The Duchess of Windsor – Was she a nazi sympathiser? (Part one)

edward wallis hitler
IanDagnall Computing / Alamy Stock Photo

During the early years of their relationship, Wallis and the Prince of Wales were guests in the home of the German Ambassador, Leopold von Hoesch, who – on Hitler’s orders – lavishly entertained the pair to press the German interests and policies. There was some speculation that Wallis was paid by the Germans to ensure that the Prince would take note of the German ideas, but there is no evidence of that. In fact, she didn’t have a need to do so as the Prince of Wales was already sympathetic to the German cause.

Hitler hoped to achieve an understanding with the British and watched carefully with each step he took as he was determined not to go to war with England. He was convinced that he found the best guarantee for British support in the Prince of Wales. In June 1935, the Prince of Wales gave a speech at the Annual Conference of the British Legion, declaring that the best way to ensure peace was to “stretch forth the hand of friendship to the Germans.”1 His father, King George V, was angry when he heard of the speech as he had failed to seek prior authorisation for his remarks and had strayed into political territory – even though his own beliefs were not that different from the Prince’s.2 The Prince of Wales had seen what war could do, and he was determined to prevent it from happening again. Adolf Hitler was utterly convinced he now had someone he could do business with, and such delusions would haunt the reputations of both the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor for the rest of their lives.

Joachim von Ribbentrop and the 17 carnations

In June 1935, Wallis and the Prince of Wales met Joachim von Ribbentrop – a politician who later served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945 – at a gathering at the home of Lady Cunard, a society hostess and a supporter of Wallis. Also present was Winston Churchill, who soon became bored with von Ribbentrop’s droning about Hitler’s achievements. It has been reported that von Ribbentrop then began to carefully cultivate a relationship with Wallis, which included sending her carnations (or roses) on a regular basis. Speculation even included that they were lovers. This seems doubtful, considering how deeply involved Wallis was with the Prince, and she had seen how he had responded when his previous favourite Thelma was rumoured to have a relationship with Aly Khan. Why would Wallis risk her position by having an affair with a German politician? Wallis herself later declared that she had only met von Ribbentrop twice and denied that she been used as a tool by the Nazis.3

It was also at Lady Cunard’s home that Wallis was introduced to the politics making the rounds in society. Lady Cunard was not afraid to introduce controversial topics in her house, and there she met Russian exiles who did not see Hitler as the madman but as an anti-communist who would save their country.4 Other acquaintances included Sir Oswald Mosley, who later married Diana Mitford in a secret ceremony in the Berlin home of the German Minister for Propaganda Josef Goebbels and his wife, Magda. Among the wedding guests was Adolf Hitler.

When the Prince of Wales became King, he was accused of harbouring Fascist tendencies, but this was “largely in accord with the mood of his subjects.”5 His German sympathies lay largely in his German heritage, as did his fear of communism. But he also really admired Hitler for how he managed to restore Germany in the years following the Treaty of Versailles. For now, the Nazis still respected borders and the sovereignty of other nations, and Hitler continued to deny he wanted anything more than Germany’s due.

Then came the rumours that Wallis had access to all the state papers and should be seriously suspected of passing state secrets to the Germans. The new King apparently left his red boxes open and barely bothered to read them as he found them “complete drudgery”6 and this was apparently translated to mean that instead Wallis was actively reading them and passing the content on. Weekend guests at Fort Belvedere observed the King’s apparent reluctance to see to the red boxes but also commented on Wallis’ efforts to get him to attend to them. “Wallis must not get too bossy,” wrote Diana Cooper. “I had rather she had not said to him at dinner that she wanted to encourage his reading his papers and documents, that he was inclined to have them read to him – but that it was essential he should learn to master the points in them.” Conveniently, Wallis’ attempts to positively influence the King did not make it to the rumour mill.7

Charles Bedeaux

After the abdication in December 1936, Wallis and the former King remained apart while Wallis’s divorce was not yet absolute. Wallis had left England at the beginning of December 1936 just as the British press began to write about the crisis. She had called her friends Herman and Katherine Rogers, who lived in Cannes and asked to stay with them. However, in early March, it was time to move on and begin to plan for the future with the now abdicated King. It was Herman Rogers who introduced her to Charles Bedaux, a French-American businessman, who owned an old château named Candé, near Tours.

It was surrounded by a large wooded park, which would guarantee their privacy. Wallis discussed the idea with the Duke, and Herman asked Charles if he had any skeletons in his closet as the press would certainly find them and the couple could not afford any embarrassment. Even King George VI was consulted, and with royal approval, Charles officially lent them the Château de Candé. They would be married there in June.

It turned out Charles did have skeletons in his closet. Though not a Nazi, his views were a mix of communist and fascist. His best friend was Dr Robert Ley, the leader of the Nazi National Labor Front. His biographer later wrote, “But it is preposterous to think that the British government did not check out Bedeaux. Therefore, they either found something ‘on’ him or they did not. If the government determined that Bedeaux was undesirable and permitted the marriage to take place at Candé, then it must be concluded that they were setting up the unfortunate Duke.”8

Their association with Bedeaux became awkward when he was charged with treason in 1943. Though no evidence was ever discovered, Bedeaux committed suicide in his American jail cell. His name was later cleared, though it would be too late for him. For the Duke and Duchess, he became another reason for people to become suspicious of them.

Read part two here.


Our book The Duchess of Windsor – A Collection of Articles is available now in the US and the UK.

  1. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 130
  2. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 130
  3. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.128
  4. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.127
  5. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 146
  6. The American Duchess by Anna Pasternak p.87
  7. The American Duchess by Anna Pasternak p.87
  8. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.257

About Moniek Bloks 2729 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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