Wallis Simpson: American divorcee who, just like Meghan Markle, changed British monarchy forever

Wallis Simpson: American divorcee who, just like Meghan Markle, changed British monarchy forever
(Getty Images)

Although the first episode of CNN's six-part TV series 'The Windsors: Inside the Royal Dynasty' mostly focused on how Edward VIII's abdication of the British throne in 1936 made history, it started with an obvious reference to Megxit.

Leaving no doubts in the viewers' minds as to why the network decided to produce a docu-series on the royal family in 2020, the premiere episode begins with a dreamy, imagined version of Meghan Markle as she prepares to walk down the aisle on her wedding day, even as narrator Rosamund Pike warns, "But all that glitters is not gold." 

What works for the new series - which off the bat promises viewers "scandal, war, adultery, and tragedy" - despite every historical detail about the royal family explored to the bone in an array of fictional as well as non-fictional shows before - the latest one being Netflix's extremely famous 'The Crown' - is the fact that it highlights the vulnerabilities of a family as affluent and as purposeless as the Windsors and how the monarchy manages to survive despite the obstacles.


The first episode, titled 'Succession,' takes one back generations when just like Meghan, another American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, changed the course of the British monarchy forever. The current Monarch's uncle, Edward VIII, made the unprecedented choice to marry Wallis, even if it came at the price of abdication. 

Duke (1894 - 1972) and Duchess (1896 - 1986) of Windsor at their temporary home near Ashdown Forest, Sussex after their return from France at the start of WW II. The first time they have been in England since the Duke's abdication. (Getty Images)

"I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love," he said at the time. As a result, the burden of becoming the next king of England fell on the shoulders of the shy and stuttering Albert, Queen Elizabeth II's father, who was sworn in as King George VI. 


Meanwhile, Edward was exiled from England. He became the Duke of Windsor, married Wallis and moved to France. Edward rarely went back to visit his family during his brother's reign. At the same time, although George VI's eldest daughter never publicly denounced her uncle, she grew up being "annoyed" with Wallis. 

When George VI died of lung cancer, the Duke of Windsor returned to England for his brother's funeral, but did not attend his niece's coronation. Nevertheless, when Edward was on his deathbed, after a battle with throat cancer, the Queen, her husband Prince Philip, and their son Prince Charles paid a visit to the Windsors during a state visit to France in May 1972. 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth (R) and Prince Philip ride in the Golden State Carriage at the head of a parade from Buckingham Palace to St Paul's Cathedral celebrating the Queen's Golden Jubilee June 4, 2002 along The Mall in London. (Getty Images)


Although there have been quite a few versions of the final meeting between the Queen and her uncle reported in history, the most popular one includes the Duke rising from his bed to bow to her, despite not being in the condition to do so. Elizabeth II also reportedly spent a few private minutes with him that day.

Ten days after the Queen's visit, the Duke of Windsor passed away. 

"I know that my people will always remember him with gratitude and great affection and that his services to them in peace and war will never be forgotten," the Queen said in a telegram following his death.


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