OPERATION WILLI: The Plot to Kidnap the Duke of Windsor by Michael Bloch

OPERATION WILLI: The Plot to Kidnap the Duke of Windsor

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This reconstruction of the kidnap plot seems to clear the former King Edward VII of collaboration with and sympathy for the Axis cause in WW II. A complex, ritualistic dance of intrigue, in which the leading characters seem to be wearing many masks, is deftly probed by Bloch. All the evidence is not in, but it appears that what the Duke was guilty of was a loathing of war and a desire to play an important role in bringing peace to all concerned. To some, Windsor was a romantic and attractive figure, even a liberal and democratic one. To the English masses, he was a man who had seen service in the trenches and whose heart was in the right place. To others, he was weak and talked too much. His abdication to marry Wallis Simpson alienated him from family and the wellsprings of power. But Hitler and Ribbentrop dreamed of an alliance with the ex-king, who once had expressed himself in ways that might have been interpreted as friendly to their cause. The story of the Duke's travels from France to Spain to Portugal and finally to the Bahamas involves a motley crew of spies, officials and friends often working at cross purposes: powerful Germans plot against Ribbentrop's kidnapping idea; the Spaniards pretend enthusiasm for any idea that will keep the Nazis out of their country; the English seem at a loss to know what to do with their embarrassment--an unemployed ex-monarch. The kidnapping is never seriously mounted and Edward goes off to wartime duties in the Bahamas. The intrigue has given us a book in which the research is meticulous, the writing clear and, sometimes, suspenseful. But it helps if the reader is interested in the enigmatic Windsor.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (10 East 53 St., New York, NY 10022)