When Prince Harry announced in 2017 that he would marry Meghan Markle, some British media compared her to Wallis Simpson.
Like Markle, Simpson was also an American and divorced, who in the 1930s fell in love with an heir to the British crown: Prince Edward.
But comparisons between the two couples have deepened since Meghan and Harry, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced that they wanted to step away from the royal family and leave their duties as high-ranking members of the crown.
The couple said their plan is to spend much of their time in North America with their son Archie, born last May and seventh in line to the throne of the United Kingdom, after his father.
The decision, which caused surprise and discomfort inside and outside royal circles, led many to accuse the Duchess of Sussex of causing a rupture in the royal family and of giving a "blow" to the British monarchy, just as Wallis Simpson would have done more than eighty years ago.
Former Buckingham Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter said Edward's 8th decision to abdicate in 1936 to marry Simpson was "the only other similar precedent" that the British crown had before the announcement of Meghan and Harry .
Who was Wallis Simpson?
Bessie Wallis Warfield was a high society American who met the then prince of Wales and the crown heir, Edward, through a mutual friend.
At that time, she lived in the United Kingdom and was married to Anglo-American businessman Ernest Aldrich Simpson. For this reason, she was known as "Mrs. Simpson".
To the horror of the public at the time – and the British government, which allegedly ordered the spying of the couple – Simpson was not even Wallis' first husband, but the second.
She had already divorced in 1927 from military pilot Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., with whom she remained married for 11 years.
But none of this bothered Edward, who, despite being a famous womanizer, declared himself absolutely in love with Wallis.
To the point that, when her father, Jorge V, died and he ascended the throne in January 1936, he informed his relatives that he planned to marry her as soon as their divorce was resolved.
Crown and church
The news caused a huge scandal. And not just for social reasons.
As king, Edward also became the head of the Anglican Church, a religion that did not allow divorced people to remarry.
The Church was not just against her relationship with "Mrs. Simpson".
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin is believed to have threatened to resign if the king went ahead with his wedding plans.
Despite having the government, the church and the public against him, Edward refused to end the relationship.
Instead, he made one of the decisions that had the greatest impact in the history of royalty: he abdicated.
On December 10, 1936, less than a year after inheriting the crown, Edward resigned the throne, which was left to his brother Albert ("Bertie"), father of the current monarch Elizabeth 2nd.
The day after his abdication, he made a famous statement on the radio in which he explained the reasons for his decision.
"It became impossible to bear the heavy burden of responsibility and carry out my duties as a king, the way I would like to do it, without the help and support of the woman I love," were his famous words.
After resigning, Edward left the United Kingdom and, a few months later, in June 1937, fulfilled his desire to marry his beloved Wallis, whose divorce had been formalized a month earlier.
They were married in France, where they planned to spend some time before they could return to the UK.
But his plans were thwarted by the new king, who adopted the name of George 6th in honor of his father.
Edward's brother, who had forbidden other members of the royal household to attend the wedding, also ordered them not to return to the country.
The consolation prize was that he named the couple Duke and Duchess of Windsor, although Wallis did not receive the honor of being called "His Royal Highness".
Albert also financed his expenses personally, after Edward stopped receiving public funds, although finances ended up being another cause for dispute between the brothers.
The popular Netflix series The Crown shows the discomfort Edward always had with the way he was treated, first by Albert and then by his niece, Elizabeth, who inherited the throne in 1952, aged just 26.
Although Edward was granted permission to return to England for his brother's funeral, his wife was not welcome.
"This trip I take aboard the Queen Mary is certainly sad, and it is sadder for me because I am going to do it alone," he complained in a speech, before embarking from France.
Edward's statements in favor of Hitler and the Nazis during World War II deepened the British's discomfort with the former king.
The truth is that, although many were moved by the enormous sacrifice he made for love, Edward never managed to be accepted again by his people.
And Wallis remained in history as "the villain" who left a man without a crown and a country without a king. In addition to causing a break in the royal family.
Something that happens again with Meghan Markle today, accused of having distanced Prince Harry from the rest of his family, in particular his brother William, with whom he always had a close relationship.
Life with the beloved in Paris
Despite everything, Edward got what he wanted: he spent the rest of his life with Wallis in a mansion in Paris, where they lived as aristocrats, organizing parties and attending social gatherings.
Shortly before his death in 1972, when his health had already deteriorated considerably due to cancer, Edward received a visit from his niece, Elizabeth II, who traveled to France for a state visit.
He was buried in Britain and the Duchess of Windsor was invited to stay at Buckingham Palace to attend his funeral, along with the Queen and the rest of the royal family.
When Wallis died, 14 years later, she was buried beside him. Today, they both rest in the royal cemetery in Frogmore Gardens, Windsor, near the mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
There, they finally achieved what they couldn't in life: being accepted together by the royal house.
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