The Crown season 2: What are the Marburg Files? Was Edward VIII friends with Hitler?

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Season four of The Crown recently came to Netflix, leading some viewers to go back and watch the previous outings. Again, many fans are curious to know about the truth behind the show and what is real and what’s not. 

Episode six of The Crown season two – titled Vergangenheit and meaning “the past” in German – focused on Edward VIII (played by Alex Jennings) and his questionable links to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler.

As the instalment of the Netflix drama came to a close, the Duke of Windsor and his niece Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) has a tense conversation in which he spoke about being friends with the Third Reich.

The Queen had already been left shocked after reading the Marburg Files, top secrets files from the Second World War, but was even more so as she spoke to her uncle about his allegiances.

Despite her anger at the controversial relative, Edward defended his relationship and told her that it wasn’t “so long ago that we were friends” with Hitler. But how much is The Crown rooted in history?

What are the Marburg Files?

The Marburg Files were a series of top secret records from the Second World War made up of over 400 tons of foreign minister archives from Nazi Germany, as depicted in The Crown.

The files were diplomatic papers originally discovered by American soldiers in May 1945 at Schloss Marburg in Germany. 

Following the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945, the British, French and American historians agreed to publish the German foreign ministry documents seized by the Allies.

Historians from the three nations were given unparalleled access to go through the records and publish what they thought should be released into the public domain. 

While the historians were given unprecedented access to the documents, there was pressure to suppress some files. 

One of the most contentious records – known as the Windsor File – was the one with information relating to the Duke of Windsor and his attitude towards the Nazi regime.

According to an article – called The Windsor File – written by historian Paul R. Sweet: “An extensive literature on the Duke of Windsor already exists, and the difficulties the editors experienced in publishing what became known as the ‘Windsor File’  have already received considerable attention.”

The article published in the journal The Historian goes on to say: “These accounts are significantly impaired, however, because the documentation available to historians has been fragmentary.”

Sweet was the chief US editor of the German documents from 1952 to 1958. 

Was Edward VIII really a Nazi sympathiser?

Over the years, more information has come out about the Duke’s ambivalent attitude towards the Nazis.

Some of the Windsor files were not supposed to be opened for a century and the 1945 Labour government even made efforts to keep them concealed.

But these documents were eventually opened in 1996 at the Public Record Office in Kew.

The private papers, which were held by Foreign Secretary at the time Ernest Bevin, revealed the duke’s “ambivalent attitudes to a continuation of the war”, according to The Independent. 

There is also evidence to suggest that Sir Winston Churchill wanted to “destroy all traces” of telegrams of a Nazi plot to put Edward VIII back on the British throne, reported The Guardian. 


A cabinet file published earlier this year by the National Archives shows how the prime minister appealed to the French government and the US president at the time Dwight Eisenhower not to release the information. 

Real-life photographs show Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson with the Führer in Berlin in 1937.

In one image, both Simpson and the duke smile as Hitler warmly greets them and shakes the former’s hand. 

During the visit, the duke and duchess conducted a tour of Hitler’s housing and industrial projects.

The Crown seasons 1 to 4 are available to watch on Netflix now

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