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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Our Gracie 'lost her nationality'
Gracie Fields
Her marriage to an Italian put her citizenship in doubt
Britain was considering treating forces sweetheart Gracie Fields as an "alien" after World War II, secret government documents have revealed.

The Rochdale-born star married Italian film director Monty Banks in 1940.

Her marriage to a citizen whose country Britain was at war with, put her nationality in doubt.

A newly released document said "she should be treated as an alien and refused a renewal of her passport" unless the Home Office readmitted her.

It came back to haunt her as she travelled across Europe after the War.

For example, admission to cross into France from her home in Capri could be blocked, as then Italians - unlike Britons - needed a visa.

An April 1945 Foreign Office document, released by the National Archives, read: "Prima facie Miss Fields has, by her marriage to a husband who was at the time an Italian, lost British nationality and acquired Italian nationality.

Gracie Fields performing in the All Star Cabaret
There is no logic in a law which treats as an alien a woman who is so typically a British product
Foreign Office document

"She ought therefore to be treated as an alien and refused a renewal of the British passport unless the Home Office is prepared to readmit her to British nationality".

Divorced Gracie had lived in England until 1940, but went with her new husband to the US soon after Italy entered the war against Britain and he was threatened with internment.

In 1941 she returned to England to entertain the troops and factory workers. The Foreign Office issued her with a British passport, renewed in 1943 and 1945, which was used until May 1946.

Behind the scenes there was much head-scratching in Whitehall over whether Gracie's application for re-naturalisation should be successful.

Weighing up the options, the document notes: "...in view of the history of Miss Fields since the war, I think many people would be opposed to granting her any special favour in the matter of naturalisation...

"There is no indication that Miss Fields intends to settle down in this country, and by naturalising her we may be naturalising a woman who has practically severed her connection with this country.

'Enemy national'

"On the other hand, if we refuse, some of the Women's Societies may make propaganda out of our refusal and say - with much plausibility - that there is no logic in a law which treats as an alien a woman who is so typically a British product."

Gracie was back in the US by January 1947. But her lawyer Fresco Westcent told the Home Office she was "desirous and anxious" to return to Britain for public appearances that had been pencilled in for March 1947.

"Gracie Fields is desirous, under the above circumstances, of being re-naturalised as a British subject.

"It is to be observed that Gracie Fields is a British-born woman, that she was married to an alien who became an enemy national but is no longer, although she is in the unfortunate position of retaining that nationality."

It is not clear what final official position was taken.




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