NEW YORK — Meghan Markle is about to join more than one select group. In addition to her May 19 wedding to Prince Harry, she’ll become one of just a handful of Americans to become a senior royal around the globe.
Here’s a look at some of her predecessors:———
THE QUEEN THAT NEVER WAS
Bessie Wallis Warfield Simpson was the twice-divorced socialite from Baltimore whose love affair with King Edward VIII triggered a constitutional crisis for the British monarchy in the 1930s.
They met when he was still Prince of Wales, through a tangled web involving one of his mistresses. They married nearly three years later, but what a three years. He fell hard, becoming the first British monarch to voluntarily give up the throne, on Dec. 10, 1936, before her second divorce was finalized and less than a year into his reign. Her marital status and his role as head of the Church of England were insurmountable at the time.
The two became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after they married on June 3, 1937, settling into exile in France and elsewhere. He did perform some official duties, during World War II as governor of the Bahamas, for instance. There was a visit to Germany with an Adolf Hitler photo op and outrage that they were Nazi sympathizers.
In a 1969 BBC interview, Wallis was asked: “Do you have any regrets when you look back on your life?”
She replied: “Oh about certain things, yes. I wish it could have been different, but I mean I’m extremely happy, and naturally we’ve had some hard times, but who hasn’t? You just have to learn to live with that.”
Historian Andrew Morton, in his recent book, “Wallis in Love,” serves up the duchess as abusive and indifferent to her hubby by the early 1950s. She criticized as too salty the Beluga caviar he brought her in the hospital in 1951 as she recovered from a hysterectomy, shooing him away. One Windsor acquaintance called her “rude, odious and strange.”
The two remained married until his death in 1972 at age 77. Simpson died in 1986, when she was 89.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had a younger sister, born into the tony Southampton, New York, family as Caroline Lee Bouvier. She lived largely in Jackie’s shadow, though some considered her the “prettier” and more vivacious of the two.
The year before John F. Kennedy announced his run for the U.S. presidency, Lee married for the second time, to Polish Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill, on March 19, 1959. It was his third marriage. They had two children. Both were teenagers when their parents divorced in 1974 after 15 years of marriage.
It was Lee who introduced Jackie to Aristotle Onassis, in 1963. Rumours have flown over the years on how Jackie’s marriage to Ari after the assassination of Kennedy infuriated Lee, who married and divorced a third time after the prince.
Lee, 85, has tried her hand at a variety of things: Acting, interior design, public relations. The socialite has enjoyed the company of celebrities, once hanging out with The Rolling Stones and Truman Capote. She divides her time between New York and Paris, having lived in London with her prince.
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy is Lee’s namesake.
PRINCESS GRACE OF MONACO
Grace Kelly, blond and popular, was one of the world’s biggest stars when she was plucked by Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. She retired from acting at 26 to become his princess, decamping to the tiny, well-heeled Mediterranean principality on the Riviera.
To say the union on that April 19 whipped up attention is an understatement. It was one of those weddings of the century. Alfred Hitchcock, one of Kelly’s film directors, reportedly said of the marriage he was “very happy that Grace has found herself such a good part.”
Kelly was reportedly accompanied by relatives, bridesmaids, a poodle and more than 80 pieces of luggage when she set off for Monaco aboard the SS Constitution. Thousands bid her farewell, with thousands more greeting her on the streets of Monaco eight days later.
Hitchcock and other directors courted Kelly to act again after her marriage, but the prince reportedly objected.
On Sept. 13, 1982, Kelly suffered a stroke and lost control of her car on a steep, winding road as she and their youngest child, Stephanie, drove back to Monaco from their country estate. They careened down a 120-foot mountainside. Stephanie was injured. Kelly died later in a hospital. She was 52.
The royal couple had two other children: The eldest, Princess Caroline, and Prince Albert.
THE FIRST ROYAL FROM HOLLYWOOD
Rita Hayworth was a screen queen in the 1940s and a pinup idol for the troops during World War II. She was married twice before (including to Orson Welles) and left Hollywood behind to marry Italian-born Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan. He was known as Aly Khan and was the son of Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III and leader of the Nizari Ismaili sect of Shia Islam.
The two wed in Cannes, France, on May 27, 1949. While she had little interest in the royal family’s involvement in horse racing, she did win several races in France with a filly named Double Rose.
Things began to unravel in 1951, or so the story goes, when Khan was seen dancing with actress Joan Fontaine at the nightclub where he and Hayworth met. She filed for a Nevada divorce that September, citing “extreme cruelty, entirely mental in nature,” and a custody battle for their daughter, Yasmin Aga Khan, ensued. Religion was the focus: Hayworth wanted to raise the child Christian and the prince offered her $1 million if she would rear Yasmin as a Muslim and allow him extended visits in Europe.
Hayworth rejected the offer, explaining that she respected all faiths but wished for her daughter to be “raised as a normal, healthy American girl in the Christian faith.” Hayworth was finally granted a divorce in January 1953.
She died in 1987 at 68 of complications from Alzheimer’s.