February 14, 2018

{The Woman I Love} -part two-

Continuing our "month of love" celebration (and upcoming marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) with the second part of “The Woman I Love” (excerpt from my book in progress)...and featuring a number of Windsors!
The Woman I Love
{part two of three*}

Clearly “love isn’t everything” nor is “doing one’s duty” without the potential of deep satisfaction. There’s not simply one prescription for happiness. It’s just darn hard to follow one’s heart, however, in extreme patriarchal conditions!

Nonetheless, change always happens. Almost seven decades after King Edward’s abdication, a change in social culture was on Charles’ side (thanks in great part to the work of his late wife.) In 2005, 24 years after his marriage of “duty,” Charles did not have to give up the throne (although there were restrictive provisions), nor start a palace revolution nor send anyone to the guillotine, yet he indeed married the woman who had been his longtime friend and confidante—the woman he had long loved—Camilla Shand Parker Bowles; now Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. And they are a couple who seem to simply fit so well together. “What your heart thinks is great, is great,” nineteenth century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said. “The soul’s emphasis is always right.”

I want to look deeper at the role of love in the story of King Edward and Mrs. Simpson, the couple who later became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. But not the fairy-tale kind of love the story became for many, inspiring films, novels and poetry. (I remember my mother talking about how romantic it all seemed to her as a teenager in Alabama, reading news of the handsome king and the sacrifice he made for “the woman he loved.”) But what did David, soon after becoming King Edward, really give up? And what was it really for? Was it indeed for love or for a woman? Or was it to transform the monarchy, to gain his freedom, or perhaps to reclaim his soul? After his abdication “David later explained that what was at stake was not a choice between love and duty, but a ‘different concept of kingship’,” journalist Beatrix Campbell wrote. (Ironically, is this closer to the “model” of kingship that his great-great nephew William—a young man with a broad and equalitarian world view—will create?) Perhaps the power and bigger message of David’s choice was tainted when he went on to live a frivolous life as the Duke of Windsor, making some unwise decisions while living in the spotlight approaching and during a world war when England was in peril. Nevertheless, “he was making a point about love, women and kingship…,” Campbell added. “Impaled between love and duty, he insisted that love was his duty.”

By her uncle choosing this path not only changed his niece Elizabeth’s life path, but set (or perhaps re-set) her on an extremely duty-bound course, declaring “duty” as the center of “the inspiring exemplar of ideal family life,” wrote Howard Chua-Eoan in Time magazine in 2007. She put the whole Windsor clan to work in a regular, day-to-day, dutiful plan of action. “Elizabeth would serve. She would persevere. She would be dutiful. She would obey.” And with such focus, maybe she missed the emotional shifts her people were going through when Diana came on the scene in the 1980s and 90s; cultural changes that Diana—“the girl chosen to refresh the line, to bear its heirs, to be the new smiling face of the family”—recognized, related and responded to, and called out the monarchy for ignoring. Yet no matter how Queen Elizabeth had carefully and dutifully constructed this façade that she believed to be true and honest, “Diana found the dynasty dysfunctional, uncertain of its work, in truth more a firm than a family,” Chua-Eoan added. “Diana tried to serve, she tried to persevere. She tried to be dutiful. But in the end, she would not obey.” Nor had King Edward. Perhaps the world was not ready for a king to “bring his heart” to the throne, but Princess Diana later got the world’s attention by revealing what happens in a family not allowed to bring its heart along with them. (It occurs to me the Windsor family’s sacrificial trade-off for being immensely rich and privileged was to do your duty and happiness be damned. That was certainly the royal culture in which both David—King Edward—and Prince Charles grew up.) 
[To Be Continued...]

{*Part two of three from "The Woman I Love"....excerpt from my book in progress, tentatively titled, A Memory of Love: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.}

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