In 1936, Britain was shocked when King Edward VIII abdicated his throne six months into his rule to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. The abdication thrust his brother, George VI, onto the throne only a few years before the onset of World War II. Edward and Wallis became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and were essentially outcasts in British society for their actions. n 1937, the same year they were married, they made the inflammatory decision to visit Germany – against the advisement of the British government. During the 12-day trip, they paid a visit to none other than Adolf Hitler.
Although the British family has its fair share of secrets, perhaps the most alarming is that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were possibly Nazi sympathizers who, at the best simply made poor decisions, and at the worst were complicit in a treasonous plot to take the throne with Hitler by their side. In 1940, telegrams detailing Operation Willi, a plot to reinstate Edward as king, were intercepted in England. These messages were subsequently hidden by Prime Minister Winston Churchill until 1957. Read on for details of this bizarre and surreptitious moment from world history.
The Duke And Duchess Of Windsor Visited Hitler In Germany
In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated his throne in order to marry the love of his live, American two-time divorcee Wallis Simpson. The abdication shocked the country, but a year later the couple would do something even more scandalous — in 1937, Edward and Wallis, now the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, visited Adolf Hitler for a week at his vacation home. The visit wasn't terribly surprising, as Edward had been supportive of Germany prior to the onset of WWII. For instance, when Hitler occupied the Rhineland against all international wishes, Edward (still king at the time) protected the dictator from England's Prime Minister. Both the Duke and Duchess gave multiple Nazi salutes over the course of their trip, of which the royal family heavily disapproved.
In 1940, Nazis Allegedly Plotted To Kidnap The Duke And Put Him Back In Power
Hitler was incredibly fond of the disgraced British king, and was thrilled to have what he perceived as an English ally during the war. About a year into WWII, plans began arising to reinstate Edward as King of England, so that Hitler could have an ally on the throne. Of course, this never transpired, but the plan was seemingly well-thought-out, and would've gone ahead with or without the Duke of Windsor's consent. The plot, known as Operation Willi, involved the Nazis abducting the Duke and Duchess of Windsor until England was under German control. Then, the pair would be made King and Queen of England, with Hitler's full support.
At the time the Duke and Duchess were in exile in Portugal, and were about to be sent off to the Bahamas. It was imperative that the Germans keep the pair in Europe so the plan could go forward, and the Nazis even bribed the couple with a Spanish castle and $100,000,000 to get them to go to Spain on their own, without the need for an abduction. However, to the Germans' own detriment, they had convinced the Duke and Duchess that the British royal family was planning on murdering them, so the disgraced pair fled Europe for the Bahamas rather willingly.
Operation Willi Was Discovered Through Telegrams Intercepted During The War
Operation Willi probably would have merely been a dirty secret if not for the discovery of telegrams detailing the plot. The UK intercepted these German telegrams during the early years of the war, and claimed they were "unreliable;" nonetheless, the telegrams were kept secret for over a decade. In these telegrams were both the explicit plan to kidnap the Duke and Duchess (if they didn't go along with Germany's plan), as well as the apparent reactions from the Duke and Duchess, relayed by the Nazis.
Winston Churchill Worked Overtime To Keep The Plot Under Wraps
After the damning telegrams were intercepted, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was sent into a frenzy. It was actually after the war, in 1953, when Churchill began efforts to suppress the telegrams — he discovered a microfilm copy of the apparent evidence of the Nazi plot had been sent to the United States. Churchill implored President Eisenhower to conceal the documents, claiming they would give a misleading image of the Duke and his involvement with the Germans. Eisenhower agreed, dismissing the telegrams as German propaganda intended to weaken Western disdain and resistance.