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Three beautiful women have rocked the world of the British royal family in the past century and more. There are certainly parallels between Wallis Simpson, who married Edward VII, and Princess Diana, who married future King Prince Charles. The third is Hollywood star Meghan Markel who married Prince Harry, the fifth in succession to the British throne in 2017. 

The entire royal clan gathered for Diana’s and Meghan’s weddings. Still, Wallis’ marriage to the former King Edward VIII was a tense affair in a French château, with only seven British guests present.

The three women came from different backgrounds.  Simpson was 33 when King Edward fell in love with her. When the royal family refused to accept a divorcee as the future queen, the King decided to abdicate in 1936. Diana was 19 years old when Prince Charles married her. Diana said in her famous BBC interview in 1995, “At the age of 19, you always think you’re prepared for everything, and you think you know about what’s coming ahead. But although I was daunted at the prospect at the time, I felt I had the support of my husband-to-be.”

Meghan was a Hollywood star, a bi-racial, and a divorcee.  At the age of 33, she married Prince Harry in 2017 who is younger than her.

It was Prince Harry who drew the similarities and said it was like history repeating itself. He said that if Diana were still alive, she would be friends with Meghan as they had many things in common.

Many commentators see the symbolism between Meghan’s interview outfit this week and a similar one worn by Simpson in a 1936 portrait before becoming the Duchess of Windsor. Meghan also wore Diana’s diamond bracelet while sitting down with the famous American TV anchor Oprah Winfrey this week.

Edward and Wallis Simpson’s relationship was the “greatest love story of the twentieth century.” The world loved Edward, but it loathed Wallis and blamed her as the ‘wicked witch’. She said, “I who sought no place in history would now be assured of one – an appalling one, carved out by blind prejudice.”

A peep into their autobiographies ‘King’s story of Edward’s and Wallis’s ‘The heart has its reasons’ reveal the pain they went through.

While Wallis and her husband lived in Europe for the rest of their lives, Princess Diana died young in a road accident after her messy divorce. Meghan and Harry shifted to the US in 2020, giving up their public role.

Many compare Meghan’s bare-all interview to Oprah to Diana’s BBC interview in 1995, which created shock waves in the British royal family. Diana spoke about the royal family’s treatment of her. Meghan made some startling revelations about her life in the palace.

All three had a love-hate relationship with the media. Princess Diana spoke about how “”isolating”” the media attention became, and at many times, overwhelmed her. Many think Diana was felled by ‘paparazzi’ whose car chase led to the accident and death.

Meghan faced the brunt of much larger tabloid press as well as social media.  Harry said, “I asked for calm from the British tabloids once as a boyfriend, once as a husband, and once as a father.” But it did not happen.

 Meghan and Diana have revealed how they felt exhausted by the constant pressure to perform as working royals.  Diana said “The pressure was intolerable then, and my job, my work was being affected. I wanted to give 110% to my work, and I could only give 50. I was constantly tired, exhausted because the pressure was just, it was so cruel.”  

Meghan echoed similar views in her interview with Oprah. However, for Meghan, there are more laws to protect her from what Diana went through. After 1998, photographers were not allowed to use long-lens cameras to capture people in private places.

While Wallis had the full support of the abdicated King Edward, Prince Harry sat by Megan’s side in the recent interview.  Diana fought her case alone as she was divorced.  Prince Harry told Oprah: “I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her (Diana), going through this process by herself, all those years ago.”

To Winfrey, Meghan alleged that “The Firm” (meaning the palace) did little to protect her from the British tabloids’ ravages.  It was unconcerned about her deteriorating mental health, causing her to confess startling thoughts of suicide.”

As far as the British monarchy is concerned, this is not the end of the story. Six months after ceasing to be working members of the British royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have become Hollywood producers. The couple has also signed a deal for speaking engagements, which may bear much more. The palace is on a damage containment mission. Still, it is probably a futile exercise — since the horse has already bolted to LA!

Kalyani Shankar is a Delhi- based political commentator and currently consulting editor of the web portal "The Print" as also a syndicated columnist. She is a senior journalist, political analyst and a keen observer of Indo-US relations.

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