[Did you see the new film W.E.? Co-written and directed by Madonna (and not critically well-received, but the costumes were great), it is her story of the love affair of Wallis Simpson & Edward, Prince of Wales and future king. Here is an excerpt from chapter five of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, that shares a connection with King Edward VIII and Princess Diana.]
The timing of Diana and Charles union was caught in the historical crossfire of a major shift in royal culture (that Diana helped to put into warp speed.) These last stages of the era where decisions were made for dynastic duty only were now shifting into a more modern world where royals, less isolated from the masses, desired to marry for love and supportive companionship. (Can you imagine Prince William or Prince Harry marrying for dynastic duty only? Or for that matter, can you imagine your children marrying someone that you selected for them based on background, connections, and reproductive capabilities? How quickly the world changes thanks to trailblazers like the young princes’ mom.)
But the timing had not shifted enough for their father in the 1970s and 80s to act out of his true feelings of love and relationship compatibility, as well as giving a nod to choosing someone suitable for the unique, demanding role of royal duty. One factor that influenced Charles’ marital choices was his family’s recent history.
The actions of another great-uncle, King Edward VIII, who, with some political pressures, gave up the throne “for the woman I love” in 1936 were perhaps a little too close in historical proximity for Charles to have made a similar decision about marrying for love. (Of course, to make matters worse, Wallis Simpson—Edward’s beloved and his regular companion—was not only twice divorced, but an American to boot!) The earthshaking decision of King Edward to abdicate was considered distasteful by Charles’ duty bound mother who had trained him to do the “right dutiful thing no matter your feelings.” (It was Edward’s resignation, ironically, that put
and her lineage in their more direct path to the throne.) Nonetheless, years later a change in the times was on Charles’ side; changes greatly influenced by his late wife. Elizabeth
In 2005, 24 years after his marriage of “duty,” Charles did not have to give up the throne (although there were restrictive provisions), and he indeed married the woman who had been his longtime friend and confidante—the woman he had long loved—Camilla Shand Parker Bowles; now Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. (And it appears that the prince and duchess simply fit so well together like those “meant-to-be” couples do!) “What your heart thinks is great, is great,” nineteenth century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said. “The soul’s emphasis is always right.”
As an interesting point, there were many conspiratorial theories about King Edward being maneuvered from the throne in 1936 which reveal a metaphysical connection about his abdication with Princess Diana. “In the abdication crisis of Edward VIII,” Ian Alister asserts in his essay “Your Cheating Heart” for the book, When a Princess Dies, “there was a conflict between the steady, reliable—what I call ‘thinking’—qualities required by the collective institution of monarchy and the more unpredictable personal qualities—which I characterize as ‘feeling qualities’—represented by the individual. Edward favoured feeling (Wallis Simpson) ahead of thought (his kingly duty).
I suggest that Diana re-awoke this conflict in the House of Windsor.” Indeed, Diana awoke a ‘relationship of the heart’ revolution in the House of Windsor! A revolution not without pain (it caused much heartache for members of the royal family, including Charles and Diana’s young sons) as well as irony (it made it possible for Diana’s ex-husband to marry his beloved). Nonetheless, it was a revolution that changed the nature, if not the direct course of history. ~
[Stay tuned for news of the publication of The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride.]