They gave it all up for love – 12 royals who abdicated their thrones to marry commoners


They were in line to lead a nation, but these men and women left their thrones to marry commoners and live outside the royal family

Love is the most powerful of all elixirs. It makes us weak, it makes us strong. It can be the reason we need to sacrifice it all. And several royals throughout history have done exactly that: given up the most powerful seat in a nation of millions simply for the love of another.

The Duke of Windsor arrived with the Duchess at Victoria Station, London, from Paris, on November 13, 1956. The Duke, who was the eldest son of King George V, ascended the throne as King Edward VIII in January 1936 and abdicated in December 1936. Six month later he married Mrs Wallis Warfield (formerly Simpson).

King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
“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, without the help and support of the woman I love,” King Edward VIII said in a radio broadcast less than a year after taking the British throne.

It would mar the face of the royal family for decades, a scandal that rocked the world and changed the course of history. In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne so that he could marry a woman he fell madly for – Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.

Prince Albert, Edward’s younger brother, ascended the next day to become King George VI. In June 1937, Simpson and Edward married. They spent a lifetime together in their own exile until Edward’s death in 1972.

Atsuko and Takamasa Ikeda on October 10, 1952.

Four Japanese princesses willingly gave up the throne for love
Princess Atsuko, the 21-year-old daughter of Japanese Emperor Hirohito, in October 1952 married a dairy farmer named Takamas Ikda who was four years her senior. Many members of the royal family attended their wedding, but not her father. But, it wasn’t his disapproval that kept him away; he was “in bed with a cold”.

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The bride and groom, Mrs Sayako Kuroda (right) and Yoshiyuki Kuroda, attend a news conference following their wedding ceremony at a Tokyo hotel on November 15, 2005. The youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko married the Tokyo government official in a private ceremony.

The only daughter of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Princess Sayako, in November 2005 gave up her title for the love of an urban planner, Yoshiki Kuroda.

“I want to learn various new things, and I look forward to a new life,” she said. Sayako lost both her position in the imperial family and the money that went along with it. This decision was hers to make, according to Japanese law, which requires that princesses – but not princes – relinquish their royal titles under such conditions. Female royals “forfeit their titles, status and allowance”.

Graciously, Sayako reassured the public and her family with the only words she could: I treasure “in my heart the life I have led up until now with their majesties and my family”. Despite their disapproval, her family joined the couple at the wedding ceremony.

In October 2018, Japanese Princess Ayako, daughter of Princess Hisako and Prince Takamado, married Kei Moriya, a shipping company employee. It was a lavish and lovely affair, but just as the other royals were forced to give up her titles, so was Ayako.

“I am awed by how blessed I am,” Ayako said on her wedding day. “I will leave the imperial family today, but I will remain unchanged in my support for his majesty and her majesty.”

Japanese Emperor Naruhito (centre, left), Empress Masako (centre, right), Crown Prince Fumihito (second from let), Crown Princess Kiko (second from right), Princess Mako (far left) and Princess Kako wave to well-wishers gathered at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 4, 2019. It was the emperor’s first public appearance since his enthronement on May 1.

Finally, another modern-day princess ready to step it up for love is Princess Mako, who is presently engaged to a commoner, Kei Komuro. The two young lovebirds decided to take it slowly: “It is because of our immaturity,” they explained. Mako added, “I wish to think about marriage more deeply and concretely and give sufficient time to prepare our marriage for after the marriage.” Their wedding date is set for 2020, as is Mako’s abdication.

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Carl Johan and Kerstin Bernadotte got married and Johan abandoned his royal lineage.

Swedish Princes – the lot of them
In February 1946, Carl Johan, Prince of Sweden, fell in love with journalist Kerstin Wijkmark – and he promptly renounced his royal title to marry her.

But that’s not all. It was not only Carl Johan (later Carl Bernadotte) who would fall so hard he’d abandon royal lineage. His great uncle had done so in 1888 … as had his cousin, Lennart, in 1932 … and Bernadotte’s brother, Sigvard … and one more, their other brother, Bertil, who, after a three-decade affair, finally married his commoner in 1976.

Prince Friso with his wife, Mabel, and daughters in 2010.

Prince Friso and Mabel Wisse Smit
“Prince Brilliant”, as he was then known, was actually Prince Friso, son of the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix. Friso also happily threw it all away for his love, Mabel Wisse Smit. They would have had the honorific titles of Prince and Princess of Orange-Nassau. Nevertheless, the Dutch prince was removed from the line of succession when he wed.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya married American Peter Ladd Jensen.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya and Peter Ladd Jensen
A member of Thai royalty, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya went off to college in the United States in 1972, first at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she met and fell in love with American Peter Ladd Jensen. After becoming Mrs Jensen, she was promptly banished from her family. Sadly, this seemingly happy love story took an unfortunate turn onto the road to divorce in 1998 – but only after producing three non-royal heirs.

Note – This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website