Did Ex-King Edward Have Nazi Connections? ‘The Crown’ Examines The Former King’s Reportedly Friendly Relationship
Though Queen Elizabeth took the throne two years after the conclusion of World War II, the young monarch still had problems related to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, as the Season 2 of The Crown illustrates in Episode 6. It is revealed to Elizabeth that the former King Edward VIII — her uncle, who had given up the throne years before, prompting her father to become King — had been in friendly contact with the Third Reich at one point in time. The Netflix series does fictionalize real events, in this case, King Edward VIII's real-life connection to Nazi Germany. Bustle has reached out to Netflix regarding the accuracy of this storyline, but has not received a response as of this time.
In perhaps one of the most tense and jarring episodes of the series to date, damning documents and evidence of correspondence between Nazi Germany and the former king are uncovered, leading Queen Elizabeth's mother and royal advisers to urge her not to allow the ex-patriot Edward back into the service of the crown. She's also told that Edward conspired with the Nazi party to reinstate himself on the British throne, essentially double-crossing his brother. Those are some big accusations for the series to lob at an actual historical figure, but history appears to back up many of those plot points.
According to the Independent, Edward often spoke highly about Hitler's economic and social reforms, and wanted his own country to offer the Nazis "friendship," which the outlet says upset his family and his government. In 1936, when Edward became king, The Independent claims that he wanted to secretly meet with Hitler. When Edward left the throne (he abdicated in order to marry a divorcee — something that was forbidden at the time), he and his new wife visited Germany and met with Hitler less than two years before the onset of World War II.
According to another Independent report from 1996, documents released by the British Foreign Office provided evidence that the former King Edward, known after his abdication as Edward, Duke of Windsor, was a "firm Nazi sympathizer" and that his wife heavily influenced this way of thinking. "The Germans propose to form an opposition government with the Duke of Windsor, having first changed public opinion by propaganda," the 1940 memorandum from an informant to the Foreign Office reads, according to the Independent. "The Germans think King George will abdicate during the attack on London."
NBC News even reported earlier this year that Edward's phones were tapped by the British government as early as 1936 because of worries about Nazi ties. "The extent to which Edward posed a threat to national security is at the heart of this entire decision to bug him," a researcher said, according to the NBC report.
Another aspect of the scandal that The Crown touches on is that former Prime Minister Winston Churchill was aware of these bombshell documents regarding Edward, and, along with King George, insisted that they be covered up. This, too, may have been the case in real life. According to the Guardian, Churchill urged President Dwight Eisenhower to delay the release of these documents for "at least 10 or 20 years," as American historians had their hands on them with intent to publish. Churchill claimed the release would "promote German propaganda" and "weaken western resistance," the Guardian reports.
In the dramatized series of events in The Crown's new season, a former adviser to the royal family even tells Elizabeth that Edward actually visited the early versions of concentration camps, though the full extent of what they would become hadn't yet come to light. This claim is also supported by history. According to the Independent report cited above, Edward did indeed visit a concentration camp, though the outlet states that "it is not thought evidence of mass murder was made clear to him." Years after the war concluded, though, Edward is rumored to have told a friend that he "never thought Hitler was such a bad chap," according to the Daily Mail.
This story is one that went largely untold in the first season of The Crown, though much of the plot focused heavily on the royal family's issues with Edward's abdication and with the former king in general. It was criticized by some for glossing over Edward's past without much scrutiny, and a writer for the Daily Beast claimed that the show "white-washed" the "Nazi-loving royal."
Valid criticism, to be sure, though it's possible that given the show's timeline and the fact that the story is told largely through the queen's eyes, showrunners were simply waiting for the right point in Elizabeth's history to hit audiences with these revelations. It's now a sign that The Crown won't shy away from holding a mirror up to the royal family's past, no matter how much respect it may tend to pay them throughout the series.