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60 years later in Britain, King Edward's loyalty is debated

December 11, 1996
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EST (0000 GMT)

From Correspondent Margaret Lowrie

LONDON (CNN) -- On the 60th anniversary of the abdication of King Edward VIII, the British government is releasing secret files about the Windsors in exile.

The papers may shed new light on the old question of whether the Windsors secretly advocated a German victory in World War II as a way to recoup the British throne. In 1936, Edward gave up the crown to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and became known as the Duke of Windsor.

One 1940 intelligence report from Prague claimed the Duchess of Windsor actually negotiated with Germany "desiring at any price to be Queen."

"I'd be surprised if she said that," said Philip Ziegler, Edward's official biographer.

"I would not be surprised if she had ... said to herself how nice it would be if Britain fell, if the royal family were driven into exile and if she and her husband then came back in triumph."

But while Edward was "a nightmare" for the government, he was no traitor, Ziegler asserted.

"I'm quite quite certain he would never have gone along with it. He was in his absurd way a very patriotic man."

Edward's image has been tarnished over the years by claims that, among other things, he lacked discretion and was a Nazi sympathizer. Or as Ziegler put it, Edward was prone to ill-timed speculation that the Germans would win the war.

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But the man who gave it all up after just 11 months on the throne was not always viewed as naive and foolish.

"He was a man who when young had charismatic charm, glowing with promise, enthusiasm, eagerness," Ziegler said.

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Whatever dreams the Windsors may have harbored together, Edward's enduring legacy is seen by many as an object lesson in how not to be Prince of Wales, how not to be king and how not to be a monarch in exile.


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