Five Lessons on Love, Marriage and Divorce That We Can Learn from ‘The Crown’

If you’re one of many fans who binge-watched seasons one and two of “The Crown,” you probably can’t wait for 2019 to roll around. That’s when season three of the popular Netflix series is projected to premiere. The Royal Family was – and still is – no stranger to divorce.

As we wait patiently for the new season to arrive, let’s take a look at the lessons we’ve learned from “The Crown” – and today’s royals – about love, marriage and divorce.

No. 1: It’s good to be King – if you want to get divorced.

Well, at least it was for Henry VIII. When Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was unable to produce a male heir, the King asked the Pope to annul the marriage. The Pope refused, so Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church. Subsequently, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared the marriage null and void. This cleared the way for the King to marry Anne Boleyn and take control of the Church of England.

Strangely enough, when Anne was unable to produce a male heir, Henry VIII chose to have Anne investigated for treason and other crimes, instead of seeking a divorce or annulment. Anne was found guilty and beheaded in the Tower of London.

No. 2: For some, love matters more than power.

Even though Henry VIII facilitated his own annulment, the Church of England continued to frown upon annulments and divorce for centuries to come. To get divorced or become involved with someone who was divorced could be scandalous, especially for members of high society or the Royal Family.

Such was the case in 1936, when King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate the throne to his brother George (father of the current Queen Elizabeth II) in order to marry the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson. Edward’s love for Wallis was stronger than his desire to remain King, and the couple – the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – remained together and devoted to each other until Edward’s death in 1972.

No. 3: Sacrificing love for duty may be bad for your health.

“The Crown” covered this topic in depth. When Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, fell in love with Peter Townsend, a divorced father of two, the Church of England – and ultimately her sister the Queen – refused to allow the marriage to proceed. Instead of leaving the monarchy – which she would have been forced to do had she married Townshend – Margaret eventually broke off the relationship.

As depicted in this clip from season two of “The Crown,” Margaret was consequently heartbroken and began drinking more. When the Queen says to Margaret, “You’re drinking far more than you used to,” Margaret responds, “Why do you think that is? Because I’m unhappier than I used to be. And why is that? Because I’m still unmarried. And why is that? Oh, because you denied me my perfect match.”

Margaret eventually married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. The couple divorced in 1978, resulting in negative press for the Princess and the Royal Family, because society and the public still frowned upon divorce in the 70s.

No. 4: The times and the perception of divorce are changing.

Even the Church agrees that there is a place for divorce in society today. In 2002, the Church of England announced that, “The Church teaches that marriage is for life, it also recognizes that some marriages sadly fail, if this should happen, it seeks to be available for all involved. The Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorced person may marry again in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.”

There are many circumstances where divorce may be a better option than staying married. Divorce can be a better option than staying married due to domestic violence; getting married too young; not agreeing on whether or not to have children; and not being happy together. In today’s world, most people support divorces under these circumstances. Life is too short to be miserable, and if you have children, it’s important to set a good example regarding what a happy, healthy relationship looks like.

In terms of the Royal Family, the biggest changes in the perception and acceptance of divorce have probably come in the past two decades. Three of Queen Elizabeth II’s four children divorced their first spouses (Princess Anne in 1992 and both Prince Charles and Prince Andrew in 1996). While the Queen may not have been happy that her children were divorcing, by the 90s, the tides had turned enough where divorce was more commonplace and accepted than when she became Queen.

No. 5: Marrying a divorcée isn’t as taboo as it once was.

As noted above, the Church of England will allow people who have been divorced to marry in the church under certain circumstances, but not others. It’s up to the discretion of the clergy to decide whom they will or will not marry. When Prince Charles – the future King of England – wanted to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Church wouldn’t allow the two divorcées to marry in the Church – though the couple was allowed to have their marriage blessed in the Church after a civil ceremony.

On the other hand, the Church did give Prince Harry permission to marry American divorcée Meghan Markle in the Church. When Sky News asked the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby whether Markle’s divorce would be an issue, he said, “It’s not a problem. We went through that as anyone would who will officiate at a wedding where someone has been separated and a partner is still living.”

Christine Powers Leatherberry is a compassionate family lawyer who is equally comfortable in the courtroom as she is counseling her clients one-on-one. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call (214) 617-1583 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and considerate member of the Connatser Family Law team.

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