Historical Video: Duke & Duchess In Bermuda

October 20, 2019

Newsreel footage of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Bermuda while en route to the Bahamas during World War Two shows the couple arriving on the island aboard the liner Excalibur and fielding questions from the international press at Government House.

Four years after he had renounced his throne for “the woman I love”, the Duke arrived in Bermuda in August, 1940, accompanied by his American-born wife.

It was the former Edward VIII’s third time on the island — he had paid the first official Royal visit to Bermuda in 1920 when he laid the cornerstone of the Cenotaph and returned in 1931 while en route to Brazil.

When his father George V died in early 1936, Edward [1894-1972] — then Prince of Wales — succeeded him.

From the very outset of his short reign, he showed impatience with court protocol and British politicians were concerned by his apparent disregard for established constitutional conventions.

Only months into his reign, he caused a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to socialite Wallis Simpson [1896-1986], who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor at Government House during their 1940 Bermuda stop-over while en route to the Bahamas


Choosing not to end his relationship with Mrs. Simpson, Edward abdicated. He was succeeded by his younger brother Albert, who chose the regal name George VI.

Reigning for just 326 days, Edward was never crowned.

After his abdication, he was given the title Duke of Windsor and married Mrs. Simpson in France on June 3, 1937 after her second divorce became final.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War [1939-1945], the former monarch and his wife left their self-imposed exile in France and relocated to neutral Portugal.

Politically naive, the Duke was routinely courted by Nazi agents — some of whom suggested he would be re-installed as a puppet king if the Germans conquered Britain — and he was also given to making defeatist statements about the UK military’s prospects of prevailing against Berlin’s powerful war machine.

The British wartime Cabinet determined to diminish the Duke’s ongoing propaganda value to the Nazi regime by appointing him Governor of the distant Bahamas.

The first time the couple had set foot on British soil since leaving England in 1936, the week-long Bermuda stopover was not an unqualified success for the Duke and Duchess.

Newsreel footage of the Duke and Duchess in Bermuda

“On the ‘Excalibur’s’ arrival, I went out by launch and greeted the Duke and Duchess,” one-time Government House ADC Frank Giles recalled in his 1986 memoirs. “… A full-scale greetings ceremony had been laid on for the visitors when they landed from the launch at the [Royal Bermuda] Yacht Club.

“The Duke, not surprisingly, carried out his inspection and did all that was required of him in a manner made perfect by a lifetime of training. But his brow darkened when he saw what he could not avoid seeing: the failure of [any] of the greeting wives to curtsey to the Duchess.”

Denied the courtesy title “Your Royal Highness” by Buckingham Palace when she had married the Duke, orders had been received from London that the former Mrs. Simpson was not to be accorded the traditional forms of etiquette used when greeting a member of the Royal Family.

Later that same day the Duke confronted Frank Giles — who went on to a distinguished post-war career in British journalism — to complain about what he perceived as a deliberate snub to his wife.

Generally unimpressed by the Duke, Mr. Giles developed a quiet admiration for the Duchess of Windsor during the time he spent with her in Bermuda.

“She is a very clever woman,” he recorded in notes he made at shortly after the couple departed Bermuda. “… She is not intrinsically beautiful or handsome but she has a good complexion, regular features and a beautiful figure.

“More than all the charm of her physical appearance, though, is her manner: she has, to an infinite degree, that really great gift of making you feel that you are the very person whom she has been waiting all her life to meet.

“With old and young and clever and stupid alike she exercises this charm and during the week she was here, during which she met a number of people, I never saw anyone who could resist the spell — they were all delighted and intrigued.”

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