While it’s not a big deal that Meghan Markle was previously married before getting engaged to Prince Harry, if Harry had popped the question 80 years ago, the couple would not have been allowed to wed.
Markle can thank Wallis Simpson, later known as the Duchess of Windsor, for breaking barriers in 1937 when the Church of England and the public court of opinion chastised her for simply falling in love. If you’ve watched Netflix’s “The Crown,” you may be familiar with this story.
Simpson was an American socialite who ended up becoming the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales in 1934, according the Biography.com. While it wasn’t incredibly scandalous that the Prince of Wales was with an American, it was frowned upon that Simpson had been divorced once already and was on her second marriage when her relationship started with Edward.
When Prince Edward became King Edward VIII in 1936, Wallis was still married to her second husband, but was ready for a divorce. When it became known that Edward and Wallis were planning to wed, it sent the entire country into a constitutional crisis.
By the end of 1936, Edward abdicated from the throne so that he could marry Simpson, and the couple became the the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and went into exile. Edward’s brother, George VI, became king until he died in 1952, passing the crown down to Queen Elizabeth II, who still reigns today.
Luckily for Markle, she has no need to worry about the monarchy inturding in her nuptials thanks to the General Synod of 2002 that revised its policy on divorce and remarriage.
“The Church of England teaches that marriage is for life,” the statement declared. “It also recognizes that some marriages sadly do fail and, if this should happen, it seeks to be available for all involved. The Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorced person may marry again in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.”
While Meghan Markle will most likely never become queen, the parallels between Markle and Simpson’s situations are remarkably similar. Both Americans, divorcees and fiercely in love with their princes.