History repeats itself: A.N. WILSON watches another royal depart arm in arm ...

This can only be described as an abdication. Meghan and Harry have in effect withdrawn from their royal duties and will spend a large part of their future lives in North America.

It is hard not to feel history repeating itself. Even the car that drove the future Duchess of Sussex to be married to Prince Harry in St George's Chapel, Windsor, was the very car that drove Wallis Simpson to attend the funeral of her husband, the former Edward VIII.

In 1936, the immensely popular, lovable new king had renounced the throne because he wanted to marry Mrs Simpson, an American divorcee. 

That event is seared into the consciousness of the Royal Family: it has obsessed them ever since.

The explanation given at the time was that Edward was to be the head of the Church of England, which forbade divorce.

But behind this convenient excuse, the Establishment wanted rid of Edward VIII. They found his fascist-sympathising politics dodgy and they feared his outspoken, witty wife. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their engagement announcement at Kensington Palace in November 2017

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their engagement announcement at Kensington Palace in November 2017

They felt much safer with the shy, stammering Duke of York and his homely, aristocratic Scottish wife, who became our beloved Queen Mum.

Harry and Meghan's 'abdication' is of course nowhere near as dramatic as Edward VIII's was 84 years ago. 

Yet there seems little doubt that their decision has shocked Buckingham Palace and the wider Royal Family as it has shocked the country.

It has been suggested that Meghan and Harry made their bombshell announcement without consulting the Queen. 

If true, that is, in my view, an atrocious lapse of judgment. The wording from the Palace last night, that 'these are complicated issues that will take time to work through', hints that the decision to abandon their royal duties is perhaps not as final as Meghan and Harry might wish it to be.

Yet, for all that, I believe that this may prove to be for the best.

Unlike the Abdication of 1936, which really was an existential crisis for the Royal Family and which led to the entirely unexpected ascension of George VI to the throne, this 'abdication' will strengthen the institution of the monarchy.

When Harry and Meghan had their very public – Meghan, like Wallis, was 34 when she met her future royal husband – many of us felt that a new chapter had been opened in the history of the Windsors. 

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor standing on stone steps in an undated photo

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex visit to Cape Town, South Africa, last September

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex visit to Cape Town, South Africa, last September (right) and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor standing on stone steps in an undated photo (left)

Here was a breath of fresh air: a feminist, mixed-race American who had established a career for herself as an actress, joining a slightly stuffy English family. Yet the love affair between Meghan and the British press was doomed to be short-lived.

The truth is that this charming, intelligent, beautiful woman hadn't a clue what the monarchy really is, or what role minor members of the Royal Family have to play in public life. 

For his part, Harry perhaps didn't fully understand his own role as a

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