I usually disparage the royals, but Meghan Markle has changed that
have never been much of a royalist. As a child, I was more interested in becoming an author or a pop star than a princess or duchess. But I’m 100% here for Meghan Markle and her potential shakeup of Buckingham Palace. If the rumours of her forthcoming engagement to Prince Harry turn out to be true, it will redefine royalty for a new generation of Brits, because not only is Meghan an accomplished American actress and a philanthropist who is shunning many traditional royal dating protocols, but she is also a black, mixed-race woman. A union between her and Prince Harry would be socially momentous for the country, and especially so for us brown-skinned Brits who never saw ourselves reflected in the all-white Palace lineage.
This week, it was announced that Meghan had quit her role in the TV show Suitsin an apparent bid to prepare her for the royal wedding. And last month she spoke candidly about being in love in an interview with Vanity Fair.
In a weird first for me, I discussed the article with my mates. I don’t usually speak about the royals except to disparage them. Buckingham Palace is an antithesis to diversity, and so has never really interested me.
But mixed-race, California-born Meghan – her mother is an African-American with dreadlocks, and her father is Caucasian – is here to disrupt (in a good way). A self-described “activist” on Twitter, she is something of a humanitarian icon for brown-skinned women all over the world. Earlier this year, she went to India, to highlight the stigma surrounding menstruation for poverty-stricken women in Delhi and Mumbai, writing a piece for Time magazine in which she advocated “policy-making surrounding menstrual health initiatives”.
In 2015, she also spoke about her battle with her mixed-race identity, telling Ellethat she was always fighting to define herself on her own terms, personally and professionally. “You push for colour-blind casting, you draw your own box … You create the identity you want for yourself, just as my ancestors did when they were given their freedom,” she said.
I never understood the hype surrounding Diana or Kate. I remember being confused, aged four, when I got up to find my mum sobbing in front of the television as reports of Diana’s death flashed across the screen. But Meghan’s presence within the palace feels different: she is initiating real change when it comes to UK race relations.
When Kensington Palace released a statement on behalf of Harry condemning the British press for their “outright sexism and racism” in 2016, to me, it signalled new levels of wokeness for British society. To hear the royal family publicly defend a mixed-race relationship and inadvertently highlighting the intersectional politics that many women like me and Meghan face on a daily basis, was pretty exciting.
If Meghan does marry Harry, it will destroy the long-held notion that being regal means being white, or that the main link between Africa and Buckingham Palace is one of colonial importance.
There is no escaping the fact that the royal family has benefited directly from years of violent slavery, but I delight in the fact that, despite the disgusting headlines linking Meghan’s own family to shackles and chains, or the think pieces expressing fear around the Windsor gene pool being infiltrated with a “rich and exotic DNA”, Meghan’s position beside her partner, Harry, means she is subverting social hierarchy and upending the British class system in the process.
Of course, Meghan is more white-passing than African in appearance, and her good looks and accumulated wealth exclude her from many of the hardships that women of colour face in the UK today. But her proximity to the palace is helping to spark dialogue around the often-overlooked complexities of mixed-race identities in Britain. So for the first time ever, I’ll be keeping an eye out for a royal wedding.