But Markle is not the first non-royal to marry into the British royal family — her husband’s brother, Prince William, married Kate Middleton, formerly a commoner, in 2011. A distinction between Markle and Middleton is their national heritage: Markle is American, whereas Middleton is British.
A British royal in line for the throne last married an American in 1937, when King Edward VIII wed socialite Wallis Simpson, a divorcee. After the wedding, King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate the throne to his younger brother, King George VI — the father of Queen Elizabeth II.
While King Edward VIII’s marriage to an American led to the end of his turn as king, other marriages between European royals and Americans have caused less scandal.
The American actress Grace Kelly famously wed her husband, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, in 1956, leading to the end of her acting career at age 26. Kelly and Prince Rainier had a happy marriage, having three children: Caroline, Albert II, and Stéphanie. And Albert II followed in his father’s tradition of marrying a non-royal, wedding Charlene Wittstock, an Olympic swimmer from South Africa, in 2011.
Queens Letizia and Rania, of Spain and Jordan, respectively, both were non-royals before their marriage and now are known for their sophisticated style choices.
While the British crown has been historically conservative, Prince Harry’s decision to marry a non-royal represents the increasingly modern values of royals across Europe — and around the world.
Click through the gallery for more royals who married non-royals, starting with Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII’s marriage in 1937 and going through to the present.
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