This is a thor­oughly mod­ern


The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - HARRY & MEGHAN -

Wal­lis Simp­son wore blue for her wed­ding to Prince Ed­ward, Duke of Wind­sor in 1937 – her Main­bocher gown was fa­mously dyed to match her eyes.

Vic­to­ria and Al­bert’s cake was the first to be dec­o­rated with fig­ures of the bride and groom on it.

AS Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took to the dance floor at Frog­more House last night few on­look­ers would’ve been aware of the sig­nif­i­cance of the venue. For just me­tres away in the grounds of the 17th-cen­tury es­tate lie the graves of King Ed­ward VIII and his wife Wal­lis Simp­son, a twice-di­vorced Amer­i­can whose love for the monarch led to his ex­tra­or­di­nary ab­di­ca­tion and the pair be­ing ex­iled.

That one pre­vi­ously mar­ried bride should be so warmly em­braced by crown and country while the other was treated with dis­dain and con­dem­na­tion is il­lus­tra­tive of the strik­ing evo­lu­tion of the monar­chy on the sub­ject of divorce.

More than 80 years af­ter the King and his di­vorced lover caused a royal cri­sis, Markle has suf­fered no such ig­nominy. The Queen not only ap­proved her grand­son’s mar­riage but broke long-held tra­di­tions to welcome his fi­ancee into the fam­ily, in­clud­ing invit­ing her to spend last Christ­mas with the Royal fam­ily at San­dring­ham, a priv­i­lege pre­vi­ously be­stowed only on mar­ried cou­ples.

While her soft­en­ing stance re­flects chang­ing so­ci­etal val­ues, it’s all the more re­mark­able when you con­sider she is only on the throne be­cause of the monar­chy’s deep in­tol­er­ance of divorce. As the daugh­ter of the sec­ond son of King Ge­orge V, she was never ex­pected to be queen, but when her un­cle gave up his birthright for love, is brother, El­iz­a­beth’s fa­ther, ac­ceded to the throne.

While Simp­son was con­sid­ered a “sor­cer­ess” by her mother-in-law back in 1936, decades on Markle’s divorce from first hus­band Trevor En­gel­son barely war­rants a men­tion and has proved no ob­sta­cle to her re­la­tion­ship with the sixth in line to the throne.

As royal biog­ra­pher An­drew Mor­ton notes: “While the first Amer­i­can duchess, Wal­lis, di­vided the na­tion; Meghan, sim­ply by be­ing her­self — bi-racial, di­vorced and Amer­i­can, and cer­tainly not from the up­per classes — is a unit­ing fig­ure.”

This as­ton­ish­ing change of per­spec­tive for an in­sti­tu­tion that ven­er­ates his­tory, clings to tra­di­tion and puts duty above all, re­flects both the rise in the number of di­vorces, pub­lic at­ti­tudes, changes within the church and the monarch’s own ex­pe­ri­ences.

Three of her four children have di­vorced, proof that even princes and princesses are not guar­an­teed a fairy­tale end­ing.

Mar­ry­ing di­vorcees was un­think­able back in 1953 when, shortly af­ter the Queen’s corona­tion, news broke that her sis­ter Princess Mar­garet was in love with her di­vorced equerry, Group Cap­tain Peter Townsend. As the re­cent Net­flix series The Crown dra­mat­i­cally por­trayed, the Queen would not sup­port them mar­ry­ing as the Church of Eng­land for­bade re­mar­riage of

di­vorcees if their pre­vi­ous spouse was still alive. Mar­garet had been told she would for­feit her royal priv­i­leges and in­come if she were to marry Townsend and to­gether the pair made the heart­break­ing de­ci­sion to aban­don their en­gage­ment. “I would like it to be known that I have de­cided not to marry Group Cap­tain Peter Townsend,” the Princess said in an of­fi­cial state­ment. “Mind­ful of the Church’s teach­ing that Chris­tian mar­riage is in­dis­sol­u­ble, and con­scious of my duty to the Com­mon­wealth, I have re­solved to put these con­sid­er­a­tions be­fore any oth­ers.”

Pri­ori­tis­ing duty above love was to have last­ing con­se­quences for the princess. Mar­garet went on to marry pho­tog­ra­pher Antony Arm­strong-Jones, with whom she had two children, but the re­la­tion­ship de­te­ri­o­rated and they an­nounced their divorce in 1978.

It was the first dis­so­lu­tion of a mar­riage in the im­me­di­ate royal fam­ily since King Henry VIII’s mar­riage to Anne of Cleves was an­nulled in 1540.

While the Queen was dis­tressed by her sis­ter’s re­la­tion­ship woes,

The first royal wed­ding to be held in St Ge­orge’s Chapel, Wind­sor, was that of Ed­ward, Prince of Wales – later King Ed­ward VII – and Princess Alexan­dra of Den­mark in 1863.

she had more trou­bles to come. A decade later her daugh­ter Princess Anne sep­a­rated from Cap­tain Mark Phillips, yet the pub­lic re­sponse re­flected chang­ing times.

In­stead of be­ing ma­ligned for her fail­ure, Anne was re­garded with com­pas­sion, the vic­tim of an emo­tion­ally bar­ren mar­riage. She re­mar­ried in 1992 in Scot­land be­cause she could not be re­mar­ried in the Church of Eng­land. The same year the Queen’s third son An­drew sep­a­rated from Sarah Fer­gu­son, who was ef­fec­tively frozen out of the royal fam­ily fol­low­ing her toe-suck­ing an­tics with Amer­i­can fi­nancier John Bryan.

But noth­ing shook the monar­chy as deeply as the sep­a­ra­tion of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. He was the heir to the throne, she was a global sen­sa­tion and each used the media to pub­li­cise their bit­ter­ness, blame and ran­cour. While Charles’s re­la­tion­ship with Camilla Park­erBowles was well known, af­ter Diana’s death a con­certed cam­paign by the palace was re­quired to make their re­la­tion­ship ac­cept­able to the pub­lic. Even though the Church of Eng­land had dropped their rules on re­mar­riage in 2002, Camilla was fear­ful of pub­lic sen­ti­ment when she mar­ried Charles in 2005. As royal biog­ra­pher Penny Junor re­veals, she hid un­der the doona on the morn­ing of her wed­ding.

“She ab­so­lutely re­fused to come out. She was so fright­ened, she had to be coaxed out of bed. She was ter­ri­fied and quite rightly. No­body knew what re­cep­tion she was go­ing to get.”

Last night, as the Queen toasted an­other di­vorcee en­ter­ing the royal fam­ily’s ranks, she more than most will have ac­knowl­edged how times have changed.

Ed­ward, Duke of Wind­sor, for­merly Ed­ward VIII of Eng­land, and his wife Wal­lis Simp­son, at their wed­ding in 1937. LOVE COMES FIRST

ROYAL SMILES Wed­ding photo of Princess Anne and Cap­tain Mark Phillips.

AMER­I­CAN BEAUTY Wal­lis Simp­son.

Princess Mar­garet never re­ally re­cov­ered from her for­bid­den ro­mance with Peter Townsend. LOVE ON THE ROCKS

Princess Mar­garet with Group Cap­tain Peter Townsend, the man she was for­bid­den from mar­ry­ing. THWARTED LOVE

Prince Charles fi­nally mar­ried the love of his life, Camilla, in 2005. CHARMILLA

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