Sunday, March 18, 2012

Can True Love Change History?

We hear it all the time;  it's just a dumb romance, it's just a chick flick, it's just a cheesy love story! 

Yeah, trite, non-essential hooey when compared to the greater pursuits of war, politics, science, art, religion, X-box gaming and personal freedom.

I'm always amazed at how often non-romance readers, (non-roms) love to trash those of us who enjoy reading a great love story.

Okay, let's take a hard look at the realities of falling in love. Can falling in love cause any kind of splash in the big pond of life? I mean, really, does it matter if Harry met Sally---or Wendy?

We'd like to think that falling in love is an accident, that it doesn't matter who you end up with as long as you end up with someone at the end of the day--or the year--or the decade.

What if falling in love could change history, on a dramatic scale?

It sounds implausible. Really, who I choose to spend my life with could change the course of history? Well, maybe not you or I. Yet, it has happened, more than once.  Guy meets girl, and bingo, they fall in love, and run away, deserting the kingdom, leaving someone else to run the country.

Nonsense, you say. Who with all that power would step down from a throne to be with the person they love, the one they couldn't be with if they remained in power? 

Well, there was the case of little Elizabeth's Uncle Edward in the last century. He was the King of England in 1936, Edward VIII, to be exact. He is credited with having the shortest reign in British Commonwealth history, and was never officially crowned. He reigned for a total of 362 days. It seems he had a slight heart problem--he fell in love--with a woman whose past conflicted with his very public job.

Edward fell in love with an American socialite . . . . one who was divorced.

Not merely divorced once, mind you, but twice. Wallis Simpson had been divorced from one husband previously and was seeking a divorce from the second husband when Edward became King of England. Edward and Wallis were already in love and had been seeing each other for some time. The English would not tolerate a Queen with a divorce or two in her past, (not in 1936), especially not if the ex-husbands were still living.

And so, Edward VIII had some hard choices to make. Remain King of England, ignore his heart and marry a proper English bride who would win the hearts of the people and produce a royal succession to the throne. Or, he could do something really wild and crazy, like run away with the woman he loved!

Guess what? He chose the latter. He abdicated his throne in December of 1936 and then he married his lady love, Wallis Simpson, in June of 1937, barely six months later. Just what I like, a guy who has his priorities straight; "Let's see, rule the Kingdom of Great Britain, or marry my dear Wallis, oh, what to do?"

Wedding Photo, circa 1937 France

Good for you, Edward Windsor! Your example will inspire romantic hearts everywhere.
Bold Choice. Edward could have said no to his heart. He could have followed the rules and simply moved on with his life. He was the King of England, after all. He had a very important job in any age, but this was just  a few years before WWII.  There were Nazis to deal with.

Consider the consequences such a decision would have on our present history. There would have been no big deal over Princess Diana and Prince Charles, because Elizabeth would not be the Queen of England today. Edward's offspring would be making the news with their adventures instead. Think about it. Edward's younger brother, Albert, Prince of York, became the King (King George VI)  after his big brother abdicated because of a woman.  And then his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, became our present Queen of England. Hard to imagine a world where Princess Diana is  not an icon and the longstanding affair of Prince Charles and with Lady Camilla is not a common headline feed. 

What would our world be like if Edward VIII hadn't abdicated his throne? How would Edward have handled World War II?  Would Albert (Bertie) have needed to overcome his speech impediment if he wasn't the King?  The King's Speech Theatrical trailer link  

Would Elizabeth have been content being known as the cousin of the present ruler and dedicate her life to raising champion Corgi's?  Would her eldest son, Prince Charles have been able to pursue his dream of being a botanist living in the country with a quiet cottage garden to manage?

We'll never know, because one man's love changed the course of history, at least in England.