“17 Carnations” by Andrew Morton – the story of a royal couple and their entanglement with the Nazis

Andrew Morton is best known for the book he wrote about the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales as told from her point of view. This book, 17 Carnations, is about a previous royal love affair, that of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson. The particular issue which the author discusses is the question of how close the royal couple were to Nazi Germany and how far they sympathised with the regime.

The author takes the relationship from its start through to after the war and then discusses the attempts by various governments from that date to hide or fail to disclose material which would be damaging to the royal family as an entity. He uses lots of sources to back up his theories and these are usually diaries written at the time.

It is obvious that Edward was interested in Nazism and this has never been a secret. He was not the only prominent person to be attracted by the regime and he visited Germany and met Hitler. The question is, how far did he sympathise with the aims of Hitler and did he acquiesce in the German leader’s desire to invade Britain and set him up as a new ruler ?

The author has little sympathy for Edward or his bride and this shows in the way that he writes about them. His findings are that the abdicated king was just stupid and vain and got himself into a position where he may have appeared to be deeper into the intrigue than he realised. Although Edward didn’t want war and was very hurt by the rejection of his family and country after the abdication it is difficult to know whether he actually wanted to rule as a puppet king under Hitler or whether he realised what that would mean.

Wallis Simpson was more friendly with the Nazis than is always realised. The 17 carnations of the title were delivered to her every day before her marriage by Von Ribbenthrop who was the German ambassador in London and are supposed to represent each night that they spent together.

This is an interesting history and a lot of the most fascinating information is about how the British establishment tried to gather together incriminating documents to prevent the true entanglement of the royal couple with the Nazis ever being known – most of these are not available to historians even now. The book is well written and easy to read (I listened on audio) and illuminates a rather shady and unpleasant episode in the history of Britain’s monarchy.

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