Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Royal Connection

US Person wants to start off this post straight away by saying he likes Queen Elizabeth. She is terribly expensive (£35.7m/yr), but she does achieve good press and pomp for the UK most of the time. That said, he is a republican with a small r, meaning he subscribes to democratic values. A monarchy is not one of those values, nor is the ability of the royal family to hide less appropriate images of itself in archives that are off-limits to the public. The monarchy is after all a public institution that survives on the public purse.

The latest flap over a young Princess Elizabeth giving the then new and silly Nazi salute (front page of the tabloid, The Sun) in a 1933 family video is, on the surface, rather silly in itself. But the video represents something much more embarrassing to the royals: the close relationship between its members and the Nazi regime in the thirties. Look at the 1937 photo of an openly admiring Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Not exactly a couple of Nazi haters, what? This photo was taken after the brutal intentions of the Nazis were fairly well known to the elite of Europe. The Dachau concentration camp was already open for business, taking in communists and homosexuals or anyone else critical of the new Nazi regime.  Edward, Prince of Wales, who appears in the video and encourages his 9 year-old niece to give the salute, was particularly known for his sympathy towards fascism. The cozy relationship between the germanic House of Windsor, formerly Sachen-Coburg und Gotha (9 Nazi party members), is the subject of a book by Karina Urbach at the University of London, Go-Betweens for Hitler. She says part of the shock associated with seeing a child princess and her mother give a Nazi salute is the fact no one is allowed to research in the royal archives at Windsor Castle's Round Tower relating to anything political after 1918. Urbach also says there was a purge of material after 1945. George VI sent Anthony Blunt, later outted as a Soviet spy but kept on the royal payroll, to remove an incriminating German Foreign Office "Windsor File" from Friedrichschof Castle and Marlenburg Castle. The Windsor File was eventually discovered in 1945. Churchill found the contents so distressing he asked Eisenhower to keep them secret for ten years. The documents were finally published in 1950.  After the Duchess of Windsor's death in 1988, royal staff removed letters from her estate so that very few of the Duke of Kent's correspondence is accounted for.  Most official royal documents from the 30's and 40's are classified secret until 2037, the so-called "100 year rule".

Sir Oswald Mosley inspects British fascists
Such absence of legitimate access is undemocratic. An influential Labour MP and member of Parliament's  constitutional committee wants access to the royal archives granted to researchers. Considering that the future king Charles is one of the "most influential lobbyist in the land", he said "we need to know the truth of it", referring to the relationship between a once future king who flirted with Nazis and Blackshirts. Aristocrat Oswald Mosley, whose first wedding was attended by George V, was a notorious anti-Semite and fascist right down to his jackboots. George VI and Edward VIII were both Germans through their mother, Mary of Teck, and great grandfather, Prince Albert. Prince Phillip had four sisters, three of whom were Nazi party members and one was married to a Luftwaffe pilot. His friend, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was a member of the SS. Thanks to the intervention of George VI, he was given a job in the Allied War Planning Councils after fleeing to England! Edward VIII was perhaps the most fawning British royal when it came to the Third Reich. He communicated with Hitler, who hoped Edward might become his "puppet king". Windsor thought a war was being fomented by "Reds and Jews", and that Hitler, "is a very great man".  After abdicating the throne to marry American Wallace Simpson, the couple traveled to Berlin and Berchtesgaden in 1937 to meet the "great man".

The Nazi associations go on. In the 30s and 40s, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and the Duke of Kent all worked for a German-British alliance. They led the anti-Churchill movement through to 1941. Edward went so far as to tell Hitler via an aristocratic relative, Duke Carl, that a German-British alliance was a political and military necessity. Some speculate that Edward's abdication was as an excuse used by Prime Minister Baldwin to remove a monarch that was too friendly to Nazi Germany. As late as 1938 George VI, seeking to strengthen relations with the Nazis, joined the German Hunting Brotherhood. He was unable to see Hitler himself so he sent his younger brother, the Duke of Kent, as envoy instead. Finally outraged by Edwards efforts from occupied Paris to appease the Nazi regime that wanted him restored to the throne he abdicated, Churchill ordered him to the Bahamas as British Governor for the duration. He even had to threaten Edward with a court-martial when he dragged his feet en route at Lisbon to intrigue with Nazi operatives. He left Lisbon on August 1, 1940, a year after England had declared war.  Buckingham Palace was bombed nine times in the ensuing weeks; a bomb exploded one floor below the king's study. King George took it personally.

Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh, 2nd r, at sister's funeral
Of course these alarming royal connections must be understood in the context of the times.  The Great Depression was devastating the middle class, so the social gap between aristocrats and ordinary citizens was never wider in modern times.  European elites were obsessed with the threat communism posed to their affluence. Fascism was widely viewed as an acceptable alternative to the "red menace". Echos of British aristocratic fascism are seen in the period film drama, Remains of the Day. However, actual historical context in which to understand their obvious naivet√© about German fascism is exactly what is missing because the royals can suppress their sometime questionable past behind privilege. There is no room for such privilege in an era of corporatist dominion; who knows what other shocking material lies hidden in the Round Tower?