Long before Meghan Markle, an American divorcée, married into the British Royal Family and was met with worldwide blame for Prince Harry’s decision to leave his duties as a senior royal, another woman had almost the exact same experience—and is still, 100 years later, being blamed for her husband’s personal choices.
“Wallis Simpson is the woman whom history has largely vilified and painted as the cause of the downfall of a king,” People writes. “When popular King Edward VIII gave up the throne in 1936 to marry the American divorcee she faced opprobrium that has continued to this day.”
In People’s special Royals issue, royal biographer Anna Pasternak called Simpson "a convenient scapegoat [who] took the rap for the abdication.”
British law prevented the King from marrying Simpson because of her previous marriage, so he chose to abdicate after less than a year of rule. It was “the last thing she wanted," Pasternak said. Edward had "this kind of ferocious, obsessive love for her—he was never going to let her go."
Harry’s love for Meghan has been characterized in the same way, with new reports emerging in a recently published book about William’s feelings that his brother was rushing things with his new girlfriend when they first started dating.
“Prince Harry was so incensed when his older brother, Prince William, questioned his fast-moving romance with Meghan Markle that he blurted out, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’” according to Page Six.
Prince Philip reportedly also made the comparison: in the book Prince Philip Revealed, (opens in new tab)Ingrid Seward wrote: “For Philip, whose entire existence has been based on a devotion to duty, it appeared that his grandson had abdicated his for the sake of his marriage to an American divorcee in much the same way as Edward VIII gave up his crown to marry Wallis Simpson in 1936.”
King Edward VIII abdicated on Dec. 11, 1936 and lived most of the rest of his life in exile in France with Simpson. "As far as he was concerned, [Edward] could not live without her and could not see that she might not be able to live with the consequences of his single-mindedness,” Pasternak wrote in American Duchess: The Real Wallis Simpson. “Being blamed in perpetuity for stealing a beloved, popular king from his throne and almost destroying the British monarchy would prove to be a lifelong annihilating burden that Wallis was forced to bear."
Meghan Markle has been blamed in the same way for Harry’s choice to leave “the firm,” as insiders call the Royal Family, and move to America to live a quieter life with his young family. Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born in London in 2019, but newborn Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor was born in Santa Barbara, California this past June.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March, Harry explained his choice to leave royal life. It was due to a “lack of support and lack of understanding,” he explained, emphasizing that it was his personal choice to leave.
"If you'd had the support [from the Royal Family] you would still be there," Oprah said.
"Without question," Harry answered.
Meghan and Harry "tried to find a way to compromise, but would that have enabled them to have that level of happiness and security that they have today? Probably not,” royal biographer Omid Scobie told People. “Those ties to the institution [of the monarchy] would have still been strong and there would have constantly been issues about financial endeavors and the business decisions they made."
Julie Tremaine is an award-winning food and travel writer who’s road tripping — and tasting — her way across the country. Her work appears in outlets like Vulture, Travel + Leisure, CNN Travel and Glamour, and she’s the Disneyland editor for SFGate. Read her work at Travel-Sip-Repeat.com.
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