Royal Marriages

Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII
Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII (Getty images)

With the recent announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle, you may be wondering how often it is that a member of the British royalty marries an American.

One of the most famous marriages was the marriage of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. While Harry and Meghan’s announcement comes as happy news, back in 1936, the news about Edward and Wallis triggered a bit of a crisis. For starters, Wallis Simpson was an American (which was bad enough for some Britons) but more troubling was the fact that she was a divorcee’, about to be divorced for a second time. When he decided to marry Wallis, Edward chose to abdicate the throne, a move which some people saw as the ultimate romantic gesture. However, some have questioned if romance was his true motive, especially considering the political climate of the time.

Edward and Wallis apparently did not have love at first sight (sorry, for bursting that bubble!). Wallis was still married when they met and their courtship took place over a series of years. When Edward did decide that he wanted to marry Wallis, he ran up against the obstacle that the Church of England does not allow remarriage (and as head of the Church of England, Edward had to follow the rules). If he had insisted on marrying her and not abdicating, the government could have collapsed. Their relationship and marriage did create quite a stir; Time magazine named Wallis Simpson "Woman of the Year" in 1936, marking the first time that the "Man of the Year" award had been given to a woman. Time's justification was: "In the single year 1936 she became the most-talked-about, written-about, headlined and interest-compelling person in the world. In these respects no woman in history has ever equaled Mrs. Simpson, for no press or radio existed to spread the world news they made."  

There’s even more to their story that this, so if you are curious about Wallis and Edward, we suggest reading That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba or The People's King: The True Story of the Abdication by Susan A. Williams.

Wallis Simpson is just one of the American women who have married into royalty. Other American women to have this distinction include Lisa Halaby, who married King Hussein of Jordan, Grace Kelly, who married Prince Rainier of Monaco, and Rita Hayworth, who married Prince Aly Khan.

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