Sunday, January 16, 2005
German roots still a royal embarrassment
by Richard Woods
WHEN Harry appeared in Nazi uniform it left the rest of his family suddenly looking naked. In an instant, years of painstaking effort to smooth over the royals' past were stripped away as memories and suspicions of royal links to Hitler's Germany were resurrected.
The house of Windsor springs from the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert in 1840. He was the son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in Germany and his name became that used by the British royal family.
David Irving comments:
THUS, four days late, The Sunday Times, London, though without acknowledgment, picks up the threads of the story I revealed on January 13 -- Hermann Göring's birthday, as folks of a certain age will recall.
They have still played down Prince Philip's other next of kin -- the gauleiters and SS generals who married all his sisters, all of whom lived in Nazi Germany during WW2.
I wonder why.
A bit of a mouthful, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha turned out not to be Albert's real surname, which was Wettin, the name of another aristocratic German dynasty.
It was only in 1917 that George V, worried by the anti-German feeling caused by the first world war, ordered the royal family to scrap Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Wettin for Windsor.
Matters are still not that simple. The name of the royal house is Windsor, but the surname of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh [Prince Philip] is Mountbatten-Windsor. The duke is also from the house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and so, arguably, are his heirs.
However, more embarrassing than names the length of a bus are the family's links to Nazi Germany. The duke is Greek and some of his relatives sympathised with the Nazis; others joined them.
One brother-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse, was a member of the SS and flew fighters that attacked allied troops in Italy. In fact, so many of Philip's relatives had Nazi links that when he married Princess Elizabeth he was severely limited on the guests he could invite.
Like most of the British aristocracy in the 1930s, George VI and his wife, the late Queen Mother, hoped to avoid war with Germany. The king sent birthday greetings to Hitler weeks before Germany invaded Poland.
More notoriously, his brother, the former King Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor after abdicating in 1936, was sympathetic towards Hitler. Even in 1970 he told one interviewer: "I never thought Hitler was such a bad chap."
The duke and his wife, Wallis Simpson, had visited Germany in 1937 and were taken to meet the Führer. When they left, Hitler said of Simpson: "She would have made a good Queen."
Suspicions lingered that if Hitler had successfully invaded Britain, he might have tried to make the duke king again. Confidential files released in 2003 revealed that Nazi officials thought the duke was "no enemy to Germany" and would be the "logical director of England's destiny after the war".
Last year files released from the national archives revealed how a former head of British naval intelligence thought the duke's return was a real possibility. The British admiral, who had attended Hitler's 1937 Nuremberg rally, featured in an MI5 report as having said that Hitler "would soon be in this country, but that there was no reason to worry about it because he would bring the Duke of Windsor over as king".
Other royals also had links to the Nazis. Baron Gunther von Reibnitz, the father of Princess Michael of Kent, was a party member and an honorary member of the SS. And the brother of Princess Alice, a great-aunt to the Queen, was a Nazi who said that Hitler had done a "wonderful job".
Picture above: Duke of Windsor (and Robert Ley his host) greeted by Hitler, October 1937 (from David Irving's archive. Walter Hewel colelction - Hewel is standing on the steps in dark suit.)
Related item on this website:
- Queen Mum wanted peace with Hitler
- Churchill's fury at Duke of Windsor