Review: Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, by Andrew Lownie

First of all, that’s quite a title.

In polite company, one doesn’t throw around the word ‘traitor’ very casually. But Lownie has written about traitors before (I really enjoyed his book about Guy Burgess) and here he sets out to convince us that Edward and Wallis were not just naive people who might have been manipulated by some clever Nazis, not just ordinary British aristocrats who didn’t particularly enjoy Jewish company, but were in fact conscious and willing supporters of Hitler and his criminal regime.

He succeeds. He succeeds because he dug deep into the archives — both the British archives and more interestingly the German, Spanish and others. There he learned that the idea of Edward returning to the throne as a Nazi puppet ruler of a defeated Britain was one that the Duke could live with. It gets worse. After the abdication, Edward and Wallis travelled abroad, including a trip in 1937 to Germany where he was feted by the Nazi regime. There, among other things, he had very nice chat with Hitler at his Alpine retreat, the Berghof. And while much of the trip is well documented, there is no record of what they said.

Meanwhile, there is some evidence that Mrs. Simpson had an affair with Ribbentrop, the future Nazi foreign minister, while he was the German ambassador to London. Ribbentrop was not just a diplomat. He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Nuremburg tribunal and was hanged 75 years ago.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were anti-Semites and would have played the role of puppet rulers exactly as P├ętain did in France, or Quisling in Norway.

Fortunately, thanks to the RAF, they never got the chance.