Fifty years ago, the royal wedding of Prince Harry and divorcée Meghan Markel would never have happened! Throughout the course of history, Royal marriages have been notoriously selective. Why did Royals barely know their future spouses and marry them? Sounds cruel and mean, doesn’t it?
King Edward VIII, Prince Harry’s great-great uncle, abdicated his throne in 1936 because the government would not allow him to marry the American divorcée, Wallace Warfield Simpson. Prince Harry’s great aunt, the highly controversial Princess Margaret, was forbidden by her sister Queen Elizabeth and the British government to marry her love, Group Captain Peter Townsend.
The History of Royal Marriages
Marriage rules for Royals go back thousands of years. Royal blood was, and is in some quarters, still is considered “sacred,” along with the “divine right” to rule. These misconceptions worked well for those in power. This tradition facilitated holding onto power and is akin to the “swamp” in Washington D.C. Those who have the power want to keep it and will do whatever it takes to hold onto it, regardless of the party affiliation, religion, philosophy, or most importantly – love.
Royal offspring were, in some instances still are, considered “property of the crown.” This tradition existed to perpetuate the hold on power and ensure the next generation’s succession. Power and security! Royal daughters or princesses were valued as bargaining “chips” in treaties and alliances with foreign powers. Marrying one’s daughter to a neighboring king or crown prince could help stabilize international relationships. At one point, Queen Victoria’s offspring sat on every major throne in Europe.
This did not work too well in WW I when England went to war against Queen Victoria’s nephew Kaiser Wilhelm and the Russian Czar, who was married to the Queen Victoria’s granddaughter. When the war was over, the British royal family survived but the German, Russian, and Austria-Hungarian Empires were rid of their Emperors and Empresses. However, the tradition of royal marrying royal continued to hold sway in the remaining royal courts.
Edward’s Not So Royal Wedding to Wallis Simpson
Twenty years following WW I, the dashing and super-popular King Edward the VIII became king upon the death of his father, King George V. King George and Queen Mary did not excel in parenting and their children were proof positive of this. David, Prince of Wales, fell madly in love with a divorced American Socialite, the aforementioned, Wallace Simpson. Oh yes, she was married to her third husband when they met.
Mrs. Simpson and the Prince carried on with their relationship in private. It was only private because the British press was forbidden by law and tradition to publicize the private lives of the Royals. When the King died and the Prince succeeded his father to the throne things became a bit dicey. He insisted that he marry Mrs. Simpson and was reminded that she was married, so she divorced Mr. Simpson. The Prince lobbied his family and the government hard to get permission to marry her. They said no. Public opinion was tapped and it was in the Prince’s favor. The family and government still said, “No!”
On December 20, 1936, King Edward the VIII abdicated as King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India. He was succeeded by his brother George VI, who was succeeded by the current Queen Elizabeth 16 years later. This is where it gets a little weird.
Princess Margaret’s Broken Engagement
Queen Elizabeth and her sister Margaret were very close. As members of the Royal Family, they lived a sheltered and relatively confined life, with limited access to friends their own age. Naturally, they were very close. Princess Margaret fell in love with the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend. The Princess and the Captain tried for years to get the Crown and the government’s approval. The government shipped Townsend out of the country for two years hoping the “fervor” would evaporate. He returned, and they pursued the prospect of marriage. If she “broke the rules” and married him, she would have lost her title, position in the succession, and royal status so she broke off the engagement.
Now, you have been updated on the history of Royal marriages; and why it is so interesting to note the significance of this marriage in history.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Historic Royal Wedding
Isn’t it interesting, that here we are today? Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry’s grandmother, has given her approval to his marriage with an American divorcée? Prince Harry is sixth in line to the throne. If Prince William and his family were “wiped out,” Harry would be King and Meghan, a divorced American, would be Queen. Their offspring would succeed to the throne.
Wow, those Americans as so “cheeky!”
Did you enjoy this rather basic, but true rendition of history?
Let me know your thoughts! I have all kinds of “little-known facts of even less interest” that you might find titillating!
Check out my website and take a read of the first few chapters of my novel, Braxton’s Century. It takes place between 1860-1960 and several Royal weddings happen; some take years to negotiate. Some were ill-advised, and others, were, well awesome! I love history and all of this fascinating stuff.
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