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Since 1st March, 1999
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- By wearing a Nazi armband, Harry has reclaimed his inheritance
Dirty Harry

The sporting of a Nazi armband by Harry Windsor could be written off as a misadventure by a spoilt, ignorant and insensitive 444prince had it not been for bits of history which are conveniently forgotten.

It is not always remembered in Britain and elsewhere that sections of British royalty and aristocracy were vocal supporters of Hitler and the Nazis till Britain declared war on Germany. The most remarkable reminder of this was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro in which a loyal butler recorded the support to Hitler he had heard expressed in his master's drawing room and dinner table. The novel articulated with an enviable lightness of touch a social phenomenon which Britain's triumph over the forces of Nazism has all but obliterated in public memory.

The support for Hitler came from the highest echelons of British society. Edward VIII, in his incarnation as the prince of Wales and later as the Duke of Windsor, was open in his pro-Nazi views. A conversation between the journalist, Robert Bruce Lockhart, and the Kaiser's grandson, Louis Ferdinand, revealed that the prince of Wales was 'quite pro-Hitler, [he] said it was no business of ours to interfere in Germany's internal affairs either re Jews or re anything else, and added that the Dictators were very popular these days and we might want one in England before long'. The historian, Andrew Roberts, has noted that the prince's support for the Nazis brought forth a sharp reprimand from his father in June 1935 when the prince had declared his friendship for Hitler's Germany in a speech to ex-servicemen.

The brief reign of Edward VIII was marked by displays of support and sympathy for Hitler and Mussolini. When the exiled emperor of Abyssinia, Haile Selassie, arrived in London in 1936, he was given short shrift by the royal family on the King's explicit instructions. This was done to please Mussolini, who had invaded and annexed Abyssinia. Only the Duke of Gloucester was allowed to meet the exiled emperor, and that too for only five minutes.

The greatest show of solidarity for Hitler came from Lord Londonderry, an almost forgotten figure retrieved from oblivion recently by Ian Kershaw in his book, Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War. Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, was the scion of one of Britain's grandest and richest aristocratic families. He was a pillar of the Conservative Party, and the King called him Charley. He was host to members of the royal family very frequently, and the political establishment of Britain, including prime ministers, were guests at his table. He counted Winston Churchill among his close relatives.

The crowning moment of his political career was when he was appointed as Air Minister in 1931. The date is important since it coincides with Hitler's rise to power in Germany. Londonderry was instinctively pro-German and, even after leaving office in 1935, he continued to meet Hitler in Germany. He enjoyed staying as Goering's guest in his hunting-lodge. He wined and dined with leaders of the Nazi party, especially Ribbentrop, who presented Londonderry with a statuette in white Meissen porcelain. The statuette depicted a helmeted SS man carrying a Nazi flag and it stood in a prominent place in Londonderry's study in his ancestral home in Belfast.

Londonderry thus earned the reputation of being Hitler's strongest apologist in Britain and he was dubbed 'a Nazi Englishman'. It would be an error to assume that Londonderry's political sympathies were atypical of his class. Among the peerage alone there were many who were in the vanguard of the quest to befriend Hitler. Duke of Buccleugh, the Marquess of Lothian, Viscount Rothermere, the Duke of Westminster, the Duke of Bedford, Baron Allen of Hurtwood, Baron Mount Temple, Baron Brocket, Baron McGowan, the Earl of Glasgow amongst others ' all were open admirers of the Fuehrer.

The admiration and support for Hitler flowed directly into the policy of appeasement. This is where the line dividing the Nazi English gentlemen and 'the fellow-traveller of the Right' began to get blurred. Appeasement of Germany as a policy is associated with the name of Neville Chamberlain, but the policy was embraced by Britain's royal family who feared for its own survival. The King, the Queen, the Gloucesters, Kents, Queen Mary and the Duke of Windsor were all convinced appeasers. For them, the argument was simple: Nazi Germany did not pose a threat to the Empire but to Bolshevik Russia, the arch-enemy of royalty and empire, and the fount of republican ideas. From this perspective, the Nazi oppression of the Jews was a small price to pay. The bastion of the British establishment, The Times, editorially supported appeasement on the advice of the historian, E.H. Carr, who was then a leader-writer for the paper.

Prince Harry, even without knowing, has harked back to a very distinguished lineage of the social group to which he belongs. Those who have criticized him have not recollected this appalling chapter in the history of British royalty and aristocracy. Harry, if he had paid attention to history lessons in Eton, could easily have said that he has merely flown the colours worn by aristocrats of a previous era.

The critics of Harry's 'fancy dress' have all pointed to his bad taste. But here again Harry carries the distinguishing stamp of his family and class. Just two examples from the life of Lord Mountbatten will suffice to make the point. Mountbatten had a pet chameleon called Gandhi. In India in 1922, he encouraged Godfrey Thomas, the secretary to the Prince of Wales, to touch a bullock in a particular spot and 'something very funny will happen to you'. When Thomas did as advised, the bull kicked him with his hind leg. Mountbatten thought this was a jolly lark and the incident kept him in fits of laughter through the entire afternoon.

If truth be told, Harry has nothing to be ashamed of. He has only reclaimed his inheritance. Tally-ho Harry.

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