This is emphatically not an attempt to call Lloyd George a Nazi sympathiser. However, his admiration for the Hitler of 1936 was real, and the film is pretty strong evidence of that. In 1927, Churchill famously said ‘if I were Italian, I would don a Blackshirt’. Mussolini was fashionable: even poets lionised him. Lloyd George believed Hitler and restored Germany’s honour. Others were less circumspect.
Here, the recently abdicated Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson visit, against government advice. Edward VIII Was pro-German, but he was not a Nazi.
Worse than all of them were the Nazi fellow travellers. The most famous was Unity Mitford.
Her sister, Diana, married Sir Oswald Mosley. One of Mosley’s early supporters was Harold Harmsworth, the 1st Viscount Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail. Rothermere was an implacable enemy of Baldwin; in 1934, the Daily Mail backed Mosley’s British Union of Fascists: the Blackshirts.
Rothermere would meet Hitler several times:
His organ would even praise Hitler in the aftermath of the Night of the Long Knives.
Herr Adolf Hitler, the German Chancellor, has saved his country. Swiftly and with exorable severity, he has delivered Germany from men who had become a danger to the unity of the German people and to the order of the state. With lightening rapidity he has caused them to be removed from high office, to be arrested, and put to death.
The names of the men who have been shot by his orders are already known. Hitler’s love of Germany has triumphed over private friendships and fidelity to comrades who had stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the fight for Germany’s future.
Daily Mail, July 2nd 1934.
The last example is the most obscure. To fall under the sway of Mussolini was one thing, but many fell under the sway of Hitler himself. For a section of the aristocracy, in particular, Nazism had a magnetic attraction. The Marquess of Londonderry (whose wife was a confidant of Ramsay MacDonald) was one example. Another was Ronald Nall Nall-Cain, who became Tory MP for Liverpool Wavertree in 1931, until he inherited his father’s just-created baronetcy in 1934. He began as a protege of Chamberlain, but moved sharply to the right thereafter. As Lord Brocket he became a key member of an organisation known as Anglo-German Fellowship. He was close to Joachim von Ribbentrop, onetime ambassador in London; he was also an admirer of Goering, the ‘only true gentleman’ in the Nazi movement. However, Brocket was close enough to secure an invitation to Hitler’s 50th birthday dinner in 1939.
In the 1930s Brocket had bought one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth, Knoydart in the Scottish highlands. There, he showed his true colours, evicting tenants and generally being the archetype of the exploitative landlord. In honour of his family, and himself, he built a memorial. It is en route to some of the finest walking in these islands.