26 September 2017

Sex Lives of the Kings and Queens of England - Ed­ward Prince of Wales

Nigel Caw­th­orne’s  book Sex Lives of the Kings and Queens of England (Carlton Publishing, 2004) proposed that there was more to fascination with royal sexual antics than mere prur­ien­ce. Throughout history, the sex­ual part­ners of royals could be a matter of life or death. Pol­itical alliances were often made on royal marriages, so the suc­cess of a marital relat­ion­ship could influence the nation’s foreign policies. Yes the British royal family no longer enjoys the power it once did, given that the constitutional monarchy is only a Head of State. Yet he also proposed that gross sexual mis­conduct by any of them could seriously undermine the position of the monarchy. How could those views compatible? I would have loved the author to provide his sources.
Prince of Wales' great love affairs.    Photo credit: Daily Mail

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.


Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, And 'society' used to complain about the 'low' morality of actors and opera singers! The Windsors as a couple have always disgusted me, and I hate to see so many books and articles (even now) that fawn upon them. Your last paragraph sums up the situation so well, although it leaves out Edward's revolting behavior towards his disabled brother John, which simply puts Edward in the sub-human category, prince-king of England or not.

Hels said...


when I first bought Sex Lives of the Kings and Queens of England, it was a bit worrying that the evidence might be titillating and baseless. But royal sexual antics did indeed seriously undermine the position of the monarchy. Wallis Simp­son was nasty because of her strongly pro-Fascist politics and colleagues. Ed­ward Prince of Wales, on the other hand, was nasty because he utilised married aristocratic women, lied to aristocratic (and less aristocratic) men, and celebrated sexual masochism and degradation. Family and empire meant nothing, apparently.

Anonymous said...

Poorly endowed and was a lacklustre performer????? Enough women must have agreed on this, in their diaries and letters. Otherwise how would we know?


Andrew said...

I am stunned. I knew little of all these associations, aside from the Mitford sisters' connection to the fascists. I think Jessica might have been the only decent Mitford, although I think Deb lived a fairly conventional aristocratic life.

CherryPie said...

I don't enjoy a professed 'non fictional' book that does not provide sources.

It leaves me in doubt... if I am interested enough in the subject, I will do some research to corroborate the information provided.

Some of the stories related here are in need of sources to back them up. Other stories are more widely known.

Hels said...

Republican and CherryPie

It is very difficult to know where this otherwise-hidden and controversial information came from. Of course we know that formal royal and religious records often omitted important data in any case, but I suspect that sexual data were always censored! Therefore if Cawthorne found private letters and diaries, the references should be published in the book.

Hels said...


David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale became known for his nasty right-wing views, particularly anti-Semitism. Ditto his wife but she wasn't in Parliament as her husband was.

But most of his Mitford children held perfectly moral positions and worked in valuable careers. Examine 1. Nancy Mitford (born 1904, novelist and journalist), 2. Pamela (born 1907, non-political), 3. Thomas (born 1909, died in Burma during WW2), 4. Diana (born 1910, Fascist), 5. Unity (born 1914, Fascist), 6. Jessica (born 1917, a civil rights activist and journalist) and 7. Deborah (born 1920, an aristocrat, writer and politically active).

Thankfully only Diana and Unity followed their father's politics closely.

Joseph said...

Have you read Sex Lives of the Popes by Cawthorne? Or his book Sex Lives of the Presidents?

Hels said...


Not yet. But I did have a look at the list of sexually active popes, Catholic priests who were not celibate before they became popes, and early popes who were legally married. Other popes were accused of being sexually active during their papacies and/or of having illegitimate children.


American presidents might be more interesting.

WoofWoof said...

Interesting that Edward had early romances which could have led to marriage but which were discouraged by the royal family (a bit like with Prince Charles with similarly disastrous consequences. Fortunately, they have now learnt their lesson and no one tried to stop William marrying an airline stewardess's daughter!). One thing I've often wondered about is the fact that Edward and Wallis never had any children. Wallis was 40 in 1936 so clearly still in her childbearing years. It was certainly convenient for the royal family. If they had had children, people would constantly be saying that they were the rightful heirs to the throne, and they themselves might have grown up feeling that resentment. Wallis herself never had children in her previous marriages so possibly she had a condition that stopped her conceiving. But perhaps it was, as you imply, that the Prince himself had issues (though there are rumours of illegitimate sons from the past). I do like the monarchy and especially the continuity it provides with the kings and Queens of the past but I think it is one of the weaknesses of the monarchical system that who one marries and the children you have becomes of such fundamental importance. This is not the case with most people/professions - your private life is your own concern and not of much importance to anyone else. Compare that with the royal family where marriage/heirs are probably the most important factors and in come cases (eg Henry VIII) it ended up dominating a whole period of history with huge consequences. Better to have a republic and let the ex-royal families lead something more like normal lives.

Hels said...


Just as you said, personal behaviour in the royal family will never remain private, as long as royal marriages/heirs need to be suitable, controlled and legitimate. But some cases led to great challenges and other cases were merely problematic.

For example King Charles II's queen was sterile, yet Charles recognised, honoured and gave estates to at least 12 of his own children, probably more. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth led a rebellion; George FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Northumberland commanded his father's troops in Europe; Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond was made Lord High Admiral of Scotland.

I think Britain dodged a bullet, given that King Edward VIII voluntarily abdicated. What might have happened, had he remained on the throne and married the love of his life?

WoofWoof said...

I'm not sure things would have been very different. As King in 1940, he may well have been tempted to appoint someone keen to make peace with Germany rather than Churchill. But on the other hand, he liked Churchill and would surely have remembered that he was one of the few politicians who supported him back in '36. Also, once stuck away in Bermuda, he never did anything to rock the boat or outside his remit

WoofWoof said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hels said...


Interesting issues, yes. When I was thinking about which royal to select from Sex Lives of the Kings and Queens of England, I might have chosen Edward The Caresser/Bertie The Prince of Wales. Without having to be diverted by Fascism throughout Edward's life (died 1910), Cawthorne wanted to show that a young royal's sexual behaviour could change the royal's own life of course, but would also influence his future marriage's success/misery, could divide a united court and government into factions, and might influence foreign nations as well.

mem said...

I would say that it is very fortunate that these people were both stupid and hell bent on fulfilling their own pleasures. Britain and the Empire dodged a big problem . I wonder if the contrast between what might have been and what eventuated in the diligence displayed by the royal family ( particularly the queen ) was partly due to the shock of just how appalling these empty headed twits were and how close the royal family came to producing such a poor king.

Hels said...


Excellent! "Empty headed twits" is an excellent description of hormone-charged 17 year old boys who think with their wrong organ. But all boys have to mature, eventually, whether they are princes in line for the throne or ordinary suburban husbands and fathers.

bazza said...

Sorry I'm late to the party - computer issues - new one being built now!
I am not a frequent user of the cliché "you couldn't make it up" but you couldn't, could you?
Although this makes salacious, almost gossipy, reading it has a serious undertone for the future of the monarchy. I would also be concerned about the lack of primary sources but the Royals can't really answer back in these cases. It would almost have been funny but the fascist elements are frightening.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s decorous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Hels said...


just in case we thought Edward was leading Wallis towards Fascism, have a look at this quote from a few weeks ago.

"Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor" (1988) by Charles Higham note that Wallis met an married Winfield Spencer, a naval aviator, in 1916, and agreed to join him in China. The American state files produced clear evidence that Wallis Spencer was hired as an agent for Naval Intelligence. The purpose of her _early 1920s_ visit to China, where she accompanied her husband who also worked for Intelligence, was to carry secret papers between the American Government and the warlords they supported against the Communists. In Peking her consort was Alberto de Zara, Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy, a Mussolini acolyte. While living in Shanghai in 1924-25, Wallis Simpson had a passionate affair with the handsome Fascist Count Galeazzo Ciano, later the son-in-law of Mussolini. Wallis and Winfield Spencer returned to the USA in late 1925 both committed Fascist supporters.

Edward, who felt ostracised and humiliated as a result of his abdication in _1936_, was outspoken in his criticism of Churchill and any war against Germany.

Joseph said...


Dr Heather Jones adds new insight into Prince Edward's support for Germany (BBC History Magazine Oct 2017).

When Edward was was allowed a junior staff officer role in France, he saw the First World War as a relentless slugging match, contested with savagery. The war left him with an abhorrence for communism and anger that the Bolsheviks had killed his Russian cousins - the tsar and his family.

From then on, he believed appeasement with fascism offered European peace. He admired how Hitler's National Socialism appeared to be improving the lives of Germany's poor. Edward became a fascist fellow-traveller; fascism seemed a modern answer to the communist threat that older traditional politics could not offer.