As the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk show, divorce isn’t always inevitable when a marriage apparently “breaks down”

As the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk show, divorce isn’t always inevitable when a marriage [apparently] “breaks down”

Perhaps the Duke and Duchess could share their experience of how they refounded their marriage with struggling couples

The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk have been living in different wings of Arundel Castle in West Sussex for 5 years.

[A celebrity couple as the latest of the long line (since the 14th century) of the highest-ranking British Catholic nobles (outside the Royal Family) of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk and Earl Marshall (he organizes state ceremonies, and she stands in for the Queen at rehearsals); they had separated for a period of time without any divorce, annulment or remarriage; because of strong anti-Catholic prejudice in the British establishment, some of his ancestors abandoned the Faith but returned – especially after the obligatory Grand Tour of Continental (especially Catholic) Europe by British nobles and wealthy gentry]

by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith
posted Wednesday, 24 Aug 2016

The British press like nothing better than reporting matrimonial disasters. Readers will remember the lamentable saga of the “War of the Waleses”, as well as the sad case of the divorce of Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. Long gone are the days when divorce proceedings were held in camera, and divorces of the famous attracted no more than a single paragraph in the newspapers. Indeed, there is something in the national psyche that loves a good divorce. One could possibly trace this back to the time of Henry VIII. We are still fascinated by that brutal king and his six wives, particularly the two wives who ended up in the Tower, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of them nieces of the third Duke of Norfolk. Their executions were the celebrity news sensation of their day.

But this week the papers carry a rather different story, a couple who, having been separated for five years, are now reconciled. Funnily enough, the story deals with the same family. It seems that the present Duke of Norfolk and his wife are now back together again [or see comment below for more information].

The Queen is said to be thrilled that the couple are now reunited. That is indeed gratifying. Where the Queen leads, we should all follow. But it goes further. Would it not be thrilling if all couples who have drifted apart were able to patch up their differences and get back together again? Would it not be good if more matrimonial disagreements were to end, not in divorce, but in reconciliation?

Many couples who drift apart do so after decades of marriage, as in the case of the Norfolks; their coming back together again would mean that they no longer need separate places to live, and would certainly please their adult children. Divorce, among other things, has greatly contributed to the housing crisis and also given us a rising number of older people living alone. None of that is good. Given that this is the case, it is surprising that one hears so little emphasis is put on reconciliation as a possible goal for couples in difficulty.

There are several organisations, some of them of Catholic inspiration, that exist to bring couples back together again, or stop them drifting apart in the first place. One such is Retrouvaille which often advertises its services through parishes. They do rather good work, to my mind. Perhaps the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk may now, if they feel able, talk to others about how they refounded their marriage, and help other couples not to divorce, but to give things a second chance. After all, as the Duke said shortly after his wedding: “I believe in marriage. When you stand up in front of 800 people and take vows, they’re not lightly broken.”

Get AQ Email Updates

3 comments on “As the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk show, divorce isn’t always inevitable when a marriage apparently “breaks down”

  1. Duke of Norfolk reconciles with wife after planning son’s wedding having spent five years living in separate wings of their castle

    Arundel Castle, seat of the Duke of Norfolk, West Sussex, UK
    The couple, who split in 2011, have reportedly been residing in opposite ends of the their home

    Cristina Criddle – 21 AUGUST 2016

    It may not be a solution open to every warring couple, but the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk have saved their marriage by spending five years living in separate wings of their 11th century castle.

    Edward and Georgina Fitzalan-Howard announced in 2011 that they had decided on a “trial separation” having grown apart after 24 years of marriage.

    The Duke of Norfolk and Duchess of Norfolk in 2008

    But while that would normally mean one party moving out of the marital home, the couple’s huge family seat of Arundel Castle in West Sussex enabled them to live separately under the same roof by having one wing each, with neutral territory in between.

    They appear to have discovered that absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they have reportedly rediscovered their love for each other while planning the wedding of their eldest son Henry, which took place last month.

    By April they had started attending events together again, including a book launch in London’s Regent Street, and they are now said to living together once again.

    DUKE OF NORFOLK & DUCHESS OF NORFOLK at a party to celebrate the publication of The Naturalista by Xochi Balfour held at Anthropologie, 158 Regent Street, London on 19th April 2016.

    Their relationship became so bitter that they were said to have turned down an invitation to the Royal wedding in 2011 in order to avoid being in the same room together.

    The Duke released a statement at the time saying: “Edward and Georgina Norfolk have decided to have a trial separation. They wish to make it clear there is nobody else involved.”

    At their own wedding, which took place in Arundel Cathedral in June 1987, the couple had 800 guests, including the Princess of Wales, Lady Diana.

    Edward 18th Duke Of Norfolk And Georgina Duchess Of Norfolk On Their Wedding Day In 1987.

    Following the ceremony, the Oxford-educated Duke said: “I believe in marriage. When you stand up in front of 800 people and take vows, they’re not lightly broken.”

    The Queen is said to be thrilled that the couple have reunited.

    A source close to the couple told the Mail on Sunday: “It was totally unexpected. No one could have predicted they would get back together, least of all the Queen, who is absolutely thrilled.”

    The couple after the birth of their daughter Rachel Rose Fitzalan-Howard

    The Duchess is involved in numerous charitable efforts, including as Patron of Depaul International, a Catholic charity supporting the homeless and vulnerable.

    Her husband, a descendant of King Edward I, is the most senior lay member of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords and the president of the Arundel and Littlehampton District Scouts Group.

    The couple have five children together – Henry, Rachel, Thomas, Isabel and Philip.

    * * *

  2. Very good news, for a change.

    Congrats to the duke and duchess.

  3. I have a similar situation in my family. My Aunt June and Uncle Bob split a few decades ago. He went off thinking the grass was greener in another pasture. A few years ago, they got back together again.

Leave a Reply