Foreign Affairs
100 years of Royal Marriage history – were all marriages welcomed?

With the United Kingdom celebrating the marriage union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it is pertinent to recall that not all Royal marriages were welcomed enthusiastically and with joy. Neither by the public, and on occasion, not even by the Royal Family itself.

This is what happened to King Edward VIII, uncle of Queen Elizabeth II. The King had had to abdicate in order to marry his loved one, the American Wallis Simpson, who was twice divorced. As King, Edward was also the Head of the Anglican Church – a church which in those times had a clear stand against divorce. And for this very reason the Head could not preach one thing and then go against it. In order to avoid a Constitutional crisis, the King probably opted for the most difficult choice. He abdicated the Throne in favour of his brother, and in June 1937, as the Duke of Windsor, took Wallis Simpson as his wife.

The new King, George, was already married. Never expecting to become King, he had married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on 26 April 1923. They had got married in Westminster Abbey, and these filmed scenes, which go back 95 years, show the couple returning to Buckingham Palace. As we have seen, 13 years later George unexpectedly became King George VI.

Initially, Elizabeth’s choice did not go down well with the Royal Family

His elder daughter Princess Elizabeth, destined eventually to be the longest-serving Monarch, married Prince Philip on 20 Noveber 1947. The choice of Prince Philip had initially not gone down well with the Royal Family, because of his siblings’ connections with the Nazi regime. But Elizabeth stuck to her guns, and Philip was accepted. 2,000 guests were invited to the ceremony. It is estimated, however, that some 200 million listeners around the world followed the BBC radio broadcast.

Elizabeth’s sister, the Princess Margaret, could also have created a Constitutional crisis. She had promised her love to Group Captain Peter Townsend, who was divorced. She tried to marry him. Permission was never given. Eventually she married photographer Anthony Armstrong Jones. The wedding had been celebrated in Westminster Abbey in 1960, and had lasted for 18 years.

The next Royal marriage, that of the Queen’s second born, the Princess Anne to Captain Mark Phillips, was celebrated in 1973. Captain Phillips had won an Olympic Gold Medal in equestrianism. Their union was blessed with two children – Peter and Zara – but was dissolved 19 years later. Princess Anne eventually re-married – this time to Commander Timothy Lawrence in a private ceremony in Scotland.

The wedding of the 20th century – Prince Charles and Diana Spencer

In all probability the Royal wedding of the 20th century which will always be recalled was that of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. It had everything. Prince Charles was heir to the Throne. Diana was a shy girl, a beauty, but as history has taught us – hard-headed. She was also the chosen one out of many contenders for Charles’ hand.

The couple got married in July 1981. It was the wedding of dreams par excellence. An audience of some 700 million followed the ceremony on television. Many thousands probably wished they were in Diana’s place at the time. Within ten years it had become evident that the marriage was on the rocks, and both  were living separate lives.

Meanwhile other Royal marriages took place. Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson… a union which lasted just six years. Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys Jones in 1999. The youngest of the Queen’s children, Edward is the only one of her children not to have divorced.

Seven years after the death of Diana, the People’s Princess, Prince Charles re-married, this time to his eternal love, Camilla Parker-Bowles. They got married in a civil ceremony, and the Queen did not attend. She only joined them later for the reception.

Prince William and Kate Middleton win over people’s hearts

If British subjects found it difficult to accept Camilla Parker-Bowles, as they always believed she had been the cause of the break-up of Charles’ marriage to Diana, the same cannot be said for Kate Middleton. The Royal Family accepted her straight away, and with Prince William at her side, she was about to win over the general public in the UK and beyond.

This Royal Wedding was the most recent one. The couple had got married in Westminster Abbey towards the end of April 2011. This marriage was an important one, as Prince William is the heir to the Throne after his father, and many feel he should be the one to take over, rather than Charles, when the time comes. By this time the means of communication had widened to the extent that one in seven of the world’s peoples could follow the ceremony. With the birth of the young Princes, George, Charlotte and now Louis, the dream continues.

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