By Athena Pantelopoulos
Since the announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement in November 2017, the world has been abuzz with royal wedding excitement. With a wedding date set for May 19, 2018, Meghan Markle is soon to become the second American and first person of mixed race heritage to marry into the British Royal Family. A generation ago, it simply would not have been that a divorced, mixed race, Hollywood actress would marry the son of the next King of England.
Various announcements by Clarence House and Kensington Palace have been made regarding the subject in the past few weeks, including the couple’s decision to have a public wedding and Meghan’s recent baptism into the Church of England. Most notably, though, is the announcement on March 15th that the Queen gave her official blessing of their marriage. As Prince Harry is (soon to be) sixth in line of succession to the British throne, he must obtain royal permission to marry under the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 (or else he and his future descendants would be disqualified from seceding to the Crown). In a letter to the Privy Council, a formal advisory body to the monarch comprised of senior politicians, judges and bishops, the Queen confirmed her approval of the wedding of her “Dearly Beloved Grandson” and Meghan Markle. This official blessing solidified that the British Royal family is making strides towards modernization. It also sends a huge message of inclusivity to the British community, one that is largely divided in issues of race and immigration.
In general, the public opinion on the issue is divided. Some believe that the symbolism of Meghan’s entry into a family that once shunned commoners, Catholics, and divorced people, let alone nonwhites, does little to diminish structural racism across Britain. Statistics gathered by the Equality and Human Right Commission in 2016 found that the average black graduate earns nearly a quarter less than their white peers, and that the black unemployment right is around twice as high as the white equivalent. They noted specifically that powerful symbolism does not replace the necessity for systematic action and change.
At the very least this marriage symbolizes a movement towards a more inclusive royal family, and Meghan will serve as a source of representation for people of color across Britain and the rest of the world. The engagement, and especially the Queen’s blessing, is a magnificent moment for modern British history, and it is especially touching for sending a powerful message about what it means to be black and British today.
Neal Baker, Queen gives consent for Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle, The Sun (Mar. 15, 2018) available at https://pagesix.com/2018/03/15/queen-gives-consent-for-prince-harry-to-marry-meghan-markle/.
Tara John, 5 Ways Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Engagement is Groundbreaking, Time (Nov. 27, 2017) available at http://time.com/5037634/meghan-markle-engagement-prince-harry-groundbreaking/.
Patrick Kingsley, Royal Engagement Seen as Symbol of Change, With Asterisks, N.Y. Times (Nov. 28, 2017) available at https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/world/europe/uk-royal-wedding-harry-meghan-markle.html?mtrref=en.wikipedia.org&gwh=5A058963D697DA9E92ACB2E6B1C327B0&gwt=pay&referer=.
New Rules on royal succession come into force, BBC (Mar. 26, 2015) available at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-32073399.