Ethos Education

The King’s Speech: What difference does divorce make to somebody remarrying?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of different Christian views on divorce and remarriage.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon things that disqualify someone from a particular job or role.
  • Analyse the attitudes towards divorce shown in a clip from The King’s Speech.
  • Compare the 1930’s abdication crisis with media comment surrounding Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005.
  • Analyse Bible passages and other source material to determine a range of different Christian positions on divorce.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a discussion between characters from the King’s Speech, Prince Charles and a fictional representative of the church.


Explain to the students that you are going to introduce a series of jobs or roles, and that you want them to guess whether particular character traits, biographical details or physical traits might disqualify someone from that role. For example, do the students think that colour blindness would disqualify someone from being an RAF pilot? (it would).

For each of the roles and traits listed below, first ask the students whether they think that the trait automatically disqualifies someone from the role, and then whether they think that it should automatically disqualify someone.

  • Professional sportsman/woman: caught taking performance-enhancing drugs (true).
  • Pop singer: tone deafness (sadly, false).
  • Formula 1 racing driver: drink driving charge on their (non-racing) drivers license (false).
  • Member of the House of Commons: Ordained church minister (true).
  • Member of the House of Commons: Undischarged bankrupt (true).
  • President of the United States of America: born outside of America to non-American parents (true).

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about divorce. In particular, you are going to be looking back to a time in British history where the King abdicated because he was not allowed to remain as King and to marry a divorced woman whose previous husband was still alive.


Show the clip from the film The King’s Speech (Momentum, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that this clip occurs shortly after David (Guy Pearce) has become King Edward VIII. Bertie (Colin Firth) and Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter) are on their way to a party and are discussing David’s relationship with Wallace Simpson (Eve Best) in the car. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the various discussions where people argue that David should not be associating with Wallace Simpson.

  • Start time:       0.53.36 (in chapter 6 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.58.17
  • Clip length:     4 minutes 41 seconds

The clip begins with Bertie and Elizabeth on the way to a party at the royal Balmoral Estate. The first line is Bertie practicing tongue twisters and saying, ‘I sifted seven thick-stalked thistles…’ The last line is David returning to the party and saying, ‘I try to be!’ to Wallace.

Ask students what they thought of Winston Churchill’s (Timothy Spall) observation that the church does not recognise divorce, and therefore as head of the Church of England, the King should not be in a relationship with the soon-to-be-twice-divorced Wallace Simpson. Were they surprised to hear such staunch opposition to divorce? Do they agree with Winston Churchill (whose views are representative of most characters in the film), or do they think that his opposition to divorce is unreasonable?

To discover the extent to which church attitudes towards divorce have changed since the 1930s, ask the students to look at a selection of articles about the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005. Print out as many of the articles as you wish to use and distribute them to the students. Ask the students to identify key similarities and differences between the situation with Charles and Camilla and that of King Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson.

Here are some of the notable differences:

  • Both Charles and Camilla were divorced, whereas King Edward had never been married.
  • Charles was heir to the throne at the time of his marriage, whereas David (Edward) was already King.
  • At the time of the film, the global political situation was volatile whereas for Charles and Camilla things were more stable, meaning there was less pressure to maintain the strength of the monarch constitutionally.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, welcomed the announcement that HRH Prince of Wales and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles are to marry.

In a statement from Lambeth Palace, Dr Williams said:

 ‘I am pleased that Prince Charles and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles have decided to take this important step. I hope and pray that it will prove a source of comfort and strength to them and to those who are closest to them.’

Dr Williams has accepted an invitation to preside at a service of prayer and dedication following the civil ceremony. Dr Williams said: ‘These arrangements have my strong support and are consistent with Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage which the Prince of Wales fully accepts as a committed Anglican and as prospective Supreme Governor of the Church of England.’

Explain to students that different Christian churches take different stances on the subject of divorce and remarriage. Ask the class if anyone knows some of the differences, and write their responses on the board if they are correct.

Now give out the handout sheet ‘Christian attitudes to divorce and remarriage worksheet’. Read through the sheet with the class, and as you go help the students to assess what each of the denominations would be likely to do if Charles and Camilla wanted to get married in one of their churches. Refer them back to the information they discovered in the earlier activity and help them to apply these facts to the criteria of the different denominations.

Below is a link to the official advice given by Church of England Bishops to their clergy.

You could also ask the students to discuss which of the various church positions they think most closely corresponds to the Bible passages listed on the worksheet.

Ask the students to summarise how attitudes towards divorce within church communities have changed in the last seventy years or so. Do the students think that this is a good change? Do they think that the current attitude is more or less in tune with biblical teaching than 1930s attitudes?


Ask the students to write a discussion between Bertie, his brother David (Edward VIII) from the film, and Prince Charles from the modern world. Students may also add an additional character: a representative of the modern church (whichever denomination and viewpoint they choose to include). The characters should discuss the issue of marriage and divorce and how it relates to the monarchy. Their discussion should allow the student to demonstrate their understanding of a range of Christian views about divorce.


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