The Royal Family and the Choice between Duty and Love

“And so Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, faced with the choice between duty and love, bravely chooses duty.”

Or so went one report of the decision by Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend to accede to the political and religious realities of their time. No British royal could marry a person whose divorced spouse was still alive. It would scandalize the Church of England, whose Defender of the Faith was the Queen herself, and deeply compromise the moral stature of the monarch.

In the Netflix series “The Crown,” we see royal person after royal person torn between duty and love. King Edward notoriously abdicates the throne in order to be with the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.

His brother thus takes the throne as George VI, but with grave reluctance. Not only does he not want the office of monarch for himself, but he fears his heirs, at the time mere girls, will be crushed by its responsibility when one or the other succeeds him. But he takes it anyway.

Elizabeth herself gets to marry the man she loves, but she repeatedly learns that she must put Philip in his place: two steps behind her as head of the country, head of the Church, and head of the (royal) family.

Duty versus love. Choosing the former over the latter seems positively medieval to many of us watching “The Crown” today. Of course, we think, Edward should have married Mrs Simpson and been able to keep his throne. Isn’t romantic love the supreme good, the theme of all our popular songs?

Of course, we think, Margaret should have married Peter. Doesn’t love conquer all?

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