Revisionist Interpretation of the Life of the Duke of Windsor
The love-affair between the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson has provided material for several television dramas, notably EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON (1978) and W.E. (2011). Both follow the orthodox interpretation of events, wherein the lovers become a romantic duo forced to choose between romance and duty. The Prince of Wales opts for the former and has to abdicate as a result. The entire episode has been read as a rehearsal for the struggles experienced six decades later by Diana, Princess of Wales and her husband Prince Charles.
EDWARD VIII: THE TRAITOR KING puts a very different spin on events. With the help of evidence "unearthed from the archives," as the program-makers claim, plus interviews with some of the people around at the time of the Abdication and its aftermath, co-directors David Hart and Nick Raid claim that the Duke of Windsor regularly acted against the national interest. He consorted with Adolf Hitler, enjoyed Nazi hospitality at a time of increasing political strain between Britain and Germany, and subsequently interacted with several Nazi sympathizers and agents. During the Second World War the Duke of Windsor fled from Paris to the south of France and thence to Spain, where he continued to associate with Nazi agents. It was alleged that he became part of a master-plan whereby Hitler would restore him to the throne, once Britain had been conquered, and subsequently become part of a puppet regime similar to that of Vichy France.
Exasperated, Winston Churchill consigned the Duke of Windsor to a job as Governor-General of Bermuda. Yet still the Duke continued to be a thorn in Britain's side, as he tried to inveigle a journalist into talking to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and subsequently using Roosevelt as part of a grand plan to create a negotiated peace settlement, giving Hitler most of his territorial gains. It was hardly surprising in view of the Duke's behavior that he should have been ostracized by the Royal Family.
What the program lacked was a plausible explanation of why the Duke should have behaved like this. He was undoubtedly resentful at the way he had been treated by the British government, as well as his brother King George VI. Although the program-makers did not suggest it, perhaps the Duke's principal shortcoming was overweening self- interest. He seldom took other people's attitudes into account: everything had to be done for himself. By consorting with Hitler he hoped to be considered a great statesperson; likewise his desire for a negotiated settlement was provoked out of a desire to re-assume the kingly role. The fact that such schemes were contrary to the national interest never entered his mind.
Despite his behavior, the overwhelming feeling produced by this documentary was one of sympathy; that such an emotionally and intellectually immature personality should have been placed in such difficult social and political situations. He was clearly unsuited to the role of King; nor could he ever be considered an effective figurehead for Britain and its interests.
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