Pages from Michael Butler's Journal


Michael Butler

In Paris one morning, CZ Guest called me at the home of Porfirio Rubirosa, where I was staying. "Are you busy tonight?" she asked. I told her I was not doing anything. "Winston (her husband) has gone off to Israel to stop his crazy mother (The Hon. Mrs Frederick Guest) who wants to use Guest Airlines to ship the Jews back to Israel." "I have been invited to the Windsor's for dinner. Will you escort me?"

Thus, in a rather bizarre way, began my friendship with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Their home in the Bois de Boulogne was a large, beautifully appointed mansion, hidden in a forest in the center of Paris. The servants were in livery and I was very impressed that the staff was multi-racial. The dinner was quite formal for about eight people. We really had a chance to talk with everyone. The Duchess was very much in control and ran a tight ship. She was obviously deferring to the Duke and always interested in his welfare. Most of the conversation was about building and gardening, centered on the moulin they were working on outside of Paris. CZ, with her good taste and interest in gardens, was really giving excellent advice.

After dinner we repaired to the library. The Duke offered me a cigar. I hesitated, but figured that it would be rude not to accept. I then offered him one of my cigars. He hesitated, as had I, but good manners prevailed. It is a known fact that most serious cigar afficionados prefer their particular brands and eschew anothers. The Duke offered me a Churchill, probably from Dunhill, which was an EMS (English Market Selection) cigar of brown leaf and quite fat. I was smoking a Casteneda Maduro (almost Black), quite long and, the size of my ring finger. You can see that both of us were really into cigars. I lit the Duke's cigar and he lit mine.

We talked about my Father. Dad was Commander of the Black Horse Troop and had been the Aide de Campe to the Prince of Wales during his state visit to the USA and served in Chicago. Everyone always said that the two of them looked very much alike and had similar interests, mainly horses. Finishing the discussion of these memories, we separated to chat with the others.

After a time, I really wanted to smoke one of my own cigars. I went over to a table and started to put down the one the Duke had given me. Just as I was doing this, I looked up and across the room. HRH was putting out my cigar as well. He looked at me and we both laughed. I went over to him and each lit our own cigars. This created a bond of common interest and humor.

I spent a lot of time with the Windsors. I travelled with them on the SS America from Le Havre to New York. Elsa Maxwell and Lorelle Hearst were also on that trip. It was fascinating to be with two such famous hostesses. The Duke often expressed his views on the political scene of the world and a lot more advanced than one might expect. A major point of concern to him was the ever increasing width of the gulf between the rich and the poor. The Duchess was fascinating and I quickly became one of her admirers.

One of the last times I saw them was a party given for them, on Long Island, by Mrs. Baker, one of New York's greatest hostesses. That evening, I was taking a stroll with CZ Guest out by the porte-coucher of the house, when we said good night to Ann and Bill Woodward who were leaving the party. We were the last people to see him alive. That night Bill Woodward, the scion of one New York's most important familys, was blown away by his wife's shotgun. She said she thought that he was a burgler.

Entry added August 8th, 1997

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