United Kingdom: A thoroughly modern royal marriage
Their secret romance began with a blind date arranged by a mutual friend, said Hannah Furness in The Daily Telegraph. A whirlwind 16 months later, Prince Harry, 33, has announced he’s engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, 36, and Britain is celebrating. Markle, the glamorous star of the TV legal drama Suits, was filming in Toronto for most of the courtship, and the two flew to visit each other every two weeks. “I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly,” Harry said. And so did the rest of the royals—including the queen’s corgis, who curled up at Markle’s feet when she met her future grandmother-in-law. The wedding, scheduled for next spring, is expected to be a grand affair and generate as much as $135 million in tourism and souvenir sales.
“The last time a member of the British royal family proposed to an American divorcée, a full-blown constitutional crisis ensued,” said The Times in an editorial. So it’s a remarkable sign of progress that Markle has been warmly welcomed “into a family not known for its diversity.” Besides being foreign born and previously married—to Hollywood producer Trevor Engelson— Markle is biracial and was raised a Catholic. Her mother is an African-American social worker descended from slaves, her father a Hollywood lighting director of Dutch and Irish background. This marriage will change “Britain’s relationship with race forever,” said Afua Hirsch in The Guardian. Markle has expressed pride in her black heritage and talked openly about seeing her mother—Harry’s future mother-in-law—abused with the N-word. Growing up mixed-race in the U.K., I always thought that the Britishness represented by the royal family “was one that excluded me.” Not anymore.
Let’s not pretend that Markle is anything but entirely unsuitable, said Melanie McDonagh in Spectator.co.uk. In an earlier era, she “would have been the kind of woman the prince would have had for a mistress, not a wife.” But ever since Harry’s late mother Diana made her life into a public soap opera, the royal family has been more about show business than moral authority. Of course, since Harry is fifth in line to the throne—sixth once the pregnant Princess Catherine has her third child—“it doesn’t matter a hoot whom he marries.”
Yet Britons are truly delighted for Harry, said the Scottish Daily Mail in an editorial. Twenty years ago, our hearts went out to the 12-year-old prince, “bereft and bewildered as he trailed disconsolately behind his mother’s coffin.” We watched him grow into a dedicated Army officer and find a calling as an advocate for wounded veterans and those struggling with mental illness. He is now the most popular royal after the queen. Diana, who suffered in a loveless union, had always wanted her boys to marry for love. That’s why we can all rejoice to see Harry so patently besotted with his gorgeous fiancée. Congratulations! ■