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Edward and Wallis with Hitler

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In 1936, Edward VIII abdicated to marry the woman he loved, a divorcee Mrs Wallis Simpson.However, the Guardian claimed that the king’s decision was due to Mrs. Simpson being a Nazi sympathizer and this was totally unacceptable to the prime minister at the time, Stanley Baldwin. The former Austrian ambassador, Count Albert von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein, who was also a second cousin once removed and friend of George V, believed that Edward himself favoured German fascism as a bulwark against communism.

In 1941, while they were holidaying in Florida, the exiled former king and his consort, now the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor, were spied upon by the FBI on the orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These FBI files, written in the 1940s and now released under America’s Freedom of Information Act, detailed that the Duchess might have been passing secrets to a leading Nazi with whom she was thought to have had an affair and that His Majesty’s Government had known for the fact for some time.

Following Edward’s accession, the German embassy in London sent a cable for the personal attention of Hitler himself. It read: “An alliance between Germany and Britain is for him (the King) an urgent necessity.” In October 1937, the Windsors visited Nazi Germany, met Hitler at his Obersalzberg retreat (above), dined with his deputy, Rudolf Hess, and even visited a concentration camp. The camp’s guard towers were explained away as meat stores for the inmates. The visit was against the advice of the British government and during the visit the Duke gave full Nazi salutes.

At the outbreak of war, the duke served as a military liaison officer in Paris. Hitler made an abortive attempt to bring Edward and his wife to Nazi-sympathetic Spain, and greatly alarmed, the British establishment finally packing the duke off to the Bahamas from 1940-45. Deeply disenchanted by the society that had spun him, the Duke made his Nazi sympathies explicit, once telling a journalist that “it would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown”. In another break from his usual unassuming boyish behavior, he remarked, “After the war is over and Hitler will crush the Americans. We’ll take over. They (the British) don’t want me as their King, but I’ll be back as their leader.”

After the war, the duke and duchess returned to France. He died there in 1972, while the Duchess lived on until 1986.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

November 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm

The Baldwins

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Above the Rt. Honorable and Mrs. Baldwin at their home days after King Edward VIII’s Abdication.

In Stanley Baldwin and the Conservatives entered into a coalition with Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. With MacDonald’s health failing, Baldwin became Prime Minister in June 1935. Baldwin’s last major test in office was the Edward VIII Abdication Crisis–the king’s proposed wife, two-time divorcee Wallis Simpson was detested throughly by Baldwin, who joined the royal family in trying to dissuade the king from the marriage.

Despite the public being left uninformed of the looming crisis, and the press barons and royalists respecting the king’s choice, Baldwin’s government insisted that ‘the voice of the people must be heard’. Although Baldwin hoped the king would choose the throne over Simpson, by turning the crisis into a constitutional question, Baldwin pushed it too far. (For the king to act against the cabinet’s wishes would have precipitated a constitutional crisis which would demand Baldwin’s own resignation.

Although Baldwin restored his popularity through his handling of the crisis, this didn’t deter the royalists’ cries of ‘God save the King—from Bald-win! FLOG BALDWIN! FLOG HIM!! WE—WANT—EDWARD!”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 26, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Politics, Society

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Edward & Wallis | James Jarché

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The future Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in a London Nightclub, 1936.

For the better part of Edward VIII’s relationship with twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson, the deferential British Press remained quiet on the subject. The continental and American press, however, had a field day with the king’s cruise along the Yugoslav, Greek and Turkish coasts, which Mrs. Simpson accompanied in August 1936.

Only on 3rd December 1936 — a day after the Prime Minister and the House of Commons rejected the possibility of a morganatic marriage, the British press decided to publish the story. It was a purely symbolic reticence–many British people were aware of the king’s predicament through the foreign press and radio stations. A week later, the king would abdicate.

The above photo was taken by James Jarché, one of the first British press photographers to make a name for himself. He concealed a camera in his bowler hat to surreptitiously take pictures like this. Outside the United Kingdom, the photo originally ran with the caption “Who Is The Mystery Women?”

Jimmy Jarché’s photo career began when he was just nine, when helped his father photograph a dead woman in a slum house in Rotherhithe in the middle of the night. Her husband wanted the picture to send to relatives in Australia. He would grow up to work for Life, the Daily Sketch, the Daily Herald, and the Illustrated London News, photographing Scottish “kipper girls”, Welsh coal miners and their ponies half a mile underground (having reassured them his new kind of flashbulb would not cause an explosion), allied soldiers in North Africa during the second world war, and Clement Attlee nonchalantly mowing his lawn three weeks before VE Day. Tasked by Odhams Press to photograph the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in black and white, he also took colour photos, which he sold independently, and was therefore sacked by Odhams.

Jimmy took the first photographs of aviator Louis Blériot after his flight over the English Channel in 1909, which won him the prize of £1,000 offered by the Daily Mail. He also captured the construction of the London Underground, the siege of Sidney Street (an armed battle between police and a gang of thieves in east London in 1911 where he shot Winston Churchill, the then Home Secretary overseeing the raid, in a top hat, peeking from cover); and the decadence of Berlin’s nightclubs just after the first world war when the rest of Germany was starving. Their clientele was mostly “war-profiteers who had bled their country while their country bled for them. There were stout old men with arms of satyrs who had waxed fat on the troubles of the Fatherland”, Jarché wrote in his 1934 memoir, People I Have Shot.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 19, 2009 at 9:20 am

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