The Daily Mail

In 1887 the journalist Alfred Harmsworth formed a new publishing business. Early publications included Answers (1888) and Comic Cuts (1890) and in 1894 went into newspapers when he acquired the London Evening News. Harmsworth now decided to start a new paper based on the style of newspapers published in the USA. By the time the first issue of the Daily Mail appeared for the first time on 4th May, 1896, over 65 dummy runs had taken place. For each of these the complete papers were produced at a cost of £40,000. The eight page newspaper cost only halfpenny. Slogans used to sell the newspaper included "A Penny Newspaper for One Halfpenny" and "The Busy Man's Daily Newspaper".

The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery.

Another innovation introduced by the Daily Mail was the publication of serials. Personally supervised by Harmsworth, the average length was 100,000 words. The opening episode was 5,000 words and had to have a dramatic impact on the readers. This was followed by episodes of 1,500 to 2,000 words every day.

The Daily Mail was an immediate success and circulation quickly achieved 500,000. With the strong interest in the Boer War in 1899 sales went to over a million. Harmsworth encouraged people to buy the newspaper for nationalistic reasons making it clear to his readers that his newspaper stood "for the power, the supremacy and the greatness of the British Empire".

Harmsworth also used his newspapers to promote inventions such as the telephone, electric light, photography, motorcycles and motor cars. He was so passionate about cars that Harmsworth prohibited the editor of the Daily Mail from reporting automobile accidents.

The popularity of the newspaper increased with the use of promotional activities. This included the offer of prizes for the first-ever flights across the Channel and Atlantic. Although aimed at a mass audience, Alfred Harmsworth employed the best journalists available. This included people such as Henry Hamilton Fyfe and Philip Gibbs.

Alfred Harmsworth was a great supporter of flying and in 1906 offered a prize of £1,000 for the first airman to cross the English Channel from Calais to Dover and £10,000 prize for the first completed flight from London to Manchester. The idea seemed so preposterous that Punch Magazine decided to poke fun at Harmsworth by offering a prize of £10,000 for the first flight to Mars. However, by June 1910, both of Harmsworth's prizes had been won by French pilots.

Harmsworth was worried about the possible consequences of aircraft for the defence of Britain. He realised that it would soon be possible for foreign pilots to drop bombs on Britain. He wrote a letter warning Richard Haldane, Secretary of War, about his concerns, but failed to persuade the government that this danger existed.

First World War

Before the outbreak of the First World War Harmsworth was accused of being a war-monger. As early as 1897 he had sent the writer G. W. Steevens to Germany to produce a sixteen-part series entitled Under the Iron Heel. The articles praised the German Army and warned that Britain was in danger of being defeated in a war against Germany. Three years later Northcliffe wrote an editorial in the Daily Mail predicting a war with Germany

In October 1909 Harmsworth (now Lord Northcliffe) employed Robert Blatchford, the Socialist editor of the Clarion, to visit Germany to write a series of articles for the newspaper on the dangers that the Germans posed to Britain. Blatchford agreed with Northcliffe on the problem and in one article wrote: "I believe that Germany is deliberately preparing to destroy the British Empire" and warned that Britain needed to spend more money in defending itself against attack.

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
Lord Northcliffe

Soon after the outbreak of the First World War the editor of The Star newspaper claimed that: "Next to the Kaiser, Lord Northcliffe has done more than any living man to bring about the war." Lord Northcliffe was determined to make the Daily Mail the official newspaper of the British Army. Every day 10,000 copies of the paper were delivered to the Western Front by military motor cars. He also had the revolutionary idea of using front-line soldiers as news sources. In August 1914 he announced a scheme where he would pay soldiers for articles written about their experiences.

During the early stages of the conflict Northcliffe created a great deal of controversy by advocating conscription and criticizing Lord Kitchener. In an article he wrote in the Daily Mail on 21st May, 1915, Northcliffe wrote a blistering attack on the Secretary of State for War: "Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them."

Lord Kitchener was a national hero and Harmsworth's attack on him upset a great number of readers. Overnight, the circulation of the Daily Mail dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. A placard was hung across the newspaper nameplate with the words "The Allies of the Huns". Over 1,500 members of the Stock Exchange had a meeting where they passed a motion against the "venomous attacks of the Hamsworth Press" and afterwards ceremoniously burnt copies of the offending newspaper.

Although the leader of the government, Herbert Asquith, accused Northcliffe and his newspapers of disloyalty, he privately accepted that shell production was a real problem and he appointed David Lloyd George as the new Munitions Minister. Lord Northcliffe also used the Daily Mail to attack the government for the failed operation at Gallipoli. He wrote about the "forty thousand killed, missing or drowned; three hundred millions of treasury thrown away" and argued that even if the campaign had been successful "to win this war, the German line itself must be broken" on the Western Front.

Lord Northcliffe continued his attacks on Lord Kitchener and when he heard he had been killed he remarked: "The British Empire has just had the greatest stroke of luck in its history." After the death of Kitchener he concentrated on having Herbert Asquith removed. Not only did he criticise Asquith as a man of inaction but claimed that Germany was afraid that David Lloyd George would become prime minister.

When Asquith resigned in December, 1916, the new prime minister decided that it was be safer to have Northcliffe in his government. However, Northcliffe refused an offer of a place in Lloyd George's cabinet as he knew it would undermine his ability to criticise the government.

Lloyd George had offered Northcliffe a cabinet position because he was scared that he would use the Daily Mail to bring down his government. In a confidential letter to his Parliamentary Private Secretary he wrote at the time he claimed that: "Northcliffe is one of the biggest intriguers and most unscrupulous people in the country."

After the war Northcliffe retained his interest in new technology. He began a campaign to promote wireless communication by arranging for the Daily Mail to sponsor the world's first wireless concert. In an editorial Northcliffe argued: "Once before the Daily Mail stirred the national imagination to realise the vital importance of flying. It has now taken the lead in private wireless experiments with the object of cultivating national receptivity for the new science and of bringing minds in train for achievements to come."

The Daily Mail was extremely hostile to the Russian Revolution. As Roland Chambers pointed out: "For the Allies, Soviet talks with Germany were not only a betrayal of the treaties signed at the beginning of the war, but a breach of faith with ordinary soldiers then fighting on the Western Front. Stretched to the limit of its own resources, the British government pictured the grain which would nourish German cities, the oil which would fuel German military vehicles and the German troops who, released from duty in the east, would transfer to France for a potentially decisive offensive. It was for these reasons that Lord Northcliffe's papers continued to beat the same old drums: a German-Jewish conspiracy that would plunge the world into darkness; priests crucified before their congregations; and particularly offensive to the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Soviet initiative to nationalize women."

Lord Rothermere replaces Lord Northcliffe

In November 1918, at the end of the war, Lord Rothermere was invited to a Downing Street luncheon by Winston Churchill to gather press support for David Lloyd George. Rothermere was made a viscount in 1919, but by 1922 he turned against the Lloyd George coalition. According to his biographer, D. George Boyce: "In 1922 he was believed to be seeking a step in the peerage as the price of his support for a Conservative government led by Andrew Bonar Law." After the death of Lord Northcliffe in 1922, Rothermere took full control of the Daily Mail as well as the Daily Mirror. He also ran the Evening News, the Sunday Pictorial and the Sunday Dispatch.

In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservatives had 258, Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become Prime Minister. As MacDonald had to rely on the support of the Liberal Party, he was unable to get any socialist legislation passed by the House of Commons. The only significant measure was the Wheatley Housing Act which began a building programme of 500,000 homes for rent to working-class families.

Members of establishment were appalled by the idea of a Prime Minister who was a socialist. As Gill Bennett pointed out: "It was not just the intelligence community, but more precisely the community of an elite - senior officials in government departments, men in "the City", men in politics, men who controlled the Press - which was narrow, interconnected (sometimes intermarried) and mutually supportive. Many of these men... had been to the same schools and universities, and belonged to the same clubs. Feeling themselves part of a special and closed community, they exchanged confidences secure in the knowledge, as they thought, that they were protected by that community from indiscretion." This was definitely true of Lord Rothermere who announced his anti-socialist views.

David Low, worked for The Star and was highly critical of Lord Rothermere and his friend, Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the The Daily Express. In December, 1923, he drew a cartoon of Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, "quailing before the ruffians Rothermere and Beaverbrook". This started a series of cartoons that featured the two men, who he described as the "Plot Press". Low explained in his autobiography that the portrayed the "two press lords" as the "wicked uncles in Babe in the Wood... two mischievous conspirators in mock-sinister cloaks and hats."

The Zinoviev Letter

In September 1924 MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Hugh Sinclair, head of MI6, provided "five very good reasons" why he believed the letter was genuine. However, one of these reasons, that the letter came "direct from an agent in Moscow for a long time in our service, and of proved reliability" was incorrect.

Vernon Kell, the head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson the head of Special Branch, were also convinced that the letter was genuine. Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret but someone leaked news of the letter to the Times and the Daily Mail. Four days before the 1924 General Election Rothermere decided to publish what became known as the Zinoviev Letter and contributed to the defeat of MacDonald and the Labour Party. In a speech he made on 24th October, MacDonald suggested he had been a victim of a political conspiracy: "I am also informed that the Conservative Headquarters had been spreading abroad for some days that... a mine was going to be sprung under our feet, and that the name of Zinoviev was to be associated with mine. Another Guy Fawkes - a new Gunpowder Plot... The letter might have originated anywhere. The staff of the Foreign Office up to the end of the week thought it was authentic... I have not seen the evidence yet. All I say is this, that it is a most suspicious circumstance that a certain newspaper and the headquarters of the Conservative Association seem to have had copies of it at the same time as the Foreign Office, and if that is true how can I avoid the suspicion - I will not say the conclusion - that the whole thing is a political plot?"

After the election it was claimed that two of MI5's agents, Sidney Reilly and Arthur Maundy Gregory, had forged the letter. According to Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985): "Reilly played an active part in ensuring that the letter was publicised. A copy of the Russian version of the letter has been discovered in what appears to be Reilly's handwriting, and there can scarcely have been another past or present SIS agent with so few scruples about exploiting it in the anti-Bolshevik cause."

It later became clear that Major George Joseph Ball (1885-1961), a MI5 officer, played an important role in leaking it to the press. In 1927 Ball went to work for the Conservative Central Office where he pioneered the idea of spin-doctoring. Later, Desmond Morton, who worked under Hugh Sinclair, at MI6 claimed that it was Stewart Menzies who sent the Zinoviev letter to the Daily Mail.

In his book, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009), Christopher Andrew argues that on 9th October 1924 SIS forwarded the Zinoviev letter to the Foreign Office, MI5 and Scotland Yard with the assurance that “the authenticity is undoubted” when they knew it had been forged by anti-Bolshevik White Russians. Desmond Morton, the head of SIS, provided extra information about the letter being confirmed as being genuine by an agent, Jim Finney, who had penetrated Comintern and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Andrew claims this was untrue as the so-called Finney report does not make any reference to the Zinoviev letter. Finney was also employed by George Makgill, the head of the Industrial Intelligence Bureau (IIB).

David Low was convinced that the letter was a forgery and he started a campaign against Britain's two major press lords, Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook. "The figures, fat Rother and little Beaver, were such naturals to draw and the newspaper public gave them such popularity that in no time I found myself running a series dealing with their dark doings. Various incidents and accidents turned up by grinning fate in succeeding months tended to support and confirm the lightsome fancy... The Plot Press became one of my major properties and a regular feature of the Star."

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
David Low, The Plot Press (1924)

Rotheremere's newspapers continued to increase their circulation. By 1926 the daily sales of the Daily Mail had reached 2,000,000. Lord Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere became increasingly nationalistic in his political views and in 1929 joined with Lord Beaverbrook to form the United Empire Party. Rothermere urged the Conservative Party to remove its leader, Stanley Baldwin, and replace him with Beaverbrook. He also argued for a reform of the House of Lords to make it possible for peers to be elected to the House of Commons. This dispute divided conservative voters and this enabled the Labour Party to win the 1929 General Election.

The Daily Mail and Adolf Hitler

In the General Election that took place in September 1930, the Nazi Party increased its number of representatives in parliament from 14 to 107. Adolf Hitler was now the leader of the second largest party in Germany. James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) points out: "Shortly after the Nazis' sweeping victory in the election of September 14, 1930, Rothermere went to Munich to have a long talk with Hitler, and ten days after the election wrote an article discussing the significance of the National Socialists' triumph. The article drew attention throughout England and the Continent because it urged acceptance of the Nazis as a bulwark against Communism... Rothermere continued to say that if it were not for the Nazis, the Communists might have gained the majority in the Reichstag." According to Louis P. Lochner, Tycoons and Tyrant: German Industry from Hitler to Adenauer (1954) Rothermere provided funds to Hitler via Ernst Hanfstaengel.

Lord Rothermere disposed of his shares in the Daily Mirror in 1931. He now concentrated on the Daily Mail and the Evening News. In the 1930s Rothermere moved further to the right. When Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Rothermere produced a series of articles acclaiming the new regime. The most famous of these was on the 10th July when he told readers that he "confidently expected" great things of the Nazi regime. He also criticised other newspapers for "its obsession with Nazi violence and racialism", and assured his readers that any such deeds would be "submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing on Germany."

Rothermere now began a campaign in favour of the Nazi Party. The Daily Mail criticized "the old women of both sexes" who filled British newspapers with rabid reports of Nazi "excesses." Instead, the newspaper claimed, Hitler had saved Germany from "Israelites of international attachments" and the "minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany."

George Ward Price, the Daily Mail's foreign correspondent developed a very close relationship with Adolf Hitler. According to the German historian, Hans-Adolf Jacobsen: "The famous special correspondent of the London Daily Mail, Ward Price, was welcomed to interviews in the Reich Chancellery in a more privileged way than all other foreign journalists, particularly when foreign countries had once more been brusqued by a decision of German foreign policy. His paper supported Hitler more strongly and more constantly than any other newspaper outside Germany." Franklin Reid Gannon, the author of The British Press and Germany (1971), has claimed that Hitler regarded him as "the only foreign journalist who reported him without prejudice". In his autobiography, Extra-Special Correspondent (1957), Ward Price defended himself against the charge he was a fascist by claiming: "I reported Hitler's statements accurately, leaving British newspaper readers to form their own opinions of their worth."

Lord Rothermere also had several meetings with Adolf Hitler and argued that the Nazi leader desired peace. In one article written in March, 1934 he called for Hitler to be given back land in Africa that had been taken as a result of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler acknowledged this help by writing to Rothermere: "I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict."

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler

As Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) has pointed out: "Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany. Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough."

The Daily Mail and Oswald Mosley

Lord Rothermere also gave full support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. He wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, on 22nd January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". Rothermere added: "Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps. Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power. As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party. Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W."

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
The Daily Mail (22nd January 1934)

The Daily Mail continued to give its support to the fascists. George Ward Price wrote about anti-fascist demonstrators at a meeting of the National Union of Fascists on 8th June, 1934: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting."

David Low, a cartoonist employed by the Evening Standard, made several attacks on Rothermere's links to the fascist movement. In January 1934, he drew a cartoon showing Rothermere as a nanny giving a Nazi salute and saying "we need men of action such as they have in Italy and Germany who are leading their countries triumphantly out of the slump... blah... blah... blah... blah."

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
David Low, But what have they got in their other hands, nanny? (26th January 1934)

The child in the pram is saying "But what have they got in their other hands, nanny?" Hitler and Mussolini are hiding the true records of their periods in government. Hitler's card includes, "Hitler's Germany: Estimated Unemployed: 6,000,000. Fall in trade under Hitler (9 months) £35,000,000. Burden of taxes up several times over. Wages down 20%."

Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Evening Standard, was a close friend and business partner of Lord Rothermere, and refused to allow the original cartoon to be published. At the time, Rothermere controlled forty-nine per cent of the shares. Low was forced to make the nanny unrecgnisable as Rothermere and had to change the name on her dress from the Daily Mail to the Daily Shirt.

In July, 1934 Lord Rothermere suddenly withdrew his support for Oswald Mosley. The historian, James Pool, argues: "The rumor on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their adds in a different paper if Rothermere continued the pro-fascist campaign." Pool points out that sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures."

Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie

When Lord Rothermere, the owner of the The Daily Mail, took George Ward Price with him when he met Adolf Hitler for the first time in December 1934. At the first meeting Hitler told Rothermere that "Lloyd George and your brother won the war for Britain. This was a reference to the Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Lord Northcliffe, who it was claimed made sure that the British Army received enough munitions on the front-line during the later stages of the First World War. That evening Hitler held his first major dinner party he had given for foreign visitors at his official residence in Berlin since he had taken office. The high-level guests included Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
Lord Rothermere, George Ward Price, Adolf Hitler, Fritz Wiedemann, Joseph Goebbels,
with Princess Stephanie and Magda Goebbels sitting in front. (January, 1936)

On 20th December, 1934, Lord Rothermere returned the hospitality, hosting a dinner at Berlin's famous Hotel Adlon. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was placed in charge of the arrangements. Twenty-five guests attended including Adolf Hitler, Germany's Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels, Hermann Goering, accompanied by the actress Emmy Sonnemann. Also invited was British banker Ernest Tennant, one of the principal founders of the Anglo-German Fellowship.

Lord Rothermere continued to support Hitler but tried to keep it secret from the general public. It later emerged that Rothermere was paying a retainer of £5,000 per year (£200,000 in today's money) to Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a close confidante of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Joachim von Ribbentrop. According to The Daily Telegraph: "In 1933, the year that Hitler gained power, MI6 circulated a report stating that the French secret service had discovered documents in the princess's flat in Paris ordering her to persuade Rothermere to campaign for the return to Germany of territory ceded to Poland at the end of First World War. She was to receive £300,000 – equal to £13 million today if she succeeded."

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler with George Ward Price in 1938.

George Ward Price, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe were invited to spend time with Hitler at his holiday retreat, The Eagle's Nest, in the mountains above Berchtesgaden. Also invited was Joseph Goebbels. He wrote in his diary: "Rothermere pays me great compliments... Enquires in detail about German press policy. Strongly anti-Jewish. The princess is very pushy. After lunch we retire for a chat. Question of Spain comes up. Führer won't tolerate a hot-bed of communism in Europe any longer. Is ready to prevent any more pro-Republican volunteers from going there. His proposal on controls seem to astonish Rothermere. German prestige is thus restored. Franco will win anyway... Rothermere believes British government also pro-Franco."

Adolf Hitler was kept informed about what British newspapers were saying about him. He was usually very pleased by what appeared in The Daily Mail. On 20th May 1937 he wrote to Lord Rothermere: "Your leading articles published within the last few weeks, which I read with great interest, contain everything that corresponds to my own thoughts as well." Hitler told George Ward Price: "He (Lord Rothermere) is the only Englishman who sees clearly the magnitude of this Bolshevist danger. His paper is doing an immense amount of good."

George Ward Price

In 1937 George Ward Price of The Daily Mail published his book, I Know These Dictators. It was full of praise of Hitler: "Behind the forceful character which he displays in public he had a human, pleasant personality... He had the artistic, visionary tendencies of the South German type... and there was a strong strain of sadness and tenderness in his disposition... Hitler had... a fondness for children and dogs... His personality and prestige were so strong that without any effort on his part, he is surrounded by much awe on the part of his entourage... Hitler is a widely read man... familiar with the works of the leading German philosophers who had mastered the history, geography and social and economic conditions of the chief European countries."

Ward Price defended Hitler's treatment of Jews, trade unionists and socialists in Nazi Germany: "To law-abiding citizens the Nazi Government brought public order, political peace, better living-conditions, and the promise, some fulfilled, to make Germany once more a great nation... Upon the people who opposed, or looked like opposing, its plans, it laid a heavy hand... The jockey who pats his horse in the paddock may lash him in a hard finish. The rulers of Germany were stern because they believed the fate of their country was at stake. If they failed, the gates would be open wide to Bolshevism - the same bloodthirsty Bolshevism which had ravaged and liquidated in Russia, tortured and massacred in Hungary.... The tolerant attitude of the average Anglo-Saxon... toward Jews, Communists, and those deluded intellectuals indulgently termed 'parlour-Bolshevists' appears in Nazi eyes as stupid apathy in the presence of real danger."

According to Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979): "Rothermere and Ward Price, then, used the Daily Mail, up to 1938, as an instrument of Nazi propaganda. As Franklin Gannon points out, there was little news coverage of Germany in that paper (compared with the extensive coverage in other papers), and opinions on Germany were expressed mainly through editorials and reports of Ward Price's interviews. As the thirties wore on, the paper's main concern turned gradually from positive praise of Nazism to a concern to avoid Continental obligations."

The Daily Mail & Appeasement

Rothermere and his newspapers supported Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement. When Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia in March 1938 he sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler saying: "My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher."

MI6 continued to investigate Stephanie von Hohenlohe. In March 1939 the MI6 passport control officer at Victoria Station arrested her Hungarian lawyer, Erno Wittman. The arresting officer reported what he discovered that Wittman was carrying: "This was astonishing; it appeared to be copies of documents and letters which passed between Lord Rothermere, Lady Snowden, Princess Stephanie, Herr Hitler and others. In the main, the letters referred to the possible restoration of the throne in Hungary and shed a good deal of light on the character and activities of the princess." It was decided to pass on this information to MI5. Amongst the documents were several letters from Lord Rothermere to Adolf Hitler. This included a "a very indiscreet letter to the Fuhrer congratulating him on his walk into Prague". The letter urged Hitler to follow up his coup with the invasion of Romania.

On 4th September, 1939, the morning after the outbreak of the Second World War, Rothermere's Daily Mail had a powerful patriotic leader: "No statesman, no man with any decency could think of sitting at the same table with Hitler or his henchman the trickster von Ribbentrop, or any other of the gang. We fight against the blackest tyranny that has ever held men in bondage. We fight to defend and to restore freedom and justice on earth."

However, a few days later, Lord Rothermere had his close colleague and "ghost", Collin Brooks, draft a letter to Neville Chamberlain urging the futility of trying to save Poland and warning that "whether victorious or not, Britain will emerge from such a conflict with her social and economic fabric destroyed", which could mean "a revolution of the Left in these islands, which might be more deadly than the war itself". According to Rothermere's biographer, D. George Boyce: "But the letter was never sent (despite Rothermere's fear that Britain was ‘finished’), because of the ‘national mood and temper’, a nice example of the would-be opinion leader and press baron being led by the public itself."

Three weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War Rothermere's lawyers attempted to have the legal action stopped. A member of his law firm went to the Home Office and denounced Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe as a German agent and suggested that she should be deported. If the case reached open court it would receive huge publicity and would undermine public morale. However, the Home Office came to the conclusion that it would be improper to intervene.

The case reached the High Court on 8th November, 1939. Princess Stephanie's case was that in 1932, when Rothermere had promised to engage her as his European political representative on an annual salary of £5,000, she had understood the engagement was ongoing. She made it clear to the judge that if she lost the case she would not hesitate to publish her memoirs in America. This story would reveal Lord Rothermere's relationship with Hitler and his "numerous, often indiscreet, liaisons with women".

Sir William Jowitt asked Princess Stephanie if she had used the services of Fritz Wiedemann to put pressure on Lord Rothermere. She replied: "I have not." Then a letter from Wiedemann to Lord Rothermere was read out in court. It included the following passage: "You know that the Führer greatly appreciates the work the princess did to straighten relations between our countries... it was her groundwork which made the Munich agreement possible." However, the judge would not allow Princess Stephanie to read out the letters exchanged by Lord Rothermere and Hitler.

Lord Rothermere, who had engaged a legal team of seventeen to mount his defence, told the judge, it was preposterous that he had agreed to support Princess Stephanie "for the rest of her life". He admitted that between 1932 and 1938 he had paid her considerably more than £51,000 (almost £2 million in today's money). He added that she was always "pestering and badgering me" for money. That is why he sent her away to Berlin to be with Hitler.

Jowitt told the court that Princess Stephanie had his client's letters photocopied behind his back by the Special Photographic Bureau of the Department of the German Chancellor. He also defended Rothermere's right to enter into negotiations with Hitler in an effort to prevent a war between the two countries. "Who can say whether if Lord Rothermere had succeeded in the endeavours which he made, we might not be in the position in which we are today?"

After six days of legal argument Justice Tucker ruled against Princess Stephanie. Soon after the trial finished, Lord Rothermere used Lady Ethel Snowden as an intermediary and sent Stephanie a message to say he would meet all her legal costs if she undertook to get out of the country. This she agreed to do but he thought she was going back to Europe instead of going to the United States to publish her account of her relationship with Rothermere. However, he was able to use his considerable power to make sure her memoirs were never published. A MI5 officer recorded that Lord Rothermere had probably "offered her a considerable sum to leave the country".

Lord Rothermere accused of Treason

The court case revealed that Lord Rothermere had been involved in secret negotiations with Adolf Hitler. One newspaper, The Yorkshire Post, raised serious questions about this issue: "The danger of these negotiations was two-fold. There was first the danger that Lord Rothermere might unwittingly give the Nazis a misleading impression of the state of opinion in this country; and there was also the danger that Lord Rothermere might - again unwittingly - allow himself to be used as a vehicle for the extremely subtle manoeuvres of Nazi propaganda.... discussions with heads of foreign governments are best left of persons whose status is on both sides clearly understood. A newspaper owner has great responsibilities towards the public of his own country; he should be particularly chary of placing himself in situations liable to misinterpretation, or abuse abroad."

In the House of Commons the Liberal Party MP, Geoffrey Le Mesurier Mander, asked the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, why Princess Stephanie, a "notorious member of the Hitler spy organisation" was being allowed to leave the country. Morrison replied that he needed notice of the question but in any case she had been granted only a "no return" permit and there were no circumstances in which she would be allowed to return to Britain. Princess Stephanie went to live in San Francisco. Tipped off by MI6, the FBI put her under surveillance. A memo to President Franklin D. Roosevelt described her as a spy "more dangerous than ten thousand men".

Lord Rothermere was now aware that MI5 had copies of his letters to Adolf Hitler. Fearing that he might be arrested for treason and decided to go and live in Bermuda where he died on 26th November 1940.

Primary Sources

(1) Alfred Harmsworth, letter to Max Pemberton (1884)

The Board Schools are turning out hundreds of thousands of boys and girls annually who are anxious to read. they do not care for the ordinary newspaper. They have no interest in society, but they will read anything which is simple and is sufficiently interesting. The man who has produced this Tit-Bits has got hold of a bigger thing than he imagines. he is only at the very beginning of a development which is going to change the whole face of journalism. I shall try to get in with him. We could start one of these papers for a couple of thousand pounds, and we ought to be able to find the money. At any rate, I am going to make the attempt.

(2) The Daily Mail (4th May, 1896)

Our type is set by machinery, and we can produce many thousands of papers per hour cut, folded and if necessary with the pages pasted together. It is the use of these new inventions on a scale unprecedented in any English newspaper office that enables the Daily Mail to effect a saving of from 30 to 50 per cent and be sold for half the price of its contemporaries. That is the whole explanation of what otherwise appear a mystery.

(3) G. W. Steevens, The Daily Mail (1897)

The German Army is the post perfectly adapted, perfectly running machine. Never can there have been a more signal triumph of organisation over complexity. The armies of other nations are not so completely organized. The German Army is the finest thing of its kind in the world; it is the finest thing in Germany of any kind. Briefly, the difference between the German and, for instance, the English armies is a simple one. The German Army is organised with a view to war, with the cold, hard, practical, business-like purpose of winning victories. And what should we ever do if 100,000 of this kind of army got loose in England?

(4) Philip Gibbs was one of the journalist who went to work for the Daily Mail in 1902.

The New Journalism had arrived, and the Daily Mail under Alfred Harmsworth for whom I worked was its founder and pioneer. There were violent critics of this new type of journalism. They thought it vulgar, trashy, and lacking altogether in the dignity of the old-time Press. But Alfred Harmsworth knew what he was doing, and did it with genius. He knew that a public had grown up which took an intelligent interest in things not previously considered part of newspaper chronicles. Food; fashions; the drama of life in low places as well as high; sport of all kinds; the human story wherever it might be found; the adventure of science as it affected everyday life. Harmsworth knew that women's interests had been left out mainly from the old fashioned newspapers, and he knew that here was an enormous field for increasing circulation.

(5) In 1907 Henry Hamilton Fyfe was appointed special correspondent with the Daily Mail.

I was the special correspondent with the largest newspaper public in existence to address, and a fairly free hand as to what I would write about and how. From that time until the war I had as good a life as ever fell to the lot of any journalist in any land. To travel had been my hope - more than that, it had been my determination. In my holidays I had got as far afield as I could. Now travel was to be my occupation, my livelihood.

As a method of enhancing the prestige of the paper, it was impressed on all connected with it that they must on all occasions wear the correct clothes, be seen in only exclusive places of resort, give the impression that they were accustomed to the habits of the wealthy and fashionable. This was the resolved commercial policy of Northcliffe, and from the commercial angle a very sound policy. His idea from the beginning, even when people were ashamed to be seen with the Mail and business men took it home under their coats, was that it should seem to be produced for the rich and privileged. This had its effect, as he knew it would, on advertisers. It resulted, too, in making the paper eventually what it had all along aimed at being - an organ of the well-to-do.

(6) At the beginning of the First World War, Basil Clarke attempted to write about the Western Front without the permission of the French and British military authorities.

Even to live in the war zone without papers and credentials was hard enough, but to move about and see things, and pick up news and then to get one's written dispatches conveyed home - against all regulations - was a labour greater and more complex than anything I have ever undertaken in journalistic work. I longed sometimes to be arrested and sent home and done with it all.

I evaded the authorities in France and Flanders in 1914-1915 for five months - going to the Front on average two or three times a week. I had apartments or hotel rooms in three districts, and when things became hot in one place I moved to another of my bases.

(7) The Daily Mail (19th April, 1915)

The Germans have this advantage over us, that their public is kept interested in the war. By brilliant war correspondents and constantly changing kinematograph films and photographs, every man, women and child knows what the war means and how the nation is fighting. In this country anyone who goes about among the populace finds that few of the masses understand what the war is about. They are told very little of the horrors of war as waged by Germany. They do not understand what defeat would mean to us.

(8) The Daily Mail (21st May, 1915)

Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them.

(9) Lord Northcliffe, The Daily Mail (23rd August, 1915)

The daily losses in the war, on ordinary days, where there is no attempt to advance, are about 2,000, according to official casualty lists. We are growing callous about the size of the daily lists of killed, wounded and missing. Very few people read even the headings of them, comparatively few grasp the fact that after vast losses we are just where we were six months ago on our little line in the Franco-Belgian Frontier. Thousands of homes are mourning today for men who have been needlessly sacrificed.