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Conrad Fulke O'Brien-ffrench. Artist and Spy.

An Evil Medium

The Dark Magic of the Reich

Back in London from his Russian journey and after debriefing, Conrad is invited to a Scottish castle, returning briefly to the life of aristocratic house parties and shooting. Conrad implies that his hostess was an old flame from London in the Twenties. Although unnamed, it is clear from sprinkled clues that she was Wilma, Countess Cawdor, and that he was staying at her husband’s Scottish seat, Cawdor Castle near Inverness. He is back in familiar company. He has had articles published in Horse and Hound and other publications. He is known universally now as an International Playboy – Conrad O’Brien-ffrench, the Marquis de Castel Thomond, with a reputation and history ‘massaged’ by MI6 to create the perfect spy. A wealthy (he actually complains he was paid less than a window cleaner by MI6) man of adventure, he socialises with Royalty and is a friend to all. Multilingual, diplomatic and gracious, he was a first class sportsman and an excellent shot. He did actually carry a small automatic revolver as a matter of course in those days. Not quite the thing to bag a couple of grouse with, though, unless you are really Bond of course?  Yet, he was also seen as someone who squandered his money and time living the high life. Indeed, he himself complains that, hiding behind the façade of an International Playboy, others saw him only in that role and judged him accordingly. And when they met, Wilma Cawdor’s disapproval became so obvious that Conrad wanted to explain – but could not. Better to be silent.


It was a time of uncertainty; the end of an era was feared. King George V was ill – in his final decline as it turned out – while the Prince of Wales was seen everywhere with ‘this ‘Simpson woman’. An American and a divorcee too! People were worried, including Conrad’s fellow guests at Cawdor. There were hushed conversations, a crisis was looming, rumours abounded – the most pessimistic of which turned out to be true. Who was this Mrs Simpson? In truth, Conrad had already met her. In February 1935, the Prince and Wallis Simpson had spent an infamous skiing holiday at Kitzbühel. Despite confusing the dates, Conrad was almost certainly in attendance. Indeed, he specifically relates that ‘the Duke’ – as he was to become after the Abdication – asked if he could give him some skiing lessons.


 “Being myself no professional, I suggested Billy Bracken, a British ski champion. I saw a good deal of His Royal Highness and Mrs Simpson at that time.’ (DM, p. 152)


Again Conrad was in the centre of things, and his socialising with the openly pro-German Prince was yet  another association which would have enhanced his reputation in Germany. Doubtless, Hitler looked forward to  a new supportive British king, but following George V’s death in January 1936, and the Prince’s succession as Edward VIII, Hitler’s expectations were soon shattered: before the year was out, Edward abdicated to marry Mrs Simpson. 


After his interlude at Cawdor, Conrad was sent back to Austria. He went home in his sports car on this occasion – partly to vary his route, but also to allow him to catch up with old friends. Albert de Ligne, former Belgian Ambassador to Washington and Chairman of the Olympic Games Committee, lived in Belgium at the magnificent château of Beloeil.  Conrad knew him from his time in The Hague. Beloeil was close to Mons, and Conrad visited his regiment’s war memorial there, and saw the field where he had received his own baptism by fire beside the Asylum. He also met Count Baillie de la Tour, the current Olympic Chairman. He told how he convinced a furious Führer before the Berlin Games of 1936 to remove anti-Jewish posters by removing his hat and showing his shiny bald head to Hitler, saying: “If His Excellency were to object to bald men, it would be tactless to write it upon the walls while I was visiting. Hitler had laughed and the posters were removed.


On the ground Conrad met an ardent anti Nazi and his associates. This was to throw light on the Nazi movement that was both interesting and sinister. They told him of Occult magical forces at the very heart of power: Hitler was a Medium. The magical cabal in the centre of the Nazi party, they claimed, included Dietrich Eckhart – Hitler’s ‘spiritual mentor’, Eckhart’s friend, Professor Obert, and Alfred Rosenberg.  But one ‘Haushofer’ had ‘the most influence over the Führer’. They told him of the Legend of Thule, a mythical lost land that was the centre of a vanished magical civilisation. Contact through a medium with these higher forces would allow Germany to dominate the world. And breeding a super race would permit the creation of a thousand-year Reich. Josef Mengele and his experiments on twins taken from concentration camps fed into this warped dream. Of magic, Conrad had been told that “After concluding a pact with hidden forces, then the members of the group cannot evoke these powers except through the intermediary of a magician or High Priest who, in turn, can do nothing without the Mediums.” (DM p. 154)


Whatever the truth about Hitler and his occult advisers, occult forces and connections were part of the Nazi myth; the language and concepts played central roles in Nazi initiation rites. Conrad posits that Hitler was “probably the medium of Haushofer the magician.” Yet, he does not specifically identify ‘Haushofer’ – a puzzling omission in view of the assertion that he had ‘the most influence’ over Hitler. Conrad appears to assume that the reader will be familiar with his name. But who was ‘Haushofer’? The obvious candidate is Professor General Karl Haushofer, who, if nothing else, was deeeply interested in astrology and Oriental mysticism. He was Professor of Geopolitik at Munich University, and Rudolf Hess had been one of his most devoted students in the early 20s.  Indeed, he is recognised as a political mentor to Hess in a confidential MI5 report dating from the late 30s.  It was his son, Albrecht Haushofer , who made an abortive attempt to broker an Anglo-German peace deal between Hess and Wing Commander the Duke of Hamilton. In September 1940, Albrecht tried to arrange a meeting with Hamilton in Lisbon. Ostensibly, it was ruled out by MI6 in April 1941 as too much time had elapsed since the initial letter was intercepted. Yet, on 10 May 1941, a German M.E. 110 fighter bomber crashed in a Scottish field. Its  pilot, who parachuted to earth with only an injured ankle asked to speak to the; Duke of Hamilton he had a message from Albrecht Haushofer. The pilot was Hess. Did Conrad have a hand in setting off a chain of events which brought a sadly misguided Rudolf Hess to a cold Scottish field? Only conjecture, but this is the realm Conrad moved in.


Despite his numerous high-level contacts, Rudolfo von Gerlach was always Conrad’s primary source. His connections and influence ranged far and wide. From within the Vatican, he gained detailed knowledge of international affairs – a particularly fruitful source. But, however it came his way, all his intelligence was always of the highest quality. They were good friends too. As Conrad travelled up and down Germany, it allowed him to personally survey the growth of militarism within Germany. He filed reports about installations around Munich, Rosenheim, Berchtesgaden and Reichenhall. It is during this time that he discovered the Germans had detailed knowledge of the Maginot Line and comprehensive plans to destroy its power grid. They knew where the generators were located and they were marked for destruction.


 It was spring 1938. Conrad heard Kathleen had died in Harbin. The fate of Monivea laid heavily on his mind. Conrad was swept briefly into the game of courtly diplomacy when a Royal party took the Villa Erna adjacent to his chalet. He met King Leopold of Belgium, his mother, the Dowager Queen Elisabeth, and her sister, Countess Sophie Toerring. They were being presented to Their Majesties by Ludovic Wilhelm, a Bavarian Baron. They soon became friends. Elisabeth was the life and soul of the party, her wide interests ranging from Egyptology to music. The staunch resistance of her beloved husband King Albert I of Belgium to Kaiser Bill’s forces had given the British Expeditionary Force time to take up position at the outbreak of the Great War. It had earned him the gratitude of the free world. Had Belgium capitulated when Germany invaded, it is likely all would have been lost. Albert and Elisabeth’s story is the stuff of legend. Conrad found Elisabeth the most pleasant of company. He did once act briefly as her private secretary. He said Leopold was weighed down by the responsibilities of kingship and was lucky to get some skiing in before the crisis which was to find him lacking. He recalls on leaving their company at 2 o’clock one morning that  he saw the sky was ablaze with red; it was the Northern Lights. He went back and told Elisabeth and the whole party came to look. ‘Bubi’, as the Baron was called, said the villagers would read this as an evil omen, a portent of war. In this they would be correct. Just over the mountain, Hitler was in his Eagle’s Nest finalising his plans.


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