Port and cigars were the traditional British way of finishing dinner: a rich, sweet alcohol to aid digestion after a heavy meal, and a pungent cigar to complement the taste of the port. Tradition dictates that the port bottle is always passed to the left, and never put down.
Men and women would separate after dinner, at least for a short while, with the women withdrawing to the drawing room and the men remaining at the table or, as here, moving to the smoking room. It would be up to the men to decide when to rejoin the women.
Following the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, in which the only serious challengers to Hitler's hegemony – Ernst Röhm's brownshirts – were murdered by the SS and Gestapo, Hitler assumed total control of Germany's entire military and all branches of government. Two months later, he led the annual Rally during which thousands of Nazis swore their allegiance.
These rallies were held from 1923 to 1938, but the Rally in 1934 was the first official imperial party congress (the Reichsparteitag) under Hitler, and marked the beginning of the nightmare of Nazism. The Rally was filmed by Leni Riefenstahl as Triumph of the Will. The Rally in 1936 coincided with Germany's remilitarisation of the Rhineland which was celebrated as a reclamation of German honour after the humiliations of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties.
The 1936 Olympic Games were staged in Berlin, and went ahead despite international calls to boycott them. Jesse Owens won four gold medals, brilliantly undermining Hitler's theory of Aryan superiority.
The British Ambassador to Germany attempted to persuade the British press to paint Hitler as "an apostle of Peace", to encourage him to do the right thing, rather than vilify him and risk war.
Chamberlain met with Hitler twice, and after his second meeting in 1938 returned waving the famous piece of paper, saying he had secured peace in our time. He had brokered the Munich Agreement, a pledge between Britain, Italy, France and Germany which gave Hitler carte blanche to annex the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia. The Sudetenland had been taken from Germany after World War One as one of the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles.
Chamberlain's announcement on 3 September 1939 to the United Kingdom: Britain was now at war with Germany (audio).
The Duke of Windsor became King Edward VIII on 20 January 1936, following the death of his father, George V. His Nazi sympathies were well known, and although he did not visit Hitler during the time he was on the throne, nevertheless he sent a personal message suggesting a peace agreement between Germany and England.
His relationship with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, is thought by many to have been the saving of Britain from an unholy alliance with the Nazi regime, although once he had abdicated the throne in order to marry her he did what he could to broker peace with Germany.
In an interview with journalist Fulton Oursler in 1940, he said, “Tell Mr Roosevelt that if he will make an offer of intervention for peace, that before anyone in England can oppose it, the Duke of Windsor will instantly issue a statement supporting it and that will start a revolution in England and force peace.” ("The Nazi King" by Simon Edge, The Daily Express, 11 July 2009)
The Treaties of Versailles and Locarno, ratified in 1919 and 1925 respectively, placed heavy restrictions on Germany to minimize its capacity for future aggression, and imposed a permanent ban on military forces in the Rhineland. Despite these Treaties, Hitler re-militarised the area in 1936. Most historians view it as a provocative act to test the strength of the Treaties and to rebuild the German spirit and pride.
The Rhineland was seen as a buffer zone between France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands to the west and Germany to the east, along the line of the River Rhine.