A cache of newly declassified files released by the National Archives at Kew show that Churchill tried to block the publication of papers on former King Edward VIII’s pro-Nazi views and willingness to deal with Adolf Hitler to win back his throne.
The dossier was compiled by the Nazi intelligence agencies, documenting the activities of the Duke and his wife, Wallis Simpson, during World War II.
King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 as he sought to marry Simpson, an American divorcee, causing a constitutional crisis. He left Britain to tour Nazi Germany later that year.
During the war, the couple first lived in France before it was occupied by the Nazis in 1940 and then moved to Spain and Portugal.
Hitler, who saw Edward as an ideal pick for the head of a puppet government in the UK, ordered a close surveillance of the royal couple.
Nazi intelligence officers and sympathizers of Hitler’s regime watched the former king and his wife, recording their movements, comments and even gestures, compiling an extensive dossier.
According to their files, the Duke of Windsor was angry that he was forced to abdicate and thought that his younger brother and successor, King George VI, was “utterly stupid,” the queen an intriguer and Churchill a warmonger.
He was also convinced that only a prolonged bombing of British cities would force the UK government to negotiation table and end the war.
German diplomatic cables reveal that the duke was “the only Englishman with whom Hitler would negotiate any peace terms, the logical director of England’s destiny after the war.”
The Nazi spy agencies even devised an elaborate plot, Operation Willi, trying to convince Edward to wait in Franco’s Spain for the Germans to invade Britain and then re-assume his throne.
However, Churchill reportedly threatened the former king with court-martial unless he returned to British soil, and the duke spent the rest of the war as the governor of the Bahamas.
Following the end of the Second World War, the Nazi dossier fell into the hand of Allies. Churchill proposed burning it to prevent damage to the image of the British monarchy.
When this proved impossible, Churchill sought to delay the publication of the papers for up to 20 years.
For this purpose, he wrote to US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, appealing to the latter’s sense of “justice and chivalry.”
“If they were to be included in an official publication they might leave the impression that the Duke was in close touch with German agents and was listening to suggestions that were disloyal,” Churchill wrote.