How rare to hear an official speaking honestly about divorce


National Post, 23 May 2018

Canada's Justice Minister says her new legislation will help protect families, especially children, from 'the sad realities' of failed marriages

Her Majesty’s Government for Canada announced, the day after the Queen’s official birthday (Victoria Day), and a few days after the Royal wedding, its reform of the Divorce Act.

I doubt there was any deliberate connection, but the Royal wedding was in fact another cultural marker in the normalization of divorce. The Queen herself remembers another age, when in 1936 her uncle Edward VIII abdicated so that he could marry an American divorcée. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Cosmo Lang, made it known that in such an eventuality not only would he refuse to crown Mrs. Simpson queen, he would refuse to crown Edward king.

Sixty years on, when the Prince of Wales was divorcing the Princess, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, made it clear that he would crown Charles king, married, divorced, cohabiting, remarried, whatever. Twenty-two years later, and Archbishop Justin Welby is personally marrying Charles’ son to an American divorcée.

If Archbishop Welby had looked around the “quire” where the most important guests were seated — Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Her Majesty — he would have seen an assembly in which staying married is the exception and divorce the norm, beginning with three of the Queen’s four children.

In the line of sight of the Archbishop during the exchange of wedding vows was the Prince of Wales who, now we know, never intended to keep his wedding vows. Camilla was a “non-negotiable” part of his life, he confessed later, without contrition. Indeed, there she was at his side in the quire, no doubt marvelling that the new Duchess of Sussex got to marry her prince in the chapel. When Camilla, a divorcée herself, married her prince in 2005, she and Charles resorted to a shabby affair at the civic registry in Windsor, before doing the walk of shame back to the castle where the Queen awaited.

All of which is to observe that divorce is such a normal part of life that the grand custodians of civic virtue consider it wholly unremarkable. And because it is so normal, it can be discussed more honestly.

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