By: Tuhin Chakraborty
To those who watched Season two of the hit Netflix series The Crown or simply know a thing or two about English history, it is clear that former English King Edward VIII, best known for his marriage/abdication controversy in 1936, was also a prominent supporter of the Nazi party and a valued asset to Adolf Hitler. Even before his departure from Buckingham Palace, it was rumored that his American wife-to-be, Wallis Simpson, was having an affair with the Nazi German ambassador to the U.K., Joachim von Ribbentrop, and that Simpson may have slipped confidential government information to Ribbentrop, while Edward VIII, perhaps intentionally, looked the other way. There were also allegations that, during WWII, Hitler and his inner circle sought to keep Edward and his wife in Europe. Edward had been appointed Governor of the Bahamas by Prime Minister Winston Churchill but Hitler wanted to utilize the royal’s influence against Britain and come to a “peaceful compromise” between the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany. Edward VIII was a “firm supporter” of this arrangement. How active or complicit Edward VIII was in this treasonous scheme is still unclear, but there are damning photos of Edward VIII inspecting what appear to be SS soldiers and performing the infamous “heil Hitler” salute while on a visit to Germany.
The Duke of Windsor (Edward’s title after his abdication) never seemed to regret or even downplay his Nazi sympathies, even decades after WWII. He confessed to admiring the Germans in his memoirs, and once blamed WWII on “Roosevelt and the Jews” in the 1950s. He even told a friend, in the 1960s that he “never thought Hitler was such a bad chap.”
However, despite his enduring pro-Nazi sentiments, Edward was still able to execute a successful public life until his death in 1972. He spent his time residing in a lavish villa in France, writing in national magazines, and giving interviews for networks like BBC. The Duke and Duchess and Duchess of Windsor were even the guests of honor at a White House state dinner hosted by Richard Nixon in 1970. This would not be the last time a United States President would fraternize with Nazi sympathizers.
With this scrutinizing glance at the life of Edward VIII, I cannot help but notice some striking parallels between our current president and the late English king. Both have been accused of using their power to collide with foreign nations to the benefit of said nations, be it with Edward VIII and his lover passing sensitive British information to a Nazi official, or the legion of Russian interference to Trump’s benefit in the 2016 presidential election. These events, however rumors and unconfirmed, do not bode well for the image of these political powerhouses. Both have also spoken favorably of Nazis in the past: notice how similar Donald Trump saying that some of the 2017 Charlottesville neo-Nazis may have been “fine people” sounds to Edward VIII saying that Hitler really wasn’t that bad. Both intentionally downplay the moral atrocities of their allies to enhance the power they gain by aligning themselves with these groups, whether it be regaining the British throne or securing votes from the South. Most poignantly of all, neither leader has been held accountable for his dubious actions and sentiments. Edward VIII died surrounded by luxury in France after living like a celebrity and Trump is somehow still able to call himself President of the United States and the leader of the free world. It is assumed that the political climate today is the result of learning from the past. But as history indicates, the parallels between the world leaders of today and yesterday are increasingly more prominent and urge diligent reflection of the status quo.