Blame it on my tea-drinking commonwealth heritage or my love of Jane Austen, monogrammed stationery, and bone china. But when the British royals announced on Monday that American actress and humanitarian Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are engaged, I took notice.
We should have all suspected that Ms. Markle was going to get a special ring (and it is special, let me tell you!) when faithful monarch watcher Vanity Fair reported last month that Meghan intended to move to London, give up her acting career and focus on philanthropy full-time.
It’s almost another Grace Kelly type of situation, where an American actress married into a reigning European monarchy and the already intense media curiosity was turned up quite a few notches. Ms. Markle is widely popular due to her work on the successful TV show “Suits,” via STARZ, and her long record of admirable humanitarian and philanthropic work.
Why do we care? Down-to-earth Meghan is one of us.
One of the reasons Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s engagement is attracting interest — aside from his lineage — is her lineage: She is biracial, with an African-American mother and a white father. On that historical side note, the couple is not a ‘first.’ Prince Harry comes second to Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein in scooping up an African-American bride. He married then Angela Gisela Brown, a New York fashion designer, in 2000. Her Serene Highness Princess Angela is first person of known African origin to marry into a reigning European monarchy. They have one son, Prince Alfons Constantin Maria of Leichtenstein.
It’s hard to tell what it is about American women that have these two European princes besotted, but they are obviously happy.
How the news unfolded
Technically, His Royal Highness (HRH) The Prince of Wales – or Prince Charles to the common folk and foreigners – announced the engagement of this very adult couple. Apparently, they will have the ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in May 2018, and life afterward at Nottingham Cottage in Kensington Palace.
I must say … I like how these Windsors set up their chapels and ‘snug’ cottages.
Kensington Palace, the residence of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, announced the statement from Meghan’s parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle.
The Independent, one of Great Britain’s more well-regarded newspapers of record, has all kinds of details about the engagement and the ring, but here is a photo:
It’s pretty special, with the large center stone from Botswana (they recently vacationed there) and the two outer stones from the private collection of Lady Diana, formerly HRH Princess of Wales.
You could say that the engagement breaks with centuries of British royal tradition, and it does. Markle is divorced. Also, her African lineage on her mother’s side could make the royal family more diverse and, according to some, reduce some of the stigmas that some Black British citizens have felt living in that society.
I don’t know about that last part, though, racial issues aside. Perhaps contemporary non-white Britons have been so fed up with the other side of what the Windsor family represents — a lineage enriched by centuries of England oppressing foreigners and its lower classes — that the monarchy is far less enthralling as it used to be. One tourist from Los Angeles who was outside Buckingham Palace when the news broke said:
“It’s exciting that he’s engaged to an American, I think that’s every American girl’s dream,” she said. “Now there’s hope for us Americans, for American girls.”
Is it every American girl’s dream to fall in love with and marry a wealthy prince? I don’t agree, for the obvious reason that young girls have a vast array of accessible dreams to them today. Girls of African descent, in particular, are taught to put their hope and trust in their own abilities and not to entertain too many hopes of being swept away by a rich, handsome husband. Especially not in modern American society, where it takes two incomes to live well. That was the case with both Princess Angela and Meghan Markle. They were both super accomplished professionals before their merit landed them in the company of these to-be-smitten princes.
Of course, when Black women grow up they are not above bestowing the affectionate term ‘my king,’ or ‘my Boaz’ on their husbands. But that is for a later conversation about the differences between Black womanism and white feminism.