I’m late to the party. Incredibly late.
The many protestations of ‘oh but you’ll love it’ didn’t move me, until I watched Episode 1 of The Crown and, lo and behold, I did indeed ‘love it’.
Six episodes in (not all in one sitting I hasten to add) there are various interesting themes, but I have been particularly struck by the controversy surrounding Group Captain Peter Townsend and Princess Margaret on a subject close to my heart. The principle exception to the match, according to The Crown, would appear to be his divorce. ‘No one is entirely blameless in a divorce‘ are words attributed by the script writer to Prince Philip, and I would probably agree – I mean no one is perfect and therefore no one blameless, though some may be more of the cause than others. For Peter Townsend and Wallis Simpson, the taint of their past marriage and that they simply were married, details irrelevant, has been hard for me to understand. I am more than a product of my former marriage, as they were more than theirs. It is hard to fathom why social justice insisted on the ostracisation of divorcees when it came to royal marriage. This is not to comment on the monarchy’s position on divorce – firstly the story is told through the perception of a script writer and in any case The Crown suggests the Queen did not see this part of Peter’s past as problematic. But the implication seemed to be this: divorcees are never able to escape that single fact; it will never be hidden away, never forgotten, and will limit your choices later.
And sometimes it feels like life doesn’t move on much because I’ve also internally battled with the conversations surrounding the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Admittedly it has nothing to do with me, yet overhearing conversations that blithely question whether it is possible for a member of the royal family to marry a divorcee, even today, were hard to hear. They were hard to hear because I am a divorcee. The implication, unspoken and probably unintended, was that a divorcee might not quite ‘fit the bill’ for the royals – which was an actual fact of the past. So this unintentional discussion left me wondering whether that is still what we think of divorcees. Would I somehow not quite ‘fit the bill’? Was it really that much of a shock that someone of 36 (Meghan not me) was divorced? Why was that the fact we needed to focus on?
These questions aren’t to judge the conversationalists either. Our response to these questions are that it’s often not a problem if we know the people or if they’re a friend and are divorcing; their marital status doesn’t cross our minds. Yet we still seemingly call into question someone’s suitability because of their marital history when it links to royalty. Our exterior judgement of situations where this is the case maybe still reveals a hint of our assumptions about life choices. Divorce is a public declaration of something that hasn’t worked. If I’d not married my ex, who would know I’d had a long term relationship that had broken down? Yet it’s on every form for people to see and if I were to marry again it would come with me into my new marriage.
But maybe that’s actually ok. Yes I’m divorced, as were Peter Townsend, Wallis Simpson and as is Meghan Markle. And without knowing the whys and wherefores of their personal circumstances, maybe our divorces show something about us.
We’re committed. Admittedly it broke down ultimately but we were prepared to make a lifelong choice to love someone else.
We’re resilient. We didn’t let divorce stop us and somehow, probably with help, we dusted ourselves off and kept life going.
We’re hopeful. Despite our experiences, we chose to love again, put our trust in another person and even commit to a lifelong partnership once more, while conscious of the potential for pain and hurt.
Of course these qualities aren’t owned by divorcees but are certainly part of what divorce can teach you. So if the question mark remains over whether divorcing means I don’t quite ‘fit the bill’ I’m not sure I want to be an option. For those who love me, divorce has evolved my character, it’s part of my past, but it in no way defines opportunities for my future.