I loved every chapter, but my favourite was The Greatest Love Story Ever Told that dealt with the Edward Prince of Wales (1894-1972). During WW1, the Prince was taken to a Calais brothel where he found the sight of female genitalia revolting. He had his first sexual experience in Amiens, then took up with a courtesan in Paris.
Back in London, the Prince courted Lady Sybil Cadogan, his sister’s best friend, and wanted marriage in 1917. The next affair was with Lady Rosemary Leveson-Gower, a society beauty who the prince wanted to marry in 1918. Edward loathed his parents, incensed that they prevented him from marrying Lady Rosemary. Anyhow she married William Ward, 3rd Earl of Dudley, in March 1919.
Then Edward chose married woman - the still-married Marian Coke, his much adored lover Freda Dudley Ward (divorced wife of an MP who was vice chamberlain of the Royal Household) and the married American heiress Audrey James. Best of all was Lady Thelma Furness, the daughter of an American diplomat who eloped at 16, divorced and then married the shipping magnate Viscount Furness. Thelma joined the Prince in Kenya in 1928 where the two fell passionately in love.
In time Thelma complained her royal lover had been poorly endowed and was a lacklustre performer. Did Thelma’s lack of excitement come from the Prince’s homosexual preferences, as described by the writer Lytton Strachey (1880–1932)? Luckily Thelma soon met the well-endowed playboy Aly Khan, son of the Aga Khan.
Louis Mountbatten drew up a list of 17 eligible young royals, including Greek Princesses Margarita and Theodora, and 18-year-old Princess Ingrid of Sweden who arrived in London in 1928. But for the Prince of Wales in his mid-30s, there was little of interest amongst these royals.
Note that Thelma Furness’ best friend was the American Wallis Simpson whose first husband had been the sadistic, bi-sexual navy flier, Earl Winfield Spencer (married 1916). To make married life less miserable, Wallis had affairs with foreign diplomats. In Shanghai and in Peking she enjoyed delightful affairs with wealthy American men, then a fine lesbian affair with Admiral FH Sadler’s wife. And Italian men must have been very attractive to Wallis Simpson since she went out with the Italian Naval Attache Alberto de Zara and with the married Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s son in law & Italy’s Foreign Minister.
Wallis returned to the USA and met British shipping executive and Coldstream Guards officer, Ernest Simpson. As both Wallis and Ernest were married to other people, they had to arrange hasty divorces. They married in 1929 and returned to Britain to live. Soon Wallis travelled to France with Consuela Thaw and Gloria Vanderbilt, who was in the middle of a torrid, gay affair with another aristocrat.
Freda Dudley Ward, Prince Edward, Viscountess Furness, Prince George of Hanover 1932. Photo credit: Daily Mail
By 1935 King George V was alarmed that his son was having an affair with Wallis Simpson, but the Prince didn’t care.
Wallis noted the extreme lack of virility that Thelma Furness had complained so explicitly about years ago and it is doubtful whether the couple ever had sexual intercourse. Wallis taught him erotic games based on nanny-child scenes in which he was happily submissive.
Although Wallis was entertaining Edward's foot fetishes, she still had her own needs. While Nazi Germany was invading the demilitarised Rhinelands, Wallis was having an affair with Germany’s ambassador to Britain, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop believed that the Prince of Wales would eventually dictate British foreign policy, so he convinced Hitler that the Nazis had the Prince's support. How much did the German ambassador know from the Prince of Wales himself, and how much did he learn in bed from Wallis?
Wallis made it clear in her letters that she did not love her Prince, but she enjoyed her power over him. He was a masochist who liked being degraded, as Freda Dudley Ward had also noted.
Prince Edward admired Hitler's economic and social reforms, infuriating the British government by saying that Britain should offer the Nazis friendship. Edward wanted to speak privately with Hitler and claimed he would abandon his eventual throne, if the British Prime Minister declared war on Germany.
In Jan 1936, King George V died & Edward was crowned King Edward VIII, still determined to marry Wallis! A divorce was speedily arranged for Mrs Simpson, but prime minister Stanley Baldwin said it wouldn’t help – the king could never marry a multi-divorced foreigner. When the scandal broke in the British newspapers, Wallis fled to France. But King Edward abdicated in Dec 1936 anyhow, after only one year. Wallis’ divorce was finalised in May 1937.
The Duke and Duchess with Adolf Hitler, 1937
The Duke of Windsor finally got married in June 1937. Cut off from the British royal family, the Duchess became the closest friend of Diana Mitford, wife of the British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley. Diana’s sister Unity, an intimate of Hitler's, had introduced Diana to the Fuhrer back in March 1935. Note that Lady Mosley’s marriage took place in Joseph Goebbels’ home, with Adolf Hitler as guest of honour.
Edward wanted to become a figurehead for an international movement for peace on Hitler's terms, meeting the Fuhrer at his mountain retreat of Obersalzberg. He also met Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess twice, planning to see him re-installed as puppet monarch, if the Nazis invaded Britain.
In 1947, Cawthorne reported, the Duke was involved in a torrid affair with Jimmy Donahue, New York heir to the Woolworth fortune. Noel Coward, who became a close friend of the Windsors after the abdication, also liked Jimmy Donahue. The Duke, Duchess and Donahue travelled together, but the menage a trois foundered because of the growing entourage of rent boys.
So I don’t mind if Edward was straight, gay, celibate, submissive or a pole dancer. No do I mind that Wallis was divorced, foreign and sexually exotic. But I do care that both of them were close to Nazi politics, social policy and economics. They had an association with the British Union of Fascists, Oswald and Diana Mosley, Hitler, Goebbels and Hess, and planned to retake the British throne on behalf of the Germans.