Skip to main content

Duke, Duchess, And Füfchrer

June 2024
1min read


Thank you for the stimulating articles about World War II in the December issue. The most fascinating to me was Fulton Oursler, Jr.’s “Secret Treason,” which reveals the Duke of Windsor’s sentiments in favor of peace with Hitler’s Third Reich.

The article cites the interview between Mr. Oursler, Sr., and the Duke in December 1940. Other evidence shows that the Duke had already been considered, by Hitler himself, as part of a scheme to force a peace treaty.

In July 1940, as he was considering the invasion of Britain, Hitler actually planned to kidnap the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and spirit them to Berlin, whence the Duke would then appeal to the British people to change governments and seek peace—whereupon the Duke would return to the British throne.

The Duke and Duchess were in residence in Portugal during the summer of 1940, and the German plotters were attempting to lure them back to Spain where the Nazi-sympathetic Franco regime would permit such a deed to go unhindered.

After several weeks the Nazis accelerated their efforts as the royal family prepared to depart for their new Bahamian post (the site of the interview with Mr. Oursler). Both gentle persuasion and terror were attempted—invitations for hunting trips, threats of assassination in anonymous letters, bomb scares, and sabotage—but the Duke and Duchess could be neither convinced nor coerced to alter their plans.

The scheme probably would not have succeeded in undermining Churchill’s government or sapping British resolve; in fact, the kidnaping would likely have emboldened even the most peaceably inclined. The slightest appearance of complicity on the part of the Duke, however, would have created an outrage even greater than the one forecast by Mr. Oursler, Sr., given the setting (Berlin) and the partner (Hitler).

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate