images and captions added by this website]
Philip: a Prince of German blood, whose four
sisters had all married Germans and whose
brothers-in-law had fought for
London, Saturday, December 1, 2007
Prince Charles Edward (right), an SA
Gruppenführer, with friend: note the SA
(Brownshirt) cap on the table
Nazi Relative the Royals Disowned
BEHIND the Queen's diamond
wedding is the extraordinary untold story of how
her marriage was almost scuppered by Philip's links
to one of Hitler's closest henchmen...
The scene was one of devastation and
At a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, in the
weeks following the death of Hitler and the fall of
the Third Reich, a 60-year-old man, crippled by
arthritis, stumbled painfully round a rubbish
I WAS nearly thrown out
of a BBC TV programme for remarking,
casually, that Prince Philip has survived
his four elder sisters, all of whom
married German princes who were SS or SA
(Brownshirt) generals or gauleiters during
the Hitler era.
Needless to say none was
invited to the 1947 Royal Wedding, in case
their spouses came clanking down the aisle
in full black regalia, no doubt.
The BBC interview came at the time of the
press vilification of Princess Michael
of Kent; they suddenly claimed that
her father had been an Austrian SS
I was invited to the BBC Breakfast Show to
discuss the uproar with Gill Hornby --
who was at that time dating (and later
married) that admirable author Robert
As I explained the
ulterior reasons for Buckingham Palace's
nervousness at the newspaper fuss --
namely that Fleet Street still had to
learn that the Duke of Edinburgh's four
sisters had all spent the war years in
Nazi Germany, I saw the producer blench
and draw one finger across his throat --
an indication to halt the interview at
once. None of them believed what I had
Prince Philip's sister Princess
Sophie of Greece and Denmark, who died
as recently as 2001, was first married to
Prince Christoph of Hesse, who was
killed in a plane crash in Italy on
October 7, 1943; he had the most
interesting role. An SS
Obergruppenführer , he headed
Hermann Göring's top secret
Forschungsamt, about which agency I wrote
two books -- Breach of Security
(1967) and (in German) Das
Reich hört mit. The agency
was the Nazi Wiretap and codebreaking
agency, the equivalent of the American
The FA gave
Hitler his certainty of action in
1938, when he forced the Munich Agreement
on the Czechs (he had been listening to
their telephone chatter between Prague and
London, the lines running across German
soil); and in August 1939, when he
listened to the chatter of the ambassadors
in Berlin with the governments in Warsaw,
London, and Paris.
A clever man, that Adolf.
- Princess Margarita of Greece and
Denmark (1905-1981) married Gottfried,
8th Prince of
- Princess Theodora of Greece and
Denmark (1906-1969) married Berthold,
Margrave of Baden;
- Princess Cecilie of Greece and
Denmark (1911-1937) married Georg
Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of
- Princess Sophie of Greece and
Denmark (1914-2001) married first
Prince Christoph of Hesse-Cassel, and,
after his death in 1943, Prince George
William of Hanover.
typical Braunes Blatt produced by the FA;
they were hecto- graphed in blue on brown
paper, the "brown Pages"
He scrabbled in the rotting refuse until he
discovered an old tin can. Starving, he pulled up
grass to add to the thin soup his American captors
allowed him for sustenance.
No one looking at him would have believed that
this forlorn figure had once been one of the
richest and highest-ranking men in Britain, a royal
duke, the grandson of Queen Victoria, a Knight of
the Garter, and the first cousin of kings and
Prince Charles Edwards, a German duke, was branded
a 'traitor peer' in Britain
Against his own wishes, fate had exiled him to a
land where he never chose to live and placed him on
the losing side in two World Wars.
Now he was a prisoner, ostracised by his royal
relations and branded a traitor to his country.
The tragic history of Prince Charles
Edward, to be explored next week in a TV
documentary, has a certain ironic relevance to the
recent diamond wedding anniversary celebrations of
the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
Sitting quietly in Westminster Abbey at the
service of thanksgiving two weeks ago was a small
group of former royal personages with names and
faces hardly known to the British public.
Their presence was significant.
It testified to the fact that the marriage of
Elizabeth and Philip, though a popular fairy tale
in the glamour-starved years of post-war austerity
and now regarded as a source of stability to
Britain's monarchy, was by no means hailed with
rejoicing in royal circles 60 years ago.
In fact, evidence that
is still held off-limits in secret archives
suggests that it almost never happened at
The little group of ex-royals to whom I have
referred were described in the media as "Prince
Philip's distant German relations".
Relations, yes. Distant, no.
They were Philip's nieces and nephews, the
children of his sisters, all three of whom were
excluded from receiving invitations to the royal
wedding in 1947, owing to the fact that their
husbands were German officers, in some cases with
strong Nazi connections.
Philip's youngest sister, Princess Sophie of
Hanover, had married Prince Christopher of
Hesse-Cassel, who was an SS Colonel attached to
Heinrich Himmler's personal staff and became head
of the sinister Forschungsamt
-- a security service under Hermann
Göring's command that carried out
surveillance on anti-Nazis.
Sophie and Christopher even named their eldest
son Karl Adolf in Hitler's honour.
Christopher's brother, Prince Philip of
Hesse-Cassel, had joined the National Socialist
party in 1930, becoming the Nazi governor of Hesse
in 1933, and later acted as the liaison between
Hitler and Mussolini.
Our own Prince Philip, who Anglicised his
name to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, really had
the German-sounding family name of
Although his marriage to the young Elizabeth was
skilfully promoted and manipulated by Philip's
uncle, Lord Mountbatten, and the Princess
had been deeply infatuated with the tall, blond,
Viking Prince for at least eight years, the match
was bitterly opposed at the very highest
Leading the opposition was Philip's future
mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth, afterwards
the hugely popular Queen Mother.
One of her brothers, Captain Fergus
Bowes-Lyon, had been killed at 26 fighting at
the Battle of Loos in 1915. Queen Elizabeth had a
dislike of Germans, and this had increased through
the scenes of destruction she had witnessed during
her visits to the blitzed areas of Britain.
Now, here was her
daughter, who would one day be monarch,
proposing to marry -- only two years after the
defeat of the Third Reich -- a Prince of German
blood, whose four sisters had all married
Germans and whose brothers-in-law had fought for
Queen Elizabeth, who had great shrewdness and a
highly-developed sense of expediency, was aware
that there was a new, post-war spirit of
republicanism in the air.
She thought this marriage -- to a man she
referred to in private as "The Hun" -- was
dangerous, and that it risked reminding people that
her husband's family was German in origin,
descended from the Hanoverians, and that her own
mother-in-law, Queen Mary, was a German
"Queen Elizabeth opposed the marriage," said her
friend, the Dowager Lady Hardinge of
"She distrusted the Mountbattens, and felt that
her daughter ought to marry a British duke. She
lobbied against it, and said to me at the time:
'The trouble is that Philip is so impossibly
attractive, and Lilibet (Princess Elizabeth) just
cannot see beyond that.'"
In the end, with deep misgivings, the King and
Queen gave their consent and the marriage went
But Philip's sisters and their husbands were
The only member of his German family to be
invited was his mother, Princess Alice, and even
she was requested to divest herself of the sombre
grey nun's habit she had adopted after suffering a
nervous breakdown when her bisexual husband, Prince
Andrew of Greece, left her for a mistress in Monte
But there was one royal figure whose scandalous
life and career perhaps did more than anything else
to unite the opposition to Philip's entry into the
This was his cousin, the British-born Prince
At the time of Philip's marriage, Charlie was
living in obscurity and utter disgrace, ostracised
by all but one of his royal relations and reviled
as a traitor to Britain.
The Channel 4 documentary traces the tragic tale
of how this man, born into the British Royal
Family, was forced against his will into accepting
a German dukedom, found himself fighting for the
Kaiser in World War I, was deprived of all his
British titles and branded a "traitor peer" -- and
then, even more tragically, assisted Hitler's rise
to power and ended his days as a convicted
HIS Royal Highness Prince Leopold Charles Edward,
second Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron
Arklow, was born at Claremont House, Surrey, on
July 19, 1884.
He was Queen Victoria's favourite grandson. King
George V was his first cousin -- as were Kaiser
Wilhelm II of Germany, and Russia's last Czar,
"He was a very happy little boy," says his
But Charlie, as he was known in the family, had
a tragic destiny in store for him.
When he was a carefree 14-year-old schoolboy at
Eton, his mother, the widowed Duchess of Albany,
wrote to him: "Don't forget work and duty over your
pleasures. Don't be lazy and indolent.
"If my words read hard, understand that they
come out of a full heart, full of love and anxiety,
to help you become a good man, so that you bring no
shame on Papa's name."
But while he was still only a boy, his
grandmother, Queen Victoria, made a decision that
was to ruin his life.
She decreed that Charlie should become Duke of
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the German principality from
which the Queen's husband Albert had come.
Charlie's granddaughter Victoria says: "He
didn't know anything about Germany. He couldn't
even speak the language. He didn't want to go".
But Queen Victoria insisted.
And so, at 16, Charles
Edward was forced to leave his home and become
Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, with
13 castles in Germany and Austria, hunting
lodges, hotels, a power station, tens of
thousands of hectares of rich arable farmland in
Bavaria and a duchy with an income worth
£17million in today's value.
He was enrolled at Germany's top military
academy by the bombastic Kaiser, who then married
off Charlie to his own niece, Victoria, by whom he
had three sons and a daughter.
And when, in 1914, war was declared following
the assassination of the heir to the
Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz
Ferdinand, Charlie found himself in the
nightmare situation of fighting for the Kaiser
against the country of his birth.
In Britain, as the great monarchies of Europe --
the Hapsburgs of Austria, the Romanovs of Russia,
and finally the Hohenzollerns of Germany -- tumbled
from power, Charlie's first cousin, King George
V, hastened to dump the German name of
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and adopted Windsor as the new
title of Britain's royal dynasty. Charlie was left
high and dry.
After the war ended in 1918, worse was to
follow. George V removed all Charlie's British
titles as well as the status of Royal Highness, and
struck his name from the register of the Knights of
the Garter. He was declared 'a traitor peer".
Germany was now a republic, and Charlie,
believing that Communism was responsible,
tragically allied himself with the extreme
right-wing group led by a charismatic and
ranting former army
corporal -- Adolf Hitler.
By 1933, when Hitler seized power as Chancellor
of Germany, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg was among his
most fervent supporters.
Charlie returned to Britain in 1936 to attend
George V's funeral, but because he no longer had
the right to wear a British uniform, he
shockingly wore German
military attire, complete with a stormtrooper's
As president of the newly-formed Anglo-German
Fellowship, he tried to engineer personal dealings
between his cousin, the new pro-German King
Edward VIII, and Hitler.
When Edward's abdication only 11 months later
scuppered that plan, Charlie again found himself
out in the cold, treated with icy distance by the
new King, George VI, and his dominant and
strong-minded consort, Queen Elizabeth, who wanted
no part of him.
Hitler made him president of the German Red
Cross, in which he presided over the horrific
programme of enforced euthanasia, in which some
100,000 mostly disabled people, including children,
judged by the Nazis unworthy of life, were
murdered. The extent of his involvement in this
barbarism was never really established.
When war inevitably came in 1939, Charlie once
again found himself on the wrong side.
His three sons were sent to fight for the
Germans, and one of them, Prince Hubertus,
was killed on the Eastern front.
As the Allies advanced, Hitler, before
committing suicide in his crumbling Berlin bunker,
sent a telegram to Charlie in Coburg, warning him
not to fall into the hands of the Americans.
Yet that is precisely what happened.
In spite of being a cousin of King George VI, he
was held in the harshest internment camps.
The one member of the British Royal Family who
had always stood by him, his sister Princess Alice,
Countess of Athlone, flew to Germany with her
husband and was horrified to find him starving,
"scavenging on a rubbish dump to find a tin to eat
Put on trial as a Nazi, Charlie pleaded not
He claimed he had acted honourably and did not
know of any crimes by the regime. He was not
Though he was exonerated of complicity in actual
war crimes, he was judged to have been "an
His houses and estates were confiscated, and he
was almost bankrupted by heavy fines. Only his
failing health saved him from remaining in
Now a penniless, convicted criminal, he was
given a chauffeur's cottage in the stables of one
of his estates.
"He thought it was wonderful," relates his
"He had everything he loved.
"He had his wife, he had pictures, he had his
little dog. And it didn't matter how small, it
could have been even one room, he would have been
happy not to be in prison any more."
By this time, Charles Edward had cancer, he was
crippled by arthritis and blind in one eye.
He was exiled for ever from Britain and would
never be permitted to return to the land it was
deemed he had betrayed.
Yet, even in his disgrace, he was unable to let
go of his royal birthright.
In 1953 he made one last journey from his house
to a cinema in Coburg, to watch a colour film of
the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster
His granddaughter Victoria says: "I think he
would have cried, seeing all his relations,
especially his sister, and he would have thought:
'So sad I can't be there with them. It could have
been me sitting there, too.'
"And for him, I think that must have been the
The man ordered to leave his homeland as a
16-year-old Eton schoolboy clung on to one last
memento he had brought with him from England.
"He always slept in a particular bed, which came
from Claremont House. He said it was his little bit
of England, as he could never come to England
He died in that bed on March 6, 1954, at the age
Prince Charles Edward, sometime Duke of Albany,
and later, at his grandmother Queen Victoria's
insistence, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, is never
mentioned today in the British Royal Family.
He has been airbrushed from the history of the
House of Windsor.
Yet his adored sister Princess Alice,
Countess of Athlone, became one of Britain's
best-loved royals, a game old lady who was the only
member of the Queen's family to travel on public
She made her final appearance on the balcony of
Buckingham Palace in 1977, at the age of 94, for
the Queen's Silver Jubilee, standing in almost the
same place as she had as a child, 90 years earlier,
for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. She died in
Elizabeth II has made four State visits to
Germany, but Coburg, where her disgraced cousin
Charlie reigned as Duke, remains one town she has
Hitler's Favourite Royal is on Channel
4 at 9pm next Thursday.
download (in German): Das Reich Hört
mit -- David Irving's exclusive history of
the German wiretap agency and codebreaking unit,