Shelved Dolls: Coco Chanel – Was She A Nazi?

It is one of the banes of my existence that every time I see a movie or read a novel that details the life of Coco Chanel, they focus on one aspect. That she was once in love with an Englishman named Boy Capel. She met him when she was the mistress of a wealthy man, and, according to Justine Picardie’s excellent biography Coco Chanel: the Legend and the Life: 

His name was Arthur Capel, but his friends called him Boy, in an Edwardian era when English gentlemen were still able to celebrate their continuing freedoms long after they had turned from boys to men. Boy’s origins were swathed in romance, and he came to Paris amidst murmured speculation that he was connected in some mysterious way to the British aristocracy.

“In Pau I met an Englishman”, Gabrielle Chanel said to Morand. “We made each other’s acquaintance when we were out horse-trekking one day; we all lived on horseback.” They drank wine together; it was young, intoxicating and quite unusual, and so was the Englishman. “The young man was handsome, very tanned and attractive. More than handsome, he was magnificent. I admired his nonchalance, and his green eyes. He rode bold and very powerful horses. I fell in love with him. I had never loved MB. ” Yet at first, she and Capel did not speak. “Not a word was exchanged between this Englishman and me.”

“One day I heard he was leaving Pau.” She asked him to tell her the time he was travelling to Paris; no other conversation was necessary. “The following day, I was at the station. I climbed onto the train.”

This tale is, indeed, very romantic. And, God, they looked good together:

coco chanel boy capel

Spoiler: Boy dies. They’re together only briefly, it’s great, they frolic by a seaside, Coco wears all of his clothing and gets the idea for a striped shirt, and then he dies.

In 1919. He died in 1919. Coco Chanel lived until 1971. I’m apt to believe that in the intervening 50 years Coco Chanel did something. And by something I mean “became a Nazi” which is perhaps why so many people like to end her story with Boy’s death.

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    • Lastango

      “In one Iribe drew a naked Coco Chanel – meant to represent Marianne (a symbol of the French state) – being cradled by Hitler who is seemingly defending her from a group of Jews. So that is where Coco formed her political views. It is amazing that you could have these opinions and be open about them and still be part of polite society.”
      Actually, openly-expressed anti-Semitic views are de rigueur in Europe today. In the UK, a parliamentary inquiry found that:

      “Anti-Jewish themes and remarks are gaining acceptability in some quarters in public and private discourse in Britain and there is a danger that this trend will be come more and more mainstream… It is this phenomenon that has contributed to an atmosphere where Jews have become more anxious and more vulnerable to abuse and attack than at any other time for a generation of longer.”
      That’s expecially true in Europe’s upper crust:

    • fionarocks

      So disappointing to hear this. But great article! You’re right, she absolutely should have known better.

    • Deb

      An interesting read is the book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”. Describes the pervasive antisemitism of not only Germany but the entire continent pretty much.

    • MR

      You know there were a lot fascists in France. The Nazis – after they defeated France in 1940 – formed a French government around them, called Vichy France. Churchill ended any threat it posed to Britain shortly after, in Oran, Algeria, when he ordered the destruction of the (now Vichy) French Navy. I guess Coco wasn’t as much a threat as of the French Navy falling into Nazi Germany’s hands, huh? Lucky for Coco. :)

    • kj

      Well, that’s depressing. At least I don’t have to feel as bad now about not liking her clothes…………

    • Natalie

      I think this is one of those situations that is similar to the founding fathers of America. They all owned salves. That was awful. Yet, we still like them and they still founded America. Not that it is excusable that they owned salves, but we can still like America.
      So we can still like her clothes. I guess.

      • Jennifer Wright

        I mean, I own some salves myself. My skin gets pretty dry in the winter.

      • Kokos

        Yeah,me to. Got to get some slaves to rub it on me,though.

      • jjj


    • Abvilian

      Coco was a British spy, which is well known and documented fact.

    • Kokos

      Still am amazed at the level of admiration uninformed,ignorant and in most cases,desperate left women have for this person. Ladies,grab your pen and notepad: Coce=junkie+golddigger+home-wrecker+nazi+perfume&some clothes. Cheers.

    • Sammy

      After the war, many French women who had been known to “consort” with German soldiers had their heads shaved publicly. Apparently some thought that this should happen to Chanel but Churchill intervened.

    • Clarisse Thorn

      When you’re in a social circle where orgies are common, they usually “just happen,” although sometimes they are explicitly and carefully planned. You know how sometimes you’re on a date and then one thing leads to another and you’re making out and then you both make a million tiny decisions that eventually lead to you leaping into bed naked together? And the next day you’re like, “What decision? it just happened!” even though there were actually a lot of decisions and usually at least one party put a lot of effort into making sex happen? Sometimes orgies happen like that, too.

      But sometimes they really are planned through Facebook events. If you aren’t getting enough Facebook orgies, maybe you should plan one. It’s surprisingly difficult but gets easier with practice.