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.