Sistory is coming at you live this week from the land of our nation’s forefathers forefathers, Merry Ol’ England. Our visit to Londontown has everything to do with a top-notch sale Icelandair was having, and nothing at all to do with the impending nuptials happening just up the road at Windsor Castle tomorrow.
I mean, since we’re here, might make sense to just pop in, give a little visit, offer Prince Harry one last chance to change his mind, drive off into the sunset with me and never look back…
I kid, I kid. I’m fully on board with Team Meghan — a half-black, half-Jewish divorcee actress is exactly what the British monarchy needed. And truthfully, I’m not so sure I’d even want to marry into the family. The royals have a long, tawdry history of relationship drama that I’d rather not let tarnish my good name.
Ms. Markle (which I can call her until tomorrow, when she’ll become a Duchess) isn’t even the first divorcee to bag a prince. But so far, she’s been far more welcomed into the fold than her predecessor, the infamous Wallis Simpson.
Wallis Simpson was a beautiful American socialite in the 1930s known for her quick wit and beautiful eyes. She had a bit of a track record, shall we say, when it came to married men — and her own marriages didn’t fare much better.
Simpson married a U.S. Naval Officer who drank too much and often left her alone for long periods of time. By the time the pair divorced, she was already dating a shipping magnate who would leave his wife to marry her just a few months later.
But nothing good can last. Just a few years later, Simpson met Edward, Prince of Wales, the heir apparent to the British throne.
This meeting sparked a love affair that would end Simpson’s marriage, ruin what was left of her good name and create a constitutional crisis the likes of which England hadn’t seen since the days of Henry VIII.
As Simpson was working to extricate herself from her marriage, the Prince of Wales was ascending to the throne after the death of his father. King Edward VIII made it very clear to his courtiers that he intended to marry this still-married, already-once-divorced American socialite just the moment he could.
This posed a problem, or, rather, a few problems. Ironically, considering its roots, the Church of England at the time didn’t allow divorcees to get remarried if their former spouse was still alive. There was talk that her second marriage — and any future unions — might be seen as bigamous in the eyes of the church.
There was no getting around it: King Edward couldn’t marry Wallis Simpson.
But Not-King Edward could. On December 10th, 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated his throne, handing the reins of his reign over to his younger brother. He said in a radio broadcast, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”
The newly-minted King George VI granted his older brother the title of Duke of Windsor, and when the pair married a month later, Simpson became a Duchess.
As they say, third time’s a charm. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor remained together until his death in 1972, spending most of their time in France and returning to England very rarely. They were never fully accepted by the royal family, nor the British people Edward once served as King.
In an somewhat biased and extremely flattering autobiography Simpson wrote before her death, she summed up the experience: “You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance.”
All this turmoil did give us one amazing thing. When George VI stepped in to his brother’s shoes, his eldest daughter moved into the line of succession behind him. Queen Elizabeth II was never supposed to sit on the throne, a throne she has now occupied longer than any other British monarch.
She has ruled the country through periods of massive change, not least shifting social norms. When her grandson marries an American divorcee tomorrow, he won’t have to give up his rights to the throne — however distant they may be.