British monarchy and divorce, a taboo subject until recently

By - May 20th 2023

The Anglican Church is the official church of Britain; the head of the British monarch is also the head of the world Anglican Communion. Before this happened, the British were Roman Catholics. King Henry VIII split Britain from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, because the pope declined to annul his marriage to Catharine of Aragon. He formed the Church of England and divorced his wife.

Ironically, even with that history, divorce was not allowed until the recent past when it has come to be allowed but not encouraged. The Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, reigned only for a few months in 1936 as a bachelor. He abdicated the throne because his twice-divorced American bride could not be allowed to become queen.

Fast forward to today, and a divorcee, Camila Parker recently became Queen of England as the wife of King Charles III. Camilla became queen consort on September 8, 2022 following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband prince Charles’ accession as King Charles III.  

There are many similarities between Edward VIII and Charles III. Edward met Ms Wallis Simpson in 1930 and fell in love while she was still married. This raised some debate among Britons but Edward stood his ground. In 1936, Wallis divorced her husband and the British cabinet realised that Edward VIII was determined to marry her. They insisted he had to choose between his bride and the throne, he chose the former.

In 1937, Edward became Duke of Windsor and married Wallis in a ceremony in France. That is how he abdicated the throne and his brother Albert became King George VI. Edward went to live abroad and died in France in 1972. King George VI had a stutter that became the subject of the 2010 award-winning movie King’s Speech. He had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret.

On February 5, 1952, the 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth was on holiday in Kenya, went to bed in Nyeri as Princess Elizabeth and woke up as Queen Elizabeth. She was with her husband in a treehouse at Treetops Hotel in Nyeri from where they watched a herd of elephants at a nearby watering hole. Her father, who had improved after a bout of illness, went hunting the previous day before retiring to bed and passed away in his sleep.

In the early 1960s, Camila met Andrew Parker Bowles and the couple got married in 1974. They had two children in 1974 and 1978. Camila met Prince Charles in 1971 when Andrew broke up with her and got into a relationship with Charles’ sister, Princess Ann. Camila and Charles’ relationship was known to both their families but ended when Charles left to serve in the navy in 1973. They rekindled their love in 1979.

Around the time he was rekindling the spark with Camila, Charles began a relationship with Diana Spencer. They got married in 1981 when Diana was 20 and Charles 32. Charles had earlier dated Diana’s older sister Sarah.

Broke down

Diana got two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Prince Charles claimed his marriage broke down in 1986 upon which he relied on Camila for support. Diana got into a relationship with Major Hewitt who was a monarch employee. Charles and Diana officially divorced in 1996 after tabloids had skimmed all the cream from their extramarital affairs. She later got into a relationship with Dodi Al Fayed, the son of an Egyptian-born billionaire who lived in England. They died on August 31, 1997 in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris while they were fleeing from paparazzi (press).

Many theories were put forward in regards to their death. It was romoured that the monarch did not approve of an African of Arab origin having links to the throne now that William was second in line to the throne. The British Intelligence has always been blamed for the death of the two lovers. The dust raised by Prince Harry’s marriage to a “coloured” woman from America shows the monarch’s attitude towards racial dilution among the royals.

Meanwhile, Camila divorced Andrew in 1995 and began to get into the royal family. Prince Charles claimed he had no intention of remarrying but later married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. His first statement was political because Diana was popular.

His relationship to Camila was later accepted in royal circles. The Queen’s daughter Princess Anne who divorced in 1992 also remarried that same year. Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla married in a civil ceremony. This was to get around the idea of the future head of the Church of England going through a church wedding twice. Queen Elizabeth did not attend the wedding. Times have changed, but one generation back, King Charles III would not have ascended to the throne. Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret divorced her husband in 1978. Three out of four children of Queen Elizabeth have divorced.

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