When King Henry VIII famously fell in love for the second time, Catholic officials refused to grant his divorce from wife numero uno. So, ever determined to make his romance happen, the king controversially split his kingdom from the church in 1533 and created his own religion where divorce wasn’t so against the rules.
This is less romantic than it sounds, given what ended up happening to his second love, but it’s proof all the same that royalty, English and otherwise, has moved mountains for love for quite some time. The following once-powerful royals were swept off their feet by charming commoners, and they couldn’t help but make drastic, country-changing sacrifices of their own to give love a chance…
1. Prince Phillip: Born to the Prince of Greece and the Princess of Denmark, Prince Phillip had a tough decision ahead of him if he wanted to marry England’s then-Princess Elizabeth II. He had to renounce his royal roots and become a British subject.
So he took his mother’s maiden name — Mountbatten — and committed to the woman who’d eventually become Queen Elizabeth II. For his sacrifice, he earned some pretty cool titles, like Baron Greenwich and Duke of Edinburgh.
The New York Times
2. Prince Johan Friso: Son of the Netherland’s Queen Beatrix, Prince Johan had no problem becoming “just Johan” to marry Mabel Wisse Smit. His family didn’t either — the queen even expressed a fondness for the commoner!
Until, that is, Smit’s former relationship with a drug kingpin became public knowledge. Even without the prime minister’s approval, however, the couple married in 2004. They were eventually dubbed Prince and Princess of Orange-Nassau.
The Pink Royals
3. King Edward VIII: Smitten with an American divorceé, Wallis Simpson, the actual, fully recognized king of England gave up the scepter and throne to be with the woman he’d fallen for. The decision rocked England and soured citizens on the Royal Family.
“I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do,” he told the radio after his decision, “without the help and support of the woman I love.” They married in 1937.
Town & Country Magazine
4. Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya: As a young adult, the Thai princess packed her things and headed for the United States to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she fell in love with Peter Jensen, an American man.
When news broke in 1972, Rajakanya earned her family’s scorn despite willingly giving up her royal title. Unfortunately, she and Jensen divorced in 1998, and she returned to Thailand with their three kids. Eventually, she was nominated for prime minister.
5. Princess Atsuko: The 21-year-old daughter of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito fell for a 25-year-old Takamasa Ikeda, a dairy farmer. Because he wasn’t exactly royal in the eye’s of the emperor, Princess Atsuko was forced to give up her crown — and more.
No longer a royal, the former princess forwent her annual royal allowance, ¥650,000 (about $1,800) — quite the sum in the 1950s. Her father was notably absent at the couple’s wedding because, as he claimed, he was sick with a cold.
6. Princess Ayako: Japanese imperial law states only women must give up their titles and allowances to marry commoners. This wasn’t a problem for Princess Ayako, who married Kei Moriya, a shipping company employee, in 2018.
She felt positive about the opportunity to pursue her love. “I am awed by how blessed I am,” Ayako said on her wedding day. Afterward, without royal servants, she would learn to drive and shop and live like a commoner.
7. Lennart Bernadotte: Without royal consent or his parents’ permissions, the grandson of the Swedish king was forced to travel to London with his commoner love, Karin Nissvandt, so they could be married. Still, he was disappointed he’d upset his parents.
To assuage their son’s guilt, they granted him a 111-acre island on Lake Constance called Mainau. There, the couple created a botanical garden that sees over 350,000 flowers bloom in the summertime.
8. Princess Sayako: Like the former-Princess Atsuko, the daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko was forced to forgo her royal title and allowance to marry Yoshiki Kuroda, an urban planner.
She didn’t mind a bit, however. “I want to learn various new things, and I look forward to a new life as a member of the Kuroda family,” she said in an interview, “while treasuring in my heart the life I have led up until now with their Majesties and my family.”
9. King Carol II: While married to Jeanne Marie “Zizi” Lambrino, the daughter of an officer, the crown prince of Romania fell for Magda Lupescu. Under the rules of royalty, a relationship between the two wasn’t allowed.
So, Prince Carol abdicated the crown and went into exile with his new love. Weird lineage laws saw him become king in 1930, but he — once again — abdicated and went into exile. He and Magda married in 1947.
10. Princess Mako: Faced with giving up her royal allowance and title, Japan’s Princess Mako, left, hesitated when it came to marrying commoner Kei Komuro in 2018. She postponed the wedding to 2020.
Of course, the princess claimed their love was as strong as ever. “I wish to think about marriage more deeply and concretely,” she said, “and give sufficient time to prepare our marriage and for after the marriage.
11. Prince Carl Johan Bernadotte: Perhaps it’s because the pen is mightier than the sword that the Swedish prince fell for a journalist, Kerstin Wijkmark. Nearly five decades after his great uncle abdicated for love, this royal followed suit in 1946.
The New York Times
The New York Times questioned his new wife about her status as a commoner, to which she replied, “I don’t know exactly what that means.” The two stayed together until Kerstin’s passing in 1987.
12. Prince Charles and Princess Diana: Described as a “fairytale” by members of the British aristocracy, Prince Charles’ marriage to the late Princess Diana charmed the entire world. The couple was inseparable, and it appeared this royal relationship was one built to last.
Alas, this was not the case, as below the surface things were anything but picturesque. Behind closed doors, the couple could barely stomach one another, and after just five years, the extramarital affairs had begun.
Shortly after news of the couple’s difficulties broke, Charles was spotted with his former girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles, though he insisted they were just “great friends.” In response, The Mirror published the transcript from an intimate phone call between the two and exposed the affair.
With the relationship out, Charles remained with Camilla, and the couple tied the knot in 2005. Though the Queen gave the marriage her blessing, she chose not to attend the ceremony.
Family World News
But Charles’ infidelity wasn’t the only strain on the couple’s marriage. Diana had relationships with other men, including a four-year fling with Captain James Hewitt – the family’s riding instructor – whom she reportedly fantasized about running away with.
Diana also had an affair with Italian art dealer Oliver Hoare (right) and a man by the name of James Gilbey. In taped calls between the princess and Gilbey, he referred to Diana no less than 53 times by the pet-name “Squidgey.” The scandal was later dubbed “Squidgeygate.”
The Mirror UK
13. Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend: A recent divorcee, employee of the crown, and 16 years Margaret’s senior, Captain Townsend made waves in the ’50s when his affair with Princess Margaret leaked to the public.
The crown posted Townsend to Brussels in an attempt to calm the media frenzy, but word had already broken that Margaret planned to marry him. Ultimately, though, the princess decided against the marriage, unwilling to relinquish her claim to the throne.
Five years later, Margaret wed photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, and the two were granted the titles of Count and Countess of Snowdon. The marriage seemed idyllic, but after only a few years cracks began to show.
The Cheat Sheet
Margaret was known to have engaged in a number of affairs by 1966, and by the early ’70s, the couple had irreparably drifted apart. The Snowdons split in 1978, making Margaret the first royal divorcee since Princess Victoria in 1901.
14. Princess Anne: Like her brother Prince Charles, Princess Anne is no stranger to divorce. In 1992, her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips ended after she began an affair with naval commander Timothy Laurence.
The relationship became public when letters sent to Anne by Laurence were stolen from her briefcase and published by The Sun. They wed in Scotland in December of that year, as the Church of Scotland permits second marriages for divorcees.
15. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson: After ten years of marriage, Prince Andrew and Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson divorced in 1996, citing strain from Andrew’s extensive military career. The divorce was amicable, but Fergie’s scandalous relationships that followed cast her in a negative light.
The couple still maintains a close relationship, and as Duchess of York, Fergie still receives a certain level of royal treatment. She also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of one day remarrying Andrew: “He’s still my handsome prince,” she said.
16. Prince William and Kate Middleton: Most people wouldn’t consider Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton scandalous, but the years before certainly were. Many speculate that William’s eight-year courtship of Kate was due in large part to her being a “commoner.”
Being that Kate doesn’t have royal blood, the Queen should’ve given her the title of Princess William as opposed to her current title of Catherine, Her Royal Highness the Dutchess of Cambridge. Lucky for her, the Queen isn’t too much of a stickler for the rules.