The Supernatural in a Commonplace Life: An Autobiography
The Reverend Robert Anderson Jardine (1878-1950), who called himself the Rev. R. Anderson Jardine in his published memoir, was an ordained minister of the Anglican Communion and a vicar of the Church of England, assigned to a parish in Darlington. He is best known for performing the marriage ceremony for the Duke of Windsor and his fiancée Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, in June 1937; this was a marriage that was seen as scandalous at the time. Jardine's performance of the marriage rites cost him his career in England.
An unprecedented marriage
Following his abdication from the British throne in December 1936, the Duke of Windsor left England immediately to start the process of marrying Wallis Simpson, "the woman he loved". This process awaited the conclusion of a legally-required six-month period to allow the ripening of Mrs. Simpson's divorce from her husband Ernest Simpson. Following the conclusion of this period, it was the ex-King's strong desire to be married to Wallis under the auspices of the Church of England, the church of which he had been Supreme Governor. However, it was Church law at the time to almost completely forbid the re-marriage of divorced partners.
The dilemma facing the Duke and his fiancée was heavily covered at the time in the British and European press. An obscure vicar from the North of England, Jardine publicly volunteered to perform the ceremony. Press supporters of the wedding called Jardine, whose working-class parish was dominated by heavy industry, the "poor man's pastor". The marriage was set for 3 June 1937 in the Château de Candé, Wallis's French home in exile. A small guest list - the wedding was boycotted by almost the entire British establishment - and a single pool reporter witnessed the wedding service, which was read by the vicar "in a strong voice". Following the brief ceremony, the couple departed for a honeymoon in Austria and Jardine unsuccessfully attempted to return to his Darlington parish. However, the vicar was soon made aware that he had performed an act above his station. His vestry committee resigned, and he was encouraged to follow them. Under pressure, he left England and emigrated to California. In 1943 the ex-vicar published a memoir, At Long Last, of the unusual event.
The marriage ceremony of the Duke and Duchess was an ex-royal marriage rather than a royal one. Letters patent, published just before the ceremony in the London Gazette as the Depriving Act of 1937, explicitly stated that the title of Royal Highness, which would have conveyed precedence, would be enjoyed by the Duke and not by the Duchess.