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Before Meghan and Harry, there was the rebellious romance of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

Last Wednesday afternoon, London time, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their decision to step back from their roles as senior members of the British Royal Family.

They intend to become “financially independent” and to split their time between England and North America.

The ‘bombshell’ announcement sparked hysteria among the tabloids and was made even more dramatic by the Queen’s statement: “These are complicated issues”.

Now, Meghan Markle is being compared to another American who previously caused a royal spectacle.

Indeed, Wallis Simpson. Or, “that woman” as she became known.

This is the story of Prince Harry’s great-great-uncle King Edward VIII and his forbidden love, Wallis Simpson – a scandal that changed the reign of the monarchy thereafter.

meghan markle prince Harry income
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle intend to become financially independent and to split their time between England and North America. Image: Getty.

Wallis Simpson was an American socialite and divorcee. She was married to her second husband, Ernest Simpson, when she met King Edward VIII in 1931, who was at the time the Prince of Wales.

Overtime, Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson developed a courtship and by 1934, Wallis was considered the Prince's mistress.

Wallis was still married to her second husband at the time and her relationship with the Prince was kept mostly out of the public eye.

After his father's death, the Prince of Wales became King Edward VIII in January 1936.

Rumours spread that Wallis was scheming to be Queen, but she had in fact offered to remain Edward’s mistress. Edward, however, was determined to marry the American woman. As King, he was free to marry anyone - except a Roman Catholic.

Edward was enormously popular with ordinary people, and when news broke of his love for Wallis, there was widespread public support for him to remain King.

But Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, the Church of England hierarchy and the right-wing newspapers were all against the idea.

Rumours were spread about Wallis – including whispers that she was selling British secrets to Germany. She was painted in a shrewd light.

Less than a year after stepping into the role of head of state, Edward VIII chose to give up the throne.

He decided he would live in exile, to be with the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson.

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In a radio broadcast, King Edward VIII told the Commonwealth:

"A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as king and emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart. You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind, I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as king, I have for 25 years tried to serve. But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love. And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course. I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all."

Wallis Simpson
Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in 1942. Image: Getty.

King Edward's brother, George VI, ascended the throne in late 1936, therefore changing the course of the line to the throne.

Edward and Wallis were married the following year, in 1937. Edward was thereafter known as the Duke of Windsor, and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.

King George VI forbade Edward’s siblings from attending the wedding. He would not allow Simpson to use the title of “Her Royal Highness”, and wouldn’t give Edward any duties to carry out.

Anne Sebba, author of 'That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson', called their marriage the "most romantic love story of the last century".

In 1952, after over 15 years of reign, King George VI passed away. His daughter, Elizabeth II, was sworn in as Queen and has now been the head of state for 67 years - the longest-reigning British monarch of all time.

And as we have now seen in the past week, Queen Elizabeth's grandchild, Prince Harry, would also choose his family life with an American woman over the British Royal Family.

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