The circumstances surrounding Prince Harry and King Edward VIII’s royal status decisions were different. Harry switched to part time. Edward abdicated altogether. But the comparisons? They were swift, and inevitable: Both engulfed the monarchy in turmoil. Both sent the media into a tailspin. Both involved beautiful American divorcées. And both seemed unfathomable: quitting the royal family, a blood relation so thick and businesslike it’s often called “The Firm.” A headline in the U.K.’s The Telegraph read: “As Harry and Meghan reject ‘senior’ royal life, the only comparison is with Edward and Wallis Simpson.”
With the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, we’re still in uncharted waters. (Although per reports, the Queen recently called an “emergency meeting” to figure it all out.) But for Edward, who died in 1972, we know the beginning, middle, and end of his royal story. So perhaps it’s worth revisiting what happened to the last British royal who defied the institution. What happened? What was the reaction? And most importantly—was it worth it?
King Edward VIII first met Wallis Simpson in 1931, back when he was Prince of Wales, and she was still married. Their affair carried on for years, despite the unease of the royal family and British government. In 1936, Simpson divorced her husband, and Edward became king. When he expressed a desire to marry Simpson, a crisis erupted: Edward was the head of Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury wouldn’t allow him to marry a twice-divorced American, and the British government rejected a plan where Edward VIII would remain king, Simpson would take on a lesser title than “Queen”, and their future children would not be heirs to the throne. The Prime Minister at the time, Stanley Baldwin, visited the king on November 16 and told him the public would never accept their union. Baldwin urged the people’s opinions to be considered. “I am going to marry Mrs. Simpson, and I am prepared to go,” replied the King, according to The Times of London.
On December 10, Baldwin entered British parliament with a document in his hand. He handed it to the speaker. “A message from his Majesty the King, signed by his Majesty’s own hand,” the prime minister announced to the House.
The following was read aloud, reports say, with uncharacteristic traces of emotion:
“After long and anxious consideration, I have determined to renounce the throne to which I succeeded on the death of my father, and I am now communicating this, my final and irrevocable decision.”
“I will not enter now into my private feelings but I would beg that it should be remembered that the burden which constantly rests upon the shoulders of a sovereign is so heavy that it can only be borne in circumstances different from those in which I found myself.”
It was received in dead silence.
King Edward VIII’s last act in his 326-day reign was signing his own abdication. He was stripped of “His Royal Highness” status, and demoted to the Duke of Windsor. Edward and Simpson moved to France. Essentially, however, they were exiled: they could not return home without the permission of his brother, the new King George VI, for fears it could cause public unrest. To keep him in line, the government threatened to suspend payments from his financial settlement.
Come World War II, Edward was stationed as a major-general in France. However, it’s said that due to his Nazi sympathies and associations, Churchill shipped him far away from the front, appointing him as governor of the Bahamas. In the academic paper “The Windsor File”, former foreign service officer and historian Paul Sweet wrote that Edward really didn’t want to go. “Eventually Churchill became so frustrated that he reminded Edward in a telegram that even major-generals could be court-martialed,” Sweet reported. He was in office until March 1945, two months before V-E Day. The Duchess of Windsor publicly called the appointment one of little consequence in McCall’s Magazine.
In September, he returned to England for the first time in nearly six years. (He was allowed one brief visit in 1940—a trip to the War Office.) 30 journalists gathered in his ship cabin for his first interview in Britain since his abdication. “I heard something about the ban on interviewing me,” the Duke said with, according to the Manchester Guardian, a smile. “I disclaim any knowledge of that. I am very glad to see you all.”
He told reporters that he wasn’t going to keep the house in Paris, and that the chateau he had in the South of France was only rented. He had no plans, and no job—but he wanted one! One that he could do well. A reporter put two and two together. “Would you prefer a job in this country?” he asked. “Yes, indeed. Yes, certainly,” Edward said, eager, emphatic, and hopeful.
Over the next few years, rumors flew about Edward’s English comeback—especially after he visited Churchill in 1953. A reporter asked him point blank about a potential government job. “When I left Britain sixteen years ago I said that I was always available, and I am still available,” he replied.
Nothing ever materialized.
It’s said he was offered jobs in the private sector, but he couldn’t take them—making money in commerce and industry was a conflict of interest to his family, the monarchy.
The Windsors stayed in France. To pass the time, the Duke wrote books and became an avid gardener. Simpson wrote articles and designed patterns. They enjoyed café society in New York and Paris. (Although it’s not certain if everyone enjoyed them in return—Gore Vidal called the Duke “deeply stupid.”) By most accounts, they remained deeply in love. But also by most accounts, the Duke deeply yearned to do something more.
It’s likely his wife realized that. Simpson served up a scathing thoughts in a newspaper column: “For 24 years my husband has been punished, like a small boy who gets a spanking every day of his life for a small transgression.”
The Duke died on May 28, 1972 in Paris. He was buried at Windsor Castle.
Twelve years before his death, Lord Kinross profiled the Duke and Duchess for The Sunday Telegraph. He concluded: “Both seek to lead the lives of private persons. But in an age given to publicity, how can they? The doings of the Duke, an ex-monarch and still royalty, must always attract public attention.”
Now, this all happened in the past. Attitudes change, and circumstances are different. People are different—Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have certainly proven just how so.
Yet, 60 years later, Kinross’s conclusion still rings true. At a time when royal fervor has gone social-media supersonic, how will Harry and Meghan manage to get more privacy while still being public figures? How will they become capitalist money-makers without damaging the family’s reputation for avoiding conflicts of interest? Most importantly: can you ever carve your own path when it was already set by your birthright?
Disgraceful behaviour fuelled by Meghan Markle’s accusations In Oprah interview suggest this race issue dimension is exceedingly dangerous
What we think about the Meghan and Harry Interview
Reactions to Meghan and Harry Interview
Do you think Meghan and Harry will make it together, or will someone walk away? If so who do you think is more likely to do so?
Slay Concierge comments
All these two so called love birds have done is fuel hatred across the world yet they claim to be for peace, the Oprah interview was so obviously calculated to a sickening concerning level.
Sometimes being a hero is a fools game. Fact: You don’t get to be King of the World by playing nice. We are talking about The most powerful family and monarchy on earth and you think you can just do an Oprah interview ousting all the royal secrets and not face repercussions, the kind which you cannot begin to comprehend, Good luck Harry and M we truly wish you all the best, you are going to need it Desperately!.
Why do Meghan Markle and Harry claim they want privacy yet blatantly remain in the public eye
In 2019, a romance blossomed between an eligible European royal and a Black commoner whom traditionalists considered unsuitable for a royal marriage. The lovebirds were not Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who had already been married for a year. They were Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and her boyfriend, a Californian named Durek Verrett. Like Prince Harry, Princess Märtha Louise is a spare heir with a brother in training for the throne. Her status freed her to pursue a life of leisure, and to pursue Verrett, who, as Markle did, works in a déclassé profession. Verrett is known to all of Norway as “Shaman Durek.” He charges about $1,000 for a private round of shamanic guidance, and he has written a self-help book so fatuous that Gwyneth Paltrow has publicly declared that he might be onto something. He accuses children with cancer of bringing their disease upon themselves with “negative thoughts,” and he says that women who have too many sex partners can engage his services to remove men’s “imprints” from their vagina. He and the princess are sappily, happily in love.
The royal families of Europe used to marry each another. Harry and Märtha Louise are third cousins once removed; they are also fourth cousins once removed, and probably have other relationships characteristic of family trees that wind back in on themselves instead of branching out. Now that the royals have decided to go splashing in a larger gene pool, mortification of the sort experienced by the Norwegian royals over their shaman son-in-law—and by the British royals over Markle and Harry’s Oprah interview, which aired on Sunday—will become more routine.
There are two reasons for this trend. The first is that royal traditions and institutions are perverse and weird, and any normal person who marries into them will eventually become alienated and estranged from her new family, her old one, or both. Markle, in the Oprah interview, seemed fairly normal, at least for a former actor and model with more money than can be spent in 10 human lifetimes. The second reason is that the normal people who end up marrying into royalty anyway tend to be, at best, extremely unsophisticated and naive or, at worst, sociopathic gold diggers. This situation is unenviable for the families and for the plebes who wish to marry into them without having to split, dramatically, just two years later.
No one chooses his birth family, and royals like Harry are unique in modern countries in that they incur, by fact of parentage alone, an obligation to incarnate their country and be its mascot and living representative. Hereditary monarchies have been likened to human sacrifices: Children still gestating are ceremonially outfitted with their fate, and wives and husbands are expected to blend into bizarre family ménages that exist largely for the lurid entertainment of gossip readers. These are curses I would wish on only an enemy. The humane solution is to create an escape for royals who wish to leave the family business and live an ordinary, nonroyal life like the rest of us. Think of it as a witness-protection program, but instead of laundering the identities of traitorous mafiosi, it would provide princes and princesses with new lives, including, if necessary, new names, faces, and identities.
When Markle and Harry fled the United Kingdom, they headed first to Victoria, British Columbia—a city so English in character (it is named for Harry’s great-great-great-great-grandmother) that with little imagination, he could have pretended he had never left England, and had settled instead on a rainy English fjord. The couple’s fatal error was to live not in one of the city’s many anonymous bungalows with modest English-style gardens, but in a $14 million seafront mansion allegedly owned by a Russian oligarch. Markle complained to Oprah that the royal family, for reasons unexplained, did not bestow the title of prince on their son, Archie, and withdrew security from the infant. But security could have been had for free, if Markle and Harry had worn ragged clothes, let their hair grow into snarls, and mimicked the bohemians who live in coastal areas near Victoria. No one would wish the child of one of these beachcombers the slightest harm. Markle and Harry have had makeovers at public expense many times in the past. This final makeover would have simply reversed that process, and turned the two glowing plutocrats into ordinary proles.
Märtha Louise and Shaman Durek have complained of Norwegians’ withering humor at their expense. The state broadcaster, for example, showed a South Park–style cartoon depicting a boy dying of cancer and his distraught parents. A doctor announces that Shaman Durek is in the hospital and can offer a free reading of his book. “Maybe that will help,” the doctor suggests. Shaman Durek reads, and the boy laughs so hard that he dies happy. Unlike Harry and Markle, Märtha Louise has not renounced her royal duties, although she has stopped using the title of princess except when representing the crown in an official capacity. But for her, too, anonymity would be easy and cheap to achieve. In Southern California, unlike in Oslo, “spirit hacking” shamans and their consorts are numerous, and sometimes even taken seriously.
These transformations would require only that the disillusioned royals and their spouses actually want the anonymity that would free them. Although Markle in her Oprah interview revealed herself to be some things that Shaman Durek is not—most notably, a resident of planet Earth—she remains, like the shaman, pathologically extroverted. Having to adjust her life to the twisted ways of the House of Windsor clearly traumatized her, and she says that the stresses of that relationship, and of the unfair press scrutiny, drove her to near-suicidal despair. But her recovery from that overexposure has taken the form of Netflix and Spotify deals and an Oprah interview, all of which guarantee more exposure. The Netflix deal is reportedly worth about $100 million. The Oprah interview was given gratis. (I have a theory for why so many celebrities seek Oprah to receive their confession. Oprah has interviewed rich, famous, and screwed-up people for decades. Perhaps they hope she will divulge to them the secret of her total immunity to their dysfunction. If, as Oprah herself says twice in the first seconds of Sunday’s interview, the Markle-Harry wedding was a “fairy tale,” we should expect nothing less enchanted than a mysterious figure who can break the princess’s curse, but who requires payment—or at least exclusive interview rights—to do so.)
“Nobody should have to go through that,” Oprah told Markle. This is true. The demands of monarchy are intense. The demands of fame are worse. Royals should have rip cords to pull that would bring them to a soft landing among the poor and ordinary. Those who use that exit deserve our sympathy. Those who do not can rely on Netflix and Oprah to teach the rest of us that there is no pity more exquisite than pity for people richer, more famous, and more beautiful than we will ever be.
Will being a Narcissist help Meghan achieve her goal?
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