In 1936, Prince Edward (known to his family as David) succeeded his father George V as King Edward VIII. After much persuasion he gave up the idea of marrying Wallis Simpson, although he went on seeing her in private.
December 1939. Churchill sat in the war rooms, puffing his cigar and gazing at a map of Europe. At present, there was an uneasy stalemate, as Belgium, Holland and France waited for the expected attack from Germany. He was wondering where that attack would take place. Would Belgium's neutrality be respected? Would the French high command take effective measures against invasion? He wasn't sure he could depend on any of them.
An aide entered. 'Sir George Smithers of the Foreign Office is asking if he can have a word, sir. Very private.'
Churchill sighed. 'The Foreign Office bods always think their work is very private, even when it's not. All right. Show him in.'
The man who entered was plump, of medium height, with sparse grey hair. He wore a dark grey suit with a white shirt and plain blue tie. The effect was so ordinary, he could have disappeared in a crowd.
'So what's up, Sir George?' asked Churchill. 'Any news of Hitler's plans?'
'Not as such, sir. But I've got some disquieting news.'
'Spit it out.'
'Well, as you know, we've been monitoring the King's phone calls.'
'I don't care if he's been seeing that floozy of his, Wallis. Or anyone else, for that matter.'
'It's worse than that, I'm afraid, sir. We have evidence he's been in communication with Hitler's staff.'
'Has he, by Jove?' Churchill put his cigar down, rose and paced round the room. The news didn't come as a total surprise. After all, the King had argued vehemently against the declaration of war with Germany. He took the view the Nazis had some good ideas and offered a kind of bulwark against the Soviet Union. All the same, it was a worrying development. Churchill stopped and prodded at the map, placing his finger on London. 'So now, we have an enemy here, as well as Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.'
'We have a weak point, certainly,' said Sir George.
'What's he been saying?'
'He's been assuring Hitler he'll do anything he can to get Britain to pull out of the war.'
'And abandon our allies? Not so long as I'm Prime Minister.' Churchill started pacing again. He'd never thought much of Edward. The man had, by all accounts, pursued relationships with married women. He was not only a drinker, but had been seen rolling drunk in public. His admiration for the Nazis stuck in Churchill's throat, and arguing against the policies of the government was unacceptable, 'That's out of order,' he concluded.
'And that's not all. He promised to pass on any information that comes his way.'
Churchill stopped pacing. 'That's treasonable.'
'You could say that, sir.'
'So what do we do? We can hardly have him executed outside the Palace of Whitehall.'
'We could tell him that, if he abdicated and married Wallis, we'd let him go somewhere abroad and live quietly.'
Churchill shook his head. 'It's a bit late for that. We discussed that when he first became King and we decided he could go on seeing her, provided he kept it quiet.'
'Perhaps he could have an unfortunate accident.'
Churchill stared at Sir George, while he took in the implications of this idea. It had its possibilities but also risks. He picked up his cigar, relit it and took a few puffs before he spoke. 'If he did, it would have absolutely nothing to do with anyone in an official position.'
'Of course not,' said Sir George, smoothly.
Churchill sighed. 'When you think how many people are likely to be killed in this war, does one more unfortunate death matter that much?'
'Very well. But this conversation never happened.'
27th December. King Edward was fretting against the constraints on his activities. He'd been required to go to church on Christmas Day and give a fatuous speech drafted by his Private Secretary. At least he was able to stay in Sandringham, where there was more privacy. In London people seemed to be watching him and disapproving. He'd held a party, with Wallis among the guests, but he wanted to be alone with her. Although he'd had a few drinks, he said he intended to take her for a private drive through the wintry countryside. His Private Secretary begged him to use an official driver, but he insisted on driving himself.
The green sports car was shining on the driveway by the time he gave his hand to help Wallis step in. He drove out of the park and onto the open road. The weather was cold but dry and the countryside had a ghostly beauty, with a sheen of frost on trees and grass. Edward put his foot down and enjoyed the exhilaration of the ride. Wallis's headscarf was flapping in the wind but she was smiling. As he left a village, the road swung round a sharp bend. He took the bend at speed, saw a lorry emerge from a side road, braked but spun, and the wall of a barn came rushing to meet him.
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of His Majesty King Edward. It appears that the King was driving near Sandringham, when he lost control of the car and hit a wall. The police are investigating the accident. His Majesty's sudden death will of course be a great blow, not only to his family and friends, but to the whole nation. We are therefore announcing three days of public mourning.