The Duchess of Windsor – A German plot and heading to the Bahamas

wallis windsor
Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The events leading up to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor leaving to take up a post in the Bahamas have led to much speculation about where their loyalties lay.

As the Second World War came to France in May 1940, the Duke and Duchess fled from their home in Paris and arrived at La Croë on 29 May, and by the second week of June, they could hear the sounds of gunfire from Genoa. The British Consul urged the Duke and Duchess to accompany him to Spain, and on 19 June (Wallis’ birthday), a procession of four cars departed from La Croë. They passed many refugees on the route, and they were in continued danger as neither possessed diplomatic papers. Rosa Wood, who was with them, later wrote, “I thought of Wallis and how so many people believed she cared only for clothes and jewels, and how they always pictured her against backgrounds of castles, with maids, couturiers, and hairdressers. I saw her in mud and dirt, sleeping cars, eating sardines out of tins, I saw when we were held up for hours before we could go south, when we had to sit all night long in the lobbies of little hotels. I saw her when we had no place to wash, much do any of the things women like to do to make themselves look nicer. I saw her awaken at four o’clock in the morning and come out in the drizzle and help the Duke and my husband arrange things on the lorry, when we didn’t where we were going and whether we were walking into traps or whether we would be bombed. Never once did I see her cross or hear her complain or even falter except at the sight at the sufferings of others.”1

They were initially refused entry into Spain, and the Spanish ambassador had to intervene before they were finally granted asylum. Shortly afterwards, they moved on to Portugal, where they could be more easily evacuated. They were installed in the house of Ricardo Espírito Santo, a banker who was well known for his pro-German stance.

On 4 July, they received the news that the Duke had been appointed as governor-general and commander in chief of the Bahamas. Though officially gracious, privately, they were not too impressed with the appointment. Wallis wrote to her aunt Bessie, “The St. Helena of 1940 is a nice spot.”2 The colonial secretary, Lord Lloyd, said during a dinner with Sir Ronald Storrs, “the Windsor appointment in the Bahamas is the King’s own idea, to keep him at all costs out of England.”3 In any case, it still wasn’t far enough for Queen Elizabeth, who thought that that the Bahamas was too good for them and that Wallis was wholly unfit to be the wife of a governor-general.4

While all this was being discussed, the Germans had other plans for the Duke and Duchess. During their stay in Portugal, the Germans plotted to delay the Windsors to enable a secret plan called “Operation Willi” that would have seen them kidnapped and installed as a puppet King and Queen if the United Kingdom had surrendered. There is no evidence that the Duke and Duchess were complicit in this plot, and in the end, it came to nothing.5

On 1 August 1940, the Duke and Duchess boarded the Excalibur bound for Bermuda, where they would change ships and continue on their travels to the Bahamas.

  1. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 337
  2. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 342
  3. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 342
  4. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 342
  5. Read more here

About Moniek Bloks 2064 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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