Prince Harry’s engagement to American Meghan Markle has caused a stir among some of the subjects –
The “Suits” star will be the first American to officially marry a British royal.
Though the 36-year-old television star’s engagement is much less unusual than it would have been in previous generations as traditions become more progressive, Markle’s upcoming ascension to the royal family is still groundbreaking in several ways.
She’s a woman of color.
One columnist from The Daily Mail wrote that if the new couple had children, “the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA,” and described Markle’s mother as “a dreadlocked African-American lady from the wrong side of the tracks.”
Another Daily Mail story about the actress’ hometown of Los Angeles contained the headline, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton,” referring to the LA suburb where the rap group N.W.A. formed. The writer also wondered if Harry would visit the “gang-scarred home of her mother.”
In a rare public statement last November, Prince Harry condemned the pieces’ “racial undertones” and the ongoing “abuse and harassment” Markle and her family experienced.
In 2015, Markle wrote in Elle Magazine about racism she and her parents have faced ― and how her father advised her to “draw your own box” when needing to identify her race.
There was a mandatory census I had to complete in my English class — you had to check one of the boxes to indicate your ethnicity: white, black, Hispanic or Asian. There I was (my curly hair, my freckled face, my pale skin, my mixed race) looking down at these boxes, not wanting to mess up, but not knowing what to do. You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other — and one half of myself over the other. My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. ‘Because that’s how you look, Meghan,’ she said. I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn’t tick a box. I left my identity blank — a question mark, an absolute incomplete — much like how I felt.
When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened. He said the words that have always stayed with me: “If that happens again, you draw your own box.”
She’ll be the first American to officially marry a British royal.
The Los Angeles native is not the first American to marry a British royal, but is the first whose relationship has been officially accepted by the royal family.
In 1936, King Edward VIII famously abdicated the throne to marry twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson after their relationship caused a royal scandal.
Markle, like Simpson, is divorced, but the acceptance of the former shows more tolerant social conventions over time. Prince Harry’s father Prince Charles divorced his mother, Princess Diana, and in 2005, married the twice-divorced Camilla Parker-Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall — though their wedding was a civil ceremony.
She was raised Catholic.
Until 2015, British rules barred members of the line of royal succession from marrying Catholics, as Queen Elizabeth II serves as the head of the Anglican Church.
But the revised law now allows Markle, who attended a Catholic high school, to marry Prince Harry.
The British Parliament’s changes to the law on royal succession also included the removal of biases toward male heirs ― which now allows, for example, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s daughter, Charlotte, to join the line of succession directly after her older brother, George, even if she ends up having other male siblings.