Was Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor a traitor to his own country?

I was reading this fascinating wiki blurb and it mentions

Was he really a traitor, or just a blabbermouth, or is all this just mere speculation?

No, I don’t think he was a traitor. He and Wallis were Nazi sympathizers at least until the invasion of Poland, I think, and seemed to have admired Hitler’s (apparent) turnaround of Gemany’s economy during the Great Depression. I think the Nazi high command was indulging in wishful thinking as to working with the Duke of Windsor on a German takeover of the country. He was hurt by the cold shoulder his brother, King George VI, and the rest of the Royal Family gave him after his abdication, to be sure, but I’ve never read any reliable or persuasive evidence that he would have gone over to the Germans. Seems very farfetched to me. He was pretty naive on the political front, though, and probably genuinely didn’t understand why there was such concern over his flirtations with the Nazis.

FWIW, Robert Harris mentions, in passing, King Edward VIII’s return to the British throne (with Nazi sponsorship) in his excellent alternative history novel Fatherland.

That’s pretty much the take I’ve got from the various histories and biographies that I’ve read.

Prior to WWII, so I’ve been told by people who were around at the time, there was a degree of ‘sympathy’ for Hitler et al.

People had no idea of what they were up to.

My understanding is that the deal with Edward was that he was to stay outside the UK, which is not unreasonable. The Bahamas were convenient.
My understanding is that Wallis slept simply around :-}

Incidentally, prior to his non-coronation, Edward was supposed to have been a bit Prince Charles like, it seems unlikely that he would have been sympathetic once the Blitz started.

The issues are different for different stages of his career.

It would be fair to say that as Prince of Wales and as King he seems to have been sort of pro-German, in a vague, ill-defined, rather sentimental way. But, as FRDE says, that was true of lots of people in the early-to-mid 1930s. In his particular case, this was reinforced by his sense of himself as a spokesman for the generation that had fought in the First World War. (With his guilt over the fact that, in reality, he had not fought only adding an extra layer of complications.) He thought of himself as articulating the views of the silent majority of ex-servicemen who did not want another war because they had been through the last one. Which is probably what, at that stage, that silent majority did think. Not that this made any difference. The government just ignored him.

The supposed Ribbentrop affair with Mrs Simpson has now been thoroughly discredited. Ironically, it was those ‘further secret files released by the UK government in 2003’ the blurb is so keen to tout that did most to do so. What those files revealed was that Special Branch, eager to assemble any dirt on her, had had her under surveillance during that period. As was well-publicised when the files were released, they uncovered the fact that she was having an affair with a car salesman, so the obvious question is that, if they discovered that affair, why didn’t they discover the one with Ribbentrop. All that can be set against this is the uncorroborated gossip picked up by the Americans several years later. Not exactly the strongest basis on which to build a theory.

(Incidentally, there is not a shred of evidence that those files were held back because ‘Whitehall judged that they would cause the Queen Mother substantial distress if released during her lifetime’. In fact, I rather suspect that she would have thought the contents hilarious and a vindication of her stance at the time. To seasoned watchers of the National Archives, the decision to release them clearly owed far more to the TNA’s [sic] habitual fondness for shameless publicity stunts.)

The problems in relying on gossip also bedevil arguments about his attitudes in the years after the Abdication. The ultimate source for most of the claims relating to that period are the German Foreign Office files. Superficially, those look impressive and they do contain reports of his pro-German sympathies from his time in Lisbon in 1940. But those cannot be read as simple factual reports. Think of it this way. You’re a German diplomat in 1940 and you find yourself posted to, of all places, Lisbon. Not exactly the most high-profile posting. The only thing of any significance about your patch is that the Duke of Windsor has taken refuge there. Now, if he’s a loyal British citizen, he’s irrelevant, a washed-up ex-king who can do nothing to affect the course of the war. If, on the other hand, he’s a possible traitor, you’ve suddenly got the interest of your superiors in Berlin. The vice to which all diplomats are prone - and against which experienced historians know to guard - is that they play up the importance of what they’re reporting. In theory your superiors back home can make allowances for this - issues that seem important in Lisbon might well seem less so when seen from the Fatherland. Except that the idea of using the Duke of Windsor as a puppet king was just the sort of thing that appealed to the Nazi high command. (It certainly appealed to Hitler, but then Hitler’s views about how British government worked were always hopelessly confused.) The suspicion is that, at every level, the German diplomats had a vested interest in exaggerating the Duke’s attitudes, telling their superiors what they wanted to hear.

The Royal Family were Battenbergs, after all! :smack:

Not back then, they weren’t.