The “elegant, gossipy and bitchy” diaries of a Conservative politician who partied with Nazis in 1930s Berlin are to be published in full for the first time.
The first volume of the diaries of the socialite Sir Henry “Chips” Channon, who dined with Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau as a young man in France and was a close friend to Edward VIII during the abdication crisis, will be published next year. The uncensored observations include revelations that were deemed too shocking for the heavily sanitised edition published in 1967, nine years after his death.
Sir Henry’s trustees have now authorised the publication of the complete diaries, which cover the abdication, his encounters with Winston Churchill and a prewar visit to Germany for the Berlin Olympics.
Revelations were deemed too shocking for the heavily sanitised edition published in 1967.
Sir Henry, who was born in Chicago in 1897 but settled in England after the Great War, married into the wealthy Guinness family. He served as Conservative MP for Southend-on-Sea from 1935 until his death in 1958.
In the 1960s many of the people he wrote about were still alive and could have sued for libel. “There will be people whose reputations will be damaged when this comes out,” the historian Simon Heffer, who is editing the diaries in three volumes, said.
“There are one or two people at court, around the royal family, who Channon really takes against and who he feels are conspiring to get rid of Edward VIII, and that didn’t come out in the original version.” A gay relationship with “a very prominent friend” was also censored and will be revealed for the first time.
The first volume, to be published in September next year by Hutchinson, will begin in 1918, unlike the previous redacted version which began in 1934.
“He’s constantly having dinner with dukes and duchesses. They are the sort of people that Proust writes about,” Heffer said. “There’s an awful lot of drinking and drug-taking, not necessarily by him, but it’s a very decadent society he moves in. They are the idle rich.”
“They are the sort of people that Proust writes about.”
The diaries reveal how Sir Henry’s close friendship with Edward VIII began in the 1920s. “He writes about travelling around America with him,” Heffer said. “He can see the Prince of Wales is a slight flibbertigibbet but he likes him and they have a good friendship. So by the time of the abdication he’s very supportive of him.”
They also reveal a trip to the Berlin Olympics and parties with Himmler, Goebbels and Göring. He finds the Nazis vulgar — “not the sort of people he’d want to have to dinner” — and fears what they could do to Britain in the event of war.
“He sees the Germans as a potentially really nasty threat. He’s an appeaser,” Heffer said.