1970, p. 118.
  30. ^ a b c Powell 2018, p. 228.
  31. ^ a b c Donaldson 1974, pp. 331–332.
  32. ^ a b Phillips 2016.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g Petropoulos 2006, p. 209.
  34. ^ a b de Vries 2012.
  35. ^ a b c BBC News 2016.
  36. ^ a b c d Petropoulos 2006, p. 208.
  37. ^ Meissner 1980.
  38. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 121.
  39. ^ a b c d e Petropoulos 2006, p. 207.
  40. ^ a b Petropoulos 2006, p. 434.
  41. ^ a b Urbach 2015, p. 192.
  42. ^ Pauwels 2015, p. 47.
  43. ^ Pauwels 2015, p. 46.
  44. ^ a b Bradford 2013, p. 426.
  45. ^ Higham 2004, pp. 388–389.
  46. ^ Wright 1987.
  47. ^ Sereny 2016.
  48. ^ Petropoulos 2006, p. 210.
  49. ^ King 2011, p. 295.
  50. ^ Doerries 2003, p. 11.
  51. ^ ODNB unknown author 2004.
  52. ^ Higham 2004, p. 203.
  53. ^ Evans & Hencke 2002.
  54. ^ Beschloss 2002, p. 135.
  55. ^ Urbach 2015, p. 213.
  56. ^ a b Vickers 2011, p. 323.


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