For more than a hundred years, the strong-willed women who have married into the House of Windsor have stamped their indelible mark on the character of the British Royal Family. Now they have been joined by Meghan Markle – who may yet prove to be the greatest agent of change of them all.
Harry’s marriage defines today’s monarchy, serving as a benchmark for the progress made by the British Royals. A divorced, mixed-race actress from America, any one of these aspects of her character would have made Meghan Markle an impossible Royal bride just a generation ago.
Yet the Royal Family – and, to a large extent, the British public – have welcomed Meghan with open arms, and she has taken to her Royal duties with the grace and commitment that has characterised the monarchy since the days of Queen Victoria. But to what extent has Meghan’s path been paved by the Royal wives who came before her? What can she learn from their marriages – or, indeed, their mistakes?
The answers to these questions can be discovered in the two-part film, The Royal Wives of Windsor which is now live on True Royalty TV.
The eight Wives of Windsor
Over the course of two episodes, this series tells the story of eight wives of Windsor – from the Queen Mother to Meghan Markle – and examines how each of their unique personalities has built on (or defied) their successors while transforming the identity of the most famous dynasty in the world.
From gin-loving equine enthusiast Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (the Queen Mother), through the seismic constitutional impact of divorcee Wallis Simpson, the tragedy of Lady Diana Spencer, the scandals of Sarah Ferguson, the secret romance of Camilla Parker Bowles, the quiet dignity of Sophie Rhys Jones, right up to the stylish modernity of ‘commoner’ Catherine Middleton – all have been, by turns, feted and vilified by fickle press coverage and the court of public opinion.
Yet each one has served as a reflection of their era, providing a window into our past and present cultural history and showing how – over time – the monarchy has reinvented itself, time and again. These fairy-tale unions, whether they ended in scandal or stability, have shaped our nation through the triumphs and tribulations of their courtships, and – at times – their culmination in tragedy.
This documentary gathers a host of experts on the Royal Family including biographers Andrew Morton, Penny Junor and Anne Sebba and places their accounts in the context of a wider cultural and historical landscape as recounted by figures such as David Starkey, Jeremy Paxman and Gyles Brandreth. By examining these specialist contributions alongside the first-hand testimony of palace insiders including butlers, bodyguards and press secretaries, we get to the bottom of what it truly means to be a Wife of Windsor.
Before and after the whirlwind fairytale
The first episode takes an in-depth look at the tradition-oriented world of Royal matchmaking; what it means to be chosen as a Royal bride, and the complicated journey from courtship to the altar. The tone of future life is set as prospective brides find themselves pursued relentlessly by the media, and any past indiscretions or family secrets thrown into the open for public scrutiny. It’s a baptism of fire, and many have fallen short before the big day, but those who make it to marriage are the ones with the character and the willpower to find their place – and, sometimes, break the mould – in one of the most traditional families in the world.
The second episode looks at life after the fairytale wedding – when the real work begins, and a Royal bride is now beholden to a life of public duty, endless meet-and-greets and countless ribbon-snippings. This is the flipside to a life of privilege and Royal renown, and it’s all set to the relentless undercurrent of inescapable press scrutiny. This is the true test of stamina – the ability to hold together a relationship through unrelenting pressure, to preserve their individuality within the establishment, all while fulfilling their duties and presenting a public facade of perfection.
In fairytales, the Princesses live happily ever. In real life, it’s never so simple. To find out what it really takes to make it as a Royal bride, watch the Royal Wives of Windsor: A Royal Engagement and A Royal Marriage on True Royalty TV.