A tombstone in a small Canadian city suggests that there may be even more skeletons crammed into the already bone-riddled closets of Britain’s House of Windsor.
It all begins with Edward. The eldest son of King George V never really appreciated his Royal responsibilities. Called David by his family, he was a rebellious boy, raised by nannies. As soon as he was of legal age, he fought to fight and so served in the First World War. Much to his chagrin, he was kept safely back from the front. At the war’s end, he returned to devoting most of his time to bedding young women, many of whom were married. The tittering British public derided the Duke of Windsor as the Playboy Prince.
Partly to end the embarrassing trysts, the angry King put the randy Prince on the road. One of his tours brought him to Canada. In autumn 1919, he was in Galt, Ontario. Galt is one of three small towns that were later amalgamated to form Cambridge. The 25-year-old and his retinue checked into the Iroquois Hotel. Edward often demanded last minute schedule changes and sometimes missed events. He did it again at Galt and escaped his handlers. At this point, the line between fact and conjecture becomes somewhat murky.
According to local legend, the handsome and dapper young man wandered from the hotel and happened upon a 27 year-old teacher who was tending her garden. He introduced himself as David and claimed to be an underling with the Royal Visit. The beguiling and pretty Millicent Milroy was polite but confessed no interest in Royalty. He was entranced. They spoke for a while and then walked together to the Iroquois.
Millicent Milroy (generations.regionofwaterloo.ca)
Edward was soon on his way but suddenly quite interested in Canada. He purchased the Bedingfield ranch in Alberta. On a subsequent visit, he donated the Prince of Wales Trophy to the N.H.L.
Millicent – everyone called her Millie – went back to her students while the Duke’s recklessness with women intensified and was even debated in the British House of Commons. His father exclaimed, “After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months.” Among the many married women with whom Edward had illicit relationships was an American named Wallis Simpson. He tried to bring her to a Buckingham Palace event but the King and Queen refused to receive her.
Following the death of his father, on January 20, 1936 Edward became King Edward VIII. That November, he told Prime Minister Baldwin that when Mrs. Simpson’s second divorce was finalized, he wished to marry her. Baldwin was aghast. He said it would violate Church of England law and the British sense of moral decency. The Prime Ministers of various Commonwealth countries were consulted and Canada’s Mackenzie King expressed opposition. Millie was mum.
On December 11, 1936, people huddled close to their crackling radios to hear their King say, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.” Edward abdicated and his brother succeeded him as George VI. Film goers recently came to know the new king’s struggles to overcome a stutter in The King’s Speech.
The retitled Duke of Windsor fled England for Austria. He married Wallis Simpson in June 1937. The Royal Family was glaringly absent from the wedding. In fact, his brother threatened to end the Royal allowance if he ever returned to Britain.
While angry with his family, the Duke became an admirer of Adolf Hitler. Hitler had taken power in 1933, took Jewish rights the next year, and was soon taking chunks of Europe. After honeymooning in Nazi-occupied Austria, the Duke and his new wife visited Hitler. In October 1937, before a large Berlin crowd, he offered Hitler the straight-armed Nazi salute. They then enjoyed a 12-day tour of the country that included a long stay with Hitler and his top advisors at Berchtesgaden, the Fuhrer’s opulent retreat.
Duke, Duchess and Fuhrer (photo: en.wikipedia.org)
After the war, British and American authorities captured and sealed the meeting records but they have been recently released. They are reported in a book entitled 17 Carnations that was published just weeks ago by British writer Andrew Morton. The records contain a letter in which Edward calls Hitler “a very great man” and that it would be “a tragic thing for the world if he were overthrown.” The records also show that Hitler pledged to protect Edward and his wife if they would stay quietly in a Spanish chalet while Britain was attacked. After Britain’s fall, the Duke and Duchess would be moved to Buckingham Palace to reign as Hitler’s puppets.
Recently released Nazi diplomatic records note that the Duke was “the only Englishman with whom Hitler would negotiate any peace terms, the logical director of England’s destiny after the war.” Other documents reveal that Edward believed that his brother the King was ‘utterly stupid’ and that Churchill was a ‘war monger’. Their insistence on fighting Hitler, he believed, would needlessly waste British lives.
Following his German visit, the Duke, indeed, moved to Spain. He and Churchill began a brief correspondence and shortly afterward, the Duke and Duchess were moved first to Portugal and then, in August 1940, to the Bahamas. Churchill hoped the dangerous Duke would be safely away from his fascist friend.
Recently released FBI files indicate that President Roosevelt had them carefully watched. The FBI told the president that while in Austria, the Duchess had engaged in a torrid affair with Hitler’s ambassador to London Joachim von Ribbentrop. The romantic or conniving Nazi who would later be Hitler’s Foreign Minister, sent his lover 17 carnations – one for each day of their fling The FBI also told Roosevelt of proof that Herman Goering, Commander of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s designated successor, had concluded Hitler’s deal – the Duke would become the Nazi-dominated King after Britain’s defeat.
The plots and plans ended in May 1945 with Hitler’s death and silencing of the guns. The Duke and Duchess lived the rest of their days in pampered affluence and caused no further diplomatic stirs. Edward died at age 78, a forgotten relic, in May 1972.
The story then returns to Canada. The 80 year-old retired teacher, Millicent Milroy, had pre-arranged her funeral. She’d had a stone placed in the Mount View Cemetery. Two weeks after the Duke’s death, she had the stone carved to read: “Millicent Milroy, daughter of James and Helen Jane Milroy, 1892 – _______ Wife of Edward (VIII), Duke of Windsor, 1894 – 1972.”
A journalist was soon banging on her door, insisting to know if the stone was a joke. She explained that at the Iroquois Hotel in 1919, she and the Prince had become so instantly enamoured with one another that they had a “romantic encounter” and were secretly married. They agreed to keep their secret from the world until one of them died.
Some folks dismissed Ms. Milroy as a delusional loon. However, everything about her suggested otherwise. She had enjoyed a fine career and had always been an upstanding member of her community. She was perfectly lucid, with clear and vivid memories of all aspects of her life. She weaved no other tales linking her with any other important people or events.
Millie Milroy died in 1984. She never budged from her story and was buried beneath the stone insisting on its veracity. Perhaps it is just a story. However, when considered in light of other facets of Edward’s life that are only now being revealed and confirmed, maybe Galt’s Queen Millie deserves another look.
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