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Is a retired French hotelier a forgotten member of the royal family?

For over 20 years, Francois Graftieaux has been trying to discover the identity of his grandfather. This, however, is no simple genealogical endeavour, as it is his belief that he is the secret grandson of King Edward VIII

By Francois Graftieaux  

Retired French hotelier Francois Graftieaux, left, believes that he is the secret grandson of King Edward VIII

Looking at pictures of Francois Graftieaux, the 73-year-old Frenchman who sensationally claims he is related to the Royal Family, it’s hard not to see a resemblance to his alleged illustrious grandfather.

This is especially so from the side perspective, where there is an uncanny similarity to the stamps bearing the portrait of King Edward VIII.

Within a few months of their issue in 1936, Edward would famously abdicate the throne in order to marry wealthy American socialite Wallis Simpson – creating a constitutional crisis. Settling into his marriage as the Duke of Windsor, he lived out the remainder of his life with Wallis, dying childless in 1972, at the age of 77.

Or so it is has always been believed.

Francois’s claim, however, could rewrite the history books, if proved true. For the last two decades he has been on a personal mission to be recognised as the late duke’s secret grandson—the last remaining member of a ‘commoner’ family that may have, effectively, been airbrushed from the House of Windsor’s family tree.

His research began shortly after the death of his father, Pierre-Edouard, in 1994.

Pierre-Edouard, a soldier, had never revealed the identity of Francois’ grandfather, other than remarking that he had been someone famous who had not been “allowed to marry your grandmother”.

Pierre-Edouard Graftieaux, Francois’s father, who is claimed to be the lovechild of King Edward VIII

A casual remark by a former girlfriend that Francois strongly resembled the late Duke of Windsor prompted him to begin searching the family archives to find the “missing piece” in his ancestry.

From the diaries of his grandmother, Marie-Leonie Graftieaux, which spanned the years 1912 to 1918, he learned that she had frequently spent Sundays at the Luna Park in Paris – a fairground open to all classes.

Edward, then Prince of Wales, had described in his own memoirs how he had enjoyed “riding the switchback” at Lunar Park, as a guest of the Marquis de Breteuil and his sons, who lived in a chateau south-west of Paris.

It is here that Francois believes the pair met first, and commenced a clandestine relationship for the next two years.

Marie-Leonie became pregnant in 1915 with Pierre-Edouard and, Francois says, this is when Edward ended the relationship, buying her silence with money that helped her raise herself from a poor seamstress to one of France’s leading fashion designers.

Their alleged love child, Francois’s father, was born the following year. In the French tradition, it is usual to give as a second Christian name the father’s first name. ‘Eduoard’ is the French for ‘Edward’.

A search of the family records offices in Paris revealed to Francois that his grandmother had not declared the name of the father on Pierre-Edouard’s birth certificate. This, he believes, was at the express instruction of Edward.

His suspicions were fuelled further by the luxury gift that Francois’s mother received from a mysterious well-wisher when he was born in 1946, and which is still in his possession: a Van Cleef and Arpels diamond bracelet and watch based on an exclusive design created by the Duke of Windsor.

Francois Graftieaux believes that his grandmother, Marie-Leonie, was able to raise herself from poverty with money from Edward, Prince of Wales

A similar timepiece, once owned by Wallis-Simpson, was sold at auction in 2011 for £286,000. Francois’s grandmother had not bought the opulent present and his father, who was serving in the French Foreign Service, could never have afforded it.

In a bid to find answers, Francois wrote to Buckingham Palace on two separate occasions, in 2004 and 2013, requesting a DNA sample from the Queen. If his grandfather was, indeed, Edward then that would make the Queen his first cousin once removed.

These pleas were, he says, met only with silence but he continued his investigation undaunted.

In 2018, he underwent a DNA test, which indicated that he carried a “substantial source” of Anglo-Saxon genetic markers that could only come from someone with British or northern European heritage. Whilst he concedes that the results are not definitive, Francois maintains that this ‘marker’ is Edward.

His findings were published in the UK late last year as The King’s Son: The True Story of the Duke of Windsor’s Only Son.

Around the same time, he wrote again to Buckingham Palace, once again requesting a formal investigation into his claim and to release any relevant documents within the Royal archives.

His petition was reported widely within the national, and international media, with Francois saying that he would consider taking unprecedented legal action against the Palace— possibly under the Human Rights Act—if did not comply.

Since then, he has reconsidered his position and now says that wants to find a more amicable way forward – potentially with the support of a prominent political or academic figure who would help “champion my cause”.

Francois Graftieaux’s full account of his quest to prove that King Edward VIII was his grandfather is provided in The King’s Son: The True Story of the Duke of Windsor’s Only Son by JJ Barrie

Though in good health, he is now aged 74 and is aware that the clock is ticking. It is his continued hope that he finds the answers he has been seeking these last few decades before his death, and the extinction of the Graftieaux bloodline.

He adds that should further research prove in his favour, it would not damage the position of the Royal Family. Under the terms of Edward VIII’s abdication, as well as the European Convention on the Legal Status of Children born out of wedlock, Francois would have no legal claim to the throne.

Speaking from his home in Portugal, he said: “I am not seeking any form of compensation, be it money, title or power, as I have always maintained. Nor can I make any claim on the English throne, or would I even if this were possible.

“I simply wish to discover my grandfather’s identity, which has remained a mystery for more than 100 years, before my passing.

“It is my firm conviction that Edward, Duke of Windsor was that man, though only a DNA test from within the Royal Family could confirm this.

“My claim may be shocking but it could easily, and conclusively, be answered by the Palace, one way or the other.

“While it could prove an embarrassment to the Royal Family if it was confirmed that Edward did conceive a lovechild, it would ultimately change little for them than entries in the history books.

“For me, however, it would mean everything. Until I know for sure, there will remain a huge gap in my very being.”

The King’s Son: The True Story of the Duke of Windsor’s Only Son by J. J. Barrie (Custom Book Publications) available on Amazon in paperback and as an eBook, priced £12.08 and £7.60 respectively.

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