I love LOVE, I’m a huge sucker for it and in my stories, happily ever after is the theme. The world is shitty enough and in no need of more darkness, so I choose love. From the moment the world got wind of their courtship to the wedding, the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has been subject to immense scrutiny from the press, and public alike. Talk show hosts and pundits questioned her affection for him, whilst royalist and elitist are still frothing at the mouth, at the thought of a bi-racial woman entering into the royal family, so much so, Kensington Palace had to release a statement condemning these attitudes that revealed that ugly underbelly of British society, that part of society some like to pretend does not exist.
But before we address that, let’s look at the different aspects that tied this all together. Meghan, a bi-racial, Hollywood actress bringing together elements of her background and culture, acknowledging that multi diversity from both sides of her heritage, and Harry the bonny rebel prince. If I didn’t know better I would believe this to be a script out of Hollywood, reminiscent of Grace Kelly back in the day. But unlike the Kelly marriage, there was a lot of symbolism in this wedding, a lot of pinned hopes and perception this union gives a nation, regardless of how you look at it.
In 1937 when an American divorcee married the king of England, it caused a constitutional crisis that would change the face of the monarchy itself. Six months after abdicating the throne, King Edward and Wallis Simpson got married, were bestowed with the title of Duke and Duchess, and would go on to live like pariahs of the establishment; common socialites ostracized by an institution refusing to acknowledge a different way of life to its own traditional existence. In 2018, the narrow streets of Windsor were lined with flag waving fans, black, white and all other ethnicities, in celebration of the Hollywood actress, American divorcee, biracial woman marrying into the same said royal family. Talk about a season of change; the world and all its colours celebrated a story of love, a new and modern kind of love that most hope will guide the royal family into navigating this more progressive world.
Mother of the bride Doria Ragland, for whom many cheered, attended as Meghan’s only family, following the much publicized brouhaha with her father and the palavers of her step siblings. She looked divine in a light green embroidered ensemble from Oscar De La Renta. Her dread locks in a ponytail, and a nose ring, she looked on proudly, if a little overwhelmed by it all, as her daughter married into this institution, inducted into the most secretive and highest echelons of British society, a foreign land with foreign ways; a far cry from her life as a yogi in America. Her presence represented a marked difference especially when directly beside the grandness of the royal family, of which she is now a part. Dreadlocks, nose ring and all.
Meghan, a product of a biracial marriage, now herself in a biracial marriage, is a woman acutely aware of what her race represents in today’s climate. This is not simply a marriage to a prince, this is a marriage of a prince to a commoner, one of mixed heritage whose story is not riddled with perfect clichés and rose gilded images. On both sides this was a significant union, but in the eye of the vortex is the woman marrying into a family much watched by the world, a family whose whiteness and class has often defined who they are, and afforded them a particular privilege, fairly or unfairly. This is a family whose whiteness is peak, whose history is steeped in colonization and slavery, whose crown jewels tell a sordid story, welcoming a woman whose heritage would have been another cause for crisis, some ten years ago even. The law prohibiting women from ascending the throne was only amended in 2012, to show you how steeped in the rigidness of the past the royal family is. Image is important, and watching Prince Charles walk Meghan down the quire of the aisle, spoke more to the character of the bride. Some would have preferred if she walked with her mother, but looking at the woman sitting in the pew, who sometimes caught her breath as the reality of the day dawned on her, one can see why Meghan asked Prince Charles to do the honours. Above all else, it’s her prerogative.
Her dress, in all its simplicity, was a grand symbol that told the story of a woman comfortable in her own skin, confident in her being, and a way for Markle to assert herself whilst going into an institution that would mean losing some of that self-assertion, where everything is choreographed and every move watched and dissected. The dress was simple; bateau neckline, wide enough to be almost off shoulder, long sleeves, nipped in waist, made from heavy silk with a muted finish. It schemed her body regally down to the exquisite train that glided easily with her every step. It was a dress free of the usual bride frothiness and was made all the more elegant because of its understated grace. This was a dress that made a statement in its quietness, one that spoke of and for a woman who understands the task and duty ahead of her, but at the same time, a promise to hold on to the woman who was raised by a dreadlock wearing Black mother. Images are important, the new Duchess of Sussex, is a woman whose life will forever remain public therefore, she is both a mirror and a window; a mirror in which young girls will see themselves and a window into which the world will look to define the institution she now represents. Whether Ms. Markle will remain that woman, time will tell. When one marries into such an institution as the royal family, it is with a sense of dependence; an establishment to speak on your behalf and orchestrate every aspect of one’s life. Her veil denoted that sense of history and acknowledged the duty she is to embark on. Five meters long, hand embroidered with every flower of the fifty three countries of the common wealth, much like Queen Elizabeth had at her wedding, and two of Meghan’s favorite flowers, California poppy and Winter sweet. Her tiara, on loan to her by the Queen, belonged to Queen Mary, two aspects make up this tiara; the broach which was gifted to Queen Mary in 1893 and the bandeau which was fashioned for the tiara in 1932.
A lot has been said about the Duchess’ ethnicity, her biracial background, the way the press has talked about her, the unfair way they have treated her father, the undertones and at times blatant racism from the press and some public figures. She is who she is, the daughter of a white father and a Black mother and she acknowledges both sides to her wholeness; you have to respect that. By all royal wedding standards this was a different, markedly different; even if all aspects would have been approved by the Royal Family. Mad props to Meghan because culture and heritage were a central part of the day. The descendant of slaves, Bishop Michael Curry, an Episcopal reverend from Chicago, delivered a very powerful, very inspiring sermon, quoted Dr Martin Luther King and referenced slavery in the antebellum American South, in an old English church in the small village of Windsor; wrap your head around that for a minute. Passionate and sometimes animated, his notes hit on love, taking us to church like they do in the Southern Baptist Black churches in America. A Black choir led by Karen Gibson sang their version of the soulful Ben E King’s Stand By Me. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the nineteen year-old cellist whose rendition of Ave Maria is quite simply the most breathtaking version (I have most likely listened to all versions), received a call from Meghan asking him to play at her wedding. It was an acknowledgement of her heritage as a Black woman, a statement to those who have questions her roots, but also of Black Britain. She understands what her presence in the royal family might mean for some. Being mixed race, (I’m not, but I have half-sisters who are), is fraught with a feeling of being othered on both sides and having others project their sense of what your identity should be, onto you, as if the decision to claim your identity is not wholly yours, knowing that to choose one over the other will cause some measure of discomfort on either side. In a world where race and identity have become increasingly important, existing in the grey areas of who you are, outside of the margins of what is acceptable to society, can be daunting to say the least; the colour of your skin precedes your entire ability as a person. However, the idea that the presence of a biracial woman in the royal family is suddenly going to fix Britain’s race problem, is in itself a ludicrous assumption because she won’t.
Furthermore, it is a rather unfair expectation; let Britain deal with its mess.
“Two people fell in love and we all showed up” Whether or not we know them, their love moved us enough to take time out of our own lives to celebrate with them from whatever corners of the world we are. The love of a man and woman, who happen to be indicative of the country we live in today; if something more were to come out of that, it would be a plus. For now, we can celebrate their love and expect nothing more. We can all enjoy something and still be acutely aware of the society we live in.
wedding dress image via Kensington Palace