Editor’s Note: We’re happy to share a guest post from Simone’s daughter, Dina Cramer….
Much has been written about Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s recent announcement that they were stepping back from the British royal family, moving abroad part-time, and becoming financially independent. And all this without getting the Queen’s permission. It remains to be seen how things will develop, but it made me think about other royals, who have tried to rebel against the royal rules. While the Prince and his wife seem to be doing things their own way, other royals, who were forced to play by the rules, were not so lucky.
The British monarchy values duty over love. This is the institution which forbade Edward VIII to be crowned as king if he married “that woman,” Wallis Simpson, because she was twice divorced. He abdicated rather than live without “the woman I love,” causing a constitutional crisis. He lived out his life in France and was only rarely allowed to set foot on British soil and then only with the monarch’s permission.
However, the monarchy drew the wrong lesson from it when it came to the next generation and Princess Margaret, sister to the present queen. Instead of relenting on their “no divorce” rule, they forbade her to marry the man she loved and who loved her, on the grounds that he too was divorced. They extended this cruelty by keeping them apart for two years, promising they could marry when the princess turned 25 and privately hoping they would forget each other.
It did not work. Two years later they still wanted to marry, and the Church of England, which governs these matters, still forbade it. Margaret spiraled down, marrying unhappily later, being eventually abandoned by her husband, and spending the rest of her life with young boyfriends. She died at 70 after a stroke ended her unhappy life. She would be jealous to her core if she saw that Harry, also a second-born, was allowed to marry a divorcee and is even considering leaving England while retaining his title. None of this was possible for her.
Having learned nothing from these attempts to keep people who loved each other apart, in the following generation the palace establishment forbade Charles from marrying Camilla Shand, whom he loved. They arranged to marry her off to some one else while sending him away on a trumped up sea voyage with the navy. The palace powers-that-be thought she wasn’t good enough for an heir, and his pleas did him no good.
Charles never forgot Camilla and dallied with her during most of his unhappy approved marriage to Lady Diana Spencer. This tortured Diana, who said that “there were three of us in this marriage.” Ironically the royal interference caused another divorce as Charles and Diana, who were both miserable with each other, divorced. He married Camilla, now divorced herself, soon after Diana was out of the picture. Apparently now it was all right for an heir to the throne to marry a divorcee. Edward VIII would have been stunned if he could have seen this.
Things have changed in the modern era. The palace no longer enforces their old-fashioned ideas about who is a suitable spouse. Prince William, an heir to the throne, was allowed to marry a commoner whom he loved, and they seem very happy together. A new wrinkle appeared with his younger brother, Harry, who also married apparently happily. In fact he was allowed to marry an American, half-black, divorcee, something that would have been a scandal in earlier times. The couple is causing a royal crisis of their own with their recent announcement. We shall see how this bold display of independence plays out. In an earlier time, they would not have dared, and if they had, they would have been banished from “The Firm,” as the royal family is called.”
One might say that all of this is a tempest in a (Spode) teapot, and who really cares about these silly people, who wear too many jewels and lots of hats? But the fact is they entertain us commoners on both sides of the Atlantic and provide a kind of soap opera for us. We love to see them formally attired and attending fancy social events. They are like movie stars and add glamour to our lives. They also look good on magazine covers.
What do we think will happen next?