So, yes, the adage of “it takes two” seems to be accurate in the case of Meghan and Harry. Why, though, did it get so twisted?
Turns out, the myth of the manipulative royal wife is far from a new one.
In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry Wallis Simpson. During the crisis, and for years after, newspapers cranked out sensational coverage about the ordeal. Much of it focused on Simpson: an American divorcée, who, in their eyes, had swooped in on their beloved public servant. She was called a temptress, a social climber, a nymphomaniac who learned “ancient Chinese skills” at a Shanghai brothel that she then supposedly employed to entrap the King. (It was even rumored that a dossier of such exploits existed. This has been denied by historians.) The public opinion responded in kind. According to Alexander Larman’s book, A Crown in Crisis, Scotland Yard received an anonymous letter that said “if that Yankee harlot does not get out, we will smash her windows and give her a hiding.” That eventually did happen—newspaper editors threw bricks at her London home. “No-one has been more victimized by gossip and scandal,” Winston Churchill once observed.
In reality, it was the Duke who pushed for the two to be officially together. In fact, Simpson said she was “content with the simple way”—simple, meaning, remaining his mistress. Edward, however, pushed for her to become his wife. When it became increasingly clear that the monarchy would not allow Edward to marry her and retain the throne, Simpson gave a press statement that she was willing to stand down. But Edward wouldn’t. “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love,” he said in his December 11, 1936 radio address. He stressed that this was his choice: “I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself,” Edward said. Then, he absolved Simpson of any culpability. “The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.”
From all accounts, the two spent their life very much in love. During an interview with the BBC in 1970, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor told journalist Kenneth Harris that, yes, giving up the monarchy was worth it: “We’ve been very happy,” Simpson said. Edward grabbed her hand in response. “We have,” he said.
Just over 50 years later, Oprah Winfrey asked Meghan if her story with Prince Harry has a happy ending. “Greater than any fairy tale you’ve ever read,” she replied.