In the first season of The Crown, the Duke of Windsor, formerly known as King Edward VIII, was shown abdicating his thrown so that he could marry Wallis Simpson, deemed inappropriate by the family because she was divorced. The Duke came across as trivial and annoying, but generally sympathetic. The second season of the series is far less kind to him. In fact, Episode 6 concluded with photos of the real Duke of Windsor and Hitler pictured together, signifying his ties to Nazi Germany at the height of their power. While the plot of the series shows events that could be fiction, the photos themselves prove that the Duke did, at least, meet with Hitler. Warning: spoilers for Episode 6 ahead!
The episode opens in a flashback, as a collection of particularly damning documents about the Duke of Windsor comes to light. John Lithgow returns as Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and Jared Harris as King George VI in the episode, as they agree together to suppress what they call the Marburg Files. These files apparently detail the Duke's fervent sympathies with Nazi Germany and the Third Reich. It is impossible to know the precise truth of this, but the episode does show photos of the Duke and his wife with Hitler, which certainly doesn't work in their favor.
It's during the sixth episode that the papers resurface, and the Americans are saying that they would like to publish them. Meanwhile, because timing, the Duke himself has returned to England to beg his niece, Queen Elizabeth, to allow him to take a job — preferably as a diplomat. This request comes immediately after Elizabeth learns about his Nazi ties, but not before she is told that the German government planned to reinstate the Duke (or "Uncle David") as King of England once German forces had won the war. The show also alleges that the Duke encouraged Germans to continue bombing Britain because it would soon be ready for peace. Considering all that Great Britain suffered in World War II, Elizabeth finds this to be unforgivable.
The truth is that this version of events cannot be proven as absolute fact. The documents do, in fact, exist and came to light in 1957. According to The Guardian, Churchill did try to suppress the papers when he was Prime Minister, but not all reports paint the Duke in quite the same light. Reportedly, Churchill appealed to the United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower not to publish the papers, arguing that the German plot to reinstate Edward VIII was "unreliable," and that they would mislead people to believe that the Duke had close personal ties with German agents and that he was disloyal. Eisenhower apparently agreed that the telegrams were "completely unfair" to the Duke. Rather than the Duke being an active part of the plan, he was supposedly to have been lured to Spain and then kidnapped, which was why the government sent him to the Bahamas for his own protection. After the papers were published, the Duke said that they were completely false.
Though the royal family did indeed distance themselves from the Duke of Windsor, his position as a Nazi sympathizer has been pretty well-documented. Though the Duke of Windsor is no longer around to answer pointed questions about his feelings about Hitler and the Nazis, the incontrovertible photographic evidence of him in Nazi Germany is worrisome, to say the least. On The Crown, the Duke insisted that his meetings with the Germans were well-intentioned and his main goal has always been to help his country. Thankfully, Elizabeth sent him packing and delivered what may be her best parting line on the series: "There is no possibility of my forgiving you. The question is, how on earth can you forgive yourself?" How indeed.
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