In 1940, Prince Edward and his wife, Wallis Simpson, arrived in the Bahamas, where the royal was to serve as governor of the islands. But the official residence where the couple was supposed to reside was in poor shape, and it was deemed unsuitable—particularly for a man who, prior to his infamous abdication in 1936, had been Edward VIII, king of England.
While Government House was undergoing renovations, Edward and Simpson, known officially as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, moved into a sprawling estate owned by Frederick Sigrist, a British aviation mogul who had vacated his Bahamas residence for the summer. The couple lived in the home for several months—and now, reports Ellen Gutoskey reports Mental Floss, this temporary royal residence is on the market for $8.5 million.
Built by its namesake in the 1930s, Sigrist House is located in the resort area of Cable Beach in Nassau. As Damianos Sotheby's International Realty, which is listing the property, writes, the estate consists of a 15,000-square-foot main residence, two four-bedroom guest houses and a three-bedroom apartment. All of the houses on the estate have been renovated in recent decades, but they still retain historic touches—among them original wood finishing and ironwork, and four fireplaces imported from country homes in Britain. The estate is surrounded by “lush flowering tropical gardens, including fruit and coconut trees, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi,” according to Sotheby’s.
To most, this sounds like paradise, but the duke and duchess were not particularly enthused about relocating to the Bahamas. Edward had stepped down as the British sovereign so he could marry Simpson, a twice-divorced American woman who was deemed unsuitable by the Church of England and the British government; following his abdication, the pair moved to France. But precisely how to employ the former king remained a key question—one that became urgent with the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Edward’s behavior in the lead-up to the war was, as historian Caroline Harris explains, problematic. In 1937, Edward and Simpson visited Germany as guests of Adolf Hitler. When their meeting ended, Edward gave Hitler a Nazi salute. After the war, American diplomats discovered a cache of German diplomatic documents detailing connections between Edward and the Nazis, including the outlines of a “a fanciful plan” to reinstall the former royal on the throne. Whether these papers were simply Nazi propaganda tools or genuine chronicles of treasonous activity remains unclear. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at any rate, was keen to get Edward and Simpson out of Europe, so he sent the couple off to the Bahamas.
Both Edward and Simpson felt the post was beneath them. “It is very hard,” Edward wrote, “once you’ve been King Emperor, to govern the Bahamas.” The state of Government House surely did nothing to stoke the couple’s enthusiasm; it was infested with termites, and after a chunk of ceiling plaster fell into the drawing room where Simpson was sitting, the pair decided to move out. They stayed first at Sigrist House, then at the country home of a British-Canadian mine owner. Simpson did not care for the latter of the accommodations, deeming it a “shack by the sea.”
It was, in fact, a mansion.