Royal wedding: A modernized British monarchy

Posted at 4:30 PM, May 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-16 16:30:00-04

(CNN) – When Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle this weekend, many say it will also be a marriage of tradition and modernity.

On paper, Markle seems like very much the outsider, but in practice, she is showing the many ways Britain’s royal family is changing with the times.

The last time an American woman married into the British royal family was in 1937. The bride was Wallis Simpson. The groom was Prince Edward, the Duke of Windsor – he went by King Edward VIII the year before.

Edward would have remained king in 1937, if not for the wedding. He faced tremendous pressure to choose between his marriage to Simpson and the crown. He chose marriage.

Simpson was not British, but that wasn't the big issue. She was also a divorcee, and King Edward VIII was head of the Church of England, which did not approve of divorce.

"He was obliged to choose between the woman he wished to marry and the crown upon which he was then, as it were, sitting, and we know the outcome," said Dr. Robert Morris of University College London.

Fast-forward 80 years, and divorce is no longer taboo.

Prince Harry’s bride-to-be Meghan Markle has also been married before, but there is hardly any talk of it – least of all from the royal family.

"We've just had a really nice time getting to know them and progressively helping me feel a part of not just the institution, but also part of the family," Markle said.

Instead, it was tabloid attention on Markle's heritage when the pair started dating that angered Prince Harry, who berated the press and social media trolls for the abuse and harassment his then-girlfriend endured.

And with Harry now sixth in line to the throne, the two are very unlikely to become king and queen.

They're instead focusing on charitable endeavors, using their platform as a force for good.

"It's important for modern monarchies to retain roles because of the decline of the old roles. And this is part of the package, as it were, that the couple are offering," Morris said.

The new roles Harry and Meghan carve out for themselves will be a strong indicator of how the monarchy will continue to grow going forward.

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