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London, Sunday 21 October 2001

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Letters reveal Churchill's anger with Edward over abdication

By Sophie Goodchild,
Home Affairs Correspondent

SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL never forgave the Duke of Windsor for giving up the British throne, according to papers that are being kept secret at the request of the Royal Family.

Letters in which Churchill attacks the Duke for his abdication and subsequent marriage to Wallis Simpson have been excluded from an archive of the wartime Prime Minister's correspondence and only last week were reclassified as top secret until 2011.

The restrictions cover two folios of documents that were removed before the archive was presented to Churchill College in Cambridge in 1974.

Academics who have worked on the collection say that the secret documents reveal the full extent of the animosity between the men. They are also thought to provide further evidence of the Duke and Duchess's pro-Nazi views.

They are known to include several angry exchanges prompted by the Duke's desire to advise Churchill on how to conduct foreign policy. In one of the excluded letters the Prime Minister tells the Duke bluntly that he cannot accept advice from someone who "had given up the greatest throne in world history".

ChurchillThe existence of the letters will surprise many who had previously assumed that Churchill was forgiving of the former king's decision to abdicate.

It is thought that his references to the crisis are being kept secret at the request of senior members of the Royal Family. The Queen Mother is believed to be particularly sensitive about the events of 1936 and is known to have referred to the Duchess of Windsor as "that woman" and "the lowest of the low".

An academic who has worked on the archive said: "They are being hidden at the moment because even after all this time this is still a sensitive subject. Members of the Royal Family were alive at the time and still have strong feelings about the events surrounding the abdication. The whole issue is like a festering wound."

Louise Ellman, the Labour MP who has campaigned for greater disclosure on the issue, said: "I do think it is time the truth was made known and we should not try to protect people."

Churchill remained loyal during the abdication crisis and fought tirelessly for a compromise that might have let Edward keep the throne.

His lobbying surprised many colleagues and threatened his political career more than once. Disappointed by Edward's decision to stand down, he was steadfast until the end. During a Commons speech he declared that "no Sovereign has ever conformed more strictly to the letter and spirit of the Constitution than his present Majesty".

Despite such sentiments, several letters show that Churchill and the Duke did clash. The most frequent cause of hostility concerned arrangements for the Duke's posting in 1940 as Governor of the Bahamas.

Churchill took umbrage at the Duke's almost endless demands concerning everything from staffing to dental appointments.

The disclosure that further documents are being withheld has surprised Churchill's descendants. Lady Soames, Churchill's only surviving child, said she assumed that everything was on display. "I thought it was a complete archive," she said; however she declined to comment on her father's relationship with the Duke.

Sir Martin Gilbert, the biographer of Churchill, said: "I have never seen the letter about Churchill and the issue of the abdication. If I had I would have published it." A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: "The papers are held by the Public Records Office in Kew. Their status is reviewed every 10 years."

Earlier this year it emerged that letters had been removed from the archive of the first Viscount Monckton, the Duke's lawyer and intimate adviser, at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It was feared that they might embarrass the Queen Mother by disclosing further evidence of her animosity towards Mrs Simpson.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2001.

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