Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Dear Royalists everywhere,
King Jon I
          The wedding of the year at the end of this week could have been very different had my mother played her cards right. So different in fact that neither Prince Harry nor Meghan Markle would be there and if it was to take place it would be between another couple with no connection to them at all.
          You see if my mother, Cape Town socialite Leonie Chiappini had not been so fussy and had been seriously mesmerised by being chosen to date a prince I might have been King of England right now.
          Prince of Wales was the title granted to the heir apparent to the British crown since the 14th century. Prince Charles, the eldest son of the current Queen is the longest serving Prince of Wales.
          But in 1925 when he visited South Africa the Prince of Wales was the first born of George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and  Emperor of India. On the trip he spent four days in Cape Town being wined and dined. This was when my 18 year old mother had her first introduction to Royalty.
Mum and the Prince of Wales
          She was the talk of the Cape when she was summoned by Royal decree to accompany him on several of these posh occasions. At the time this good looking 30 year old bachelor was a catch every girl and their mothers of course, would have dreamt of.
          If royal blood was a necessary credential to marry into the British Royal Family my mother had the right background. According to a remarkable book by Sir Ralph-Payne Gallwey one of her Italian ancestors Louis Philippe was King of France from 1830 to 1848 when he was forced to abdicate after an uprising.
          The Cape Times described her as a “member of a very well known peninsular family who takes a leading part in its social life. Her beautiful fair colouring and clean cut features marks her as one of the most attractive looking of the younger members of society.”
          So she was a pretty good catch in her own right.                              
          Had my mother married the Prince of Wales he would not have been forced to abdicate within months of becoming King Edward VIII in 1936 on the death of his father. Not one to comply with accepted convention he caused a constitutional crisis only a few months into his reign when he announced his intention to marry a divorcee and an American to boot.
          The Brits were not going to have that old boy. The Government threatened to resign. Wallis Simpson had not only divorced her first husband but was in the throws of getting rid of a second one.
          Inevitably the complications were compounded by a religious side issue. Marrying her would have clashed with the King’s token role as head of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, would have had a cadenza.
          But whatever the British might have said about His Majesty at the time they could not fault the length he was prepared to go for the woman he loved. He abdicated in December 1936 and married her in France the following year after her divorce from her second husband had come through.
Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor
          In spite of the fact that he had so badly tarnished the Royal image he was given the title of Duke of Windsor. He and Wallis then remained inseparable until he died aged 77 in 1972. She lived on to just short of her 90th birthday.
          So if he had married my mother he would still have been King in 1972 and I, as her first born, would have ascended to the throne at the age of 39 having, like him, held the title of Prince of Wales from the age of 16.
          As it turned out Mum told me that he was the “rudest man” she had ever met. And being a headstrong woman she was certainly not prepared to make an exception to ensure she lived a life of absolute luxury being almost worshipped wherever she went as the Queen of England.
          In 1933 she married my father Cecil Willoughby Abbott whose English father was the owner of Markhams the men’s clothing business in the centre of Cape Town. It was founded in 1873 by H.W Markham. My grandfather cleverly married the boss’ daughter, which enabled him to become the owner.
After completing his studies at Oxford University where he had been a Diocesan College (Bishops) Rhodes Scholar my Dad joined the firm and followed his father as its head. Eventually he sold out to the Foschini Group. It now has 330 of these men’s clothing stores. Long after it took over from my Dad the powers that be there inexplicably decided on the costly exercise of taking the S off Markhams.
          While on a visit to England with my father in 1936 my mother was invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace on 22 July just a few months after that very rude Prince had become King Edward VIII. Of course she went.
The basic form that Royal invitations take hasn't changed ever.
My mother's above in 1936 and what a typical Royal wedding

invitation looks like
          The odd thing about the snooty invitation was that the only person who the Lord Chamberlain had been “commanded by the King to summon” was “Mrs Willoughby Abbott.” Whether there was a separate invitation for my father or whether he was deliberately left out I will never know.
          Anyway as I was not born with Royal blood I have just had to battle along through life with that inferior blue stuff.
          Jon, who always blamed his mother for not giving him a crack at being King because he was convinced that his natural diplomacy and sense of duty would have made him perfectly suited for the job.
Prince Harry and Meghan 
P.S. It looks as though Harry is marrying into a family from hell. Meghan’s half sister Samantha hasn’t spoken to her for three years. To rub it in she has been making money out of her book The Diary of Princess Pushy Sister. And when Samantha 53 appeared on Piers Morgan’s TV talk show Good Morning Britain to complain about how their father Thomas had been harassed by “media vultures” Morgan sailed into her. She was there to back her dad who was caught out by London’s Daily Mail for staging paparazzi photos of himself that the paper claimed were fakes. Morgan accused Samantha of trashing Meghan for years and asked how she could have “the gall to come here to talk about media vultures.” Megan’s half brother Thomas also showed how deep the rifts run in the family when he wrote an open letter to Prince Harry asking him to call off the wedding to avoid “the biggest mistake in Royal wedding history.” While the ex-actress might make a good life partner for Harry her family baggage is more like what the Americans would describe as trailer trash. One newspaper described her extended family as a “motley collection of individuals who, between them, have a long record of boozing, bust-ups and bankruptcies.” Hardly what anybody would want as an addition to their family particularly if they happen to be the Queen of England and Prince Philip in an age where celebrities are under a brutal media spotlight from every angle 24/7.
          This has some similarity to the Duke of Windsor/Wallis Simpson affair in that Meghan has also been divorced, although this is no longer regarded in the same dim light as it was in 1936. She too is an American with the added complication of being of mixed race – her father is Dutch-Irish and her mother is an African-American. But unlike the Duke, Harry is too far down the line of succession ever to become King so that must come as some relief to his critics in the Royal Family.
          Will it be as successful a marriage as the Duke and Wallis’ was or will Harry be making the terrible mistake that Meghan’s half brother predicted?   

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