Meghan Markle marrying Prince Harry is about so much more than a fairy-tale wedding.
Mention the words “royal wedding” now and, just as when Prince William and Kate Middleton got married in 2011, you’ll find discussions dedicated to everything from where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding will be held, to who will design Markle’s gown (Will it be Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen like her sister-in-law? Or Han Chong, since Markle wore a Self-Portrait dress to the Queen’s Christmas lunch?) and who will be on the guest list.
Unlike Kate Middleton before she became the Duchess of Cambridge, however, a lot of attention has also been focused on how Markle is far from a conventional royal—and not just because of all the times she has shaken up the royal dress code. Think: When she wore an Alexander McQueen trouser suit to her first official evening engagement with Prince Harry, when she wore a sheer Ralph and Russo gown for her engagement photos, and when she opted for a messy bun to visit a radio station instead of getting a blowout. The last time a member of the British Royal family fell in love with an American divorcee, he ended up having to abdicate the throne in order to marry her (read: King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson). But we live in different times now, and, since 2002, the Church of England has allowed divorced people to remarry even if their spouses are still alive. On top of all that, Markle is also biracial, a feminist and an activist.
The British monarchy is constitutional, with largely ceremonial duties; but it remains the most recognisable monarchy worldwide, and its members’ influence as symbols and figureheads is far-reaching. Markle becoming a princess means many girls around the world will finally be able to see someone who looks like them reflected on the international stage. In the couple’s engagement interview, the BBC’s Mishal Husain asked about the scrutiny around Markle’s ethnicity. Markle replied, “It’s a shame that that is the climate in this world, to focus that much on that, or that that would be discriminatory in that sense. But at the end of the day, I’m really just proud of who I am and where I come from and we have never put any focus on that. We have just focused on who we are as a couple.” The actress, whose mother is African-American and father is Caucasian, penned an op-ed about her biracial identity in 2015. On the topic of her getting the role of Rachel Zane in Suits, she wrote, “‘Dream girl’ in Hollywood terms had always been that quintessential blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty— that was the face that launched a thousand ships, not the mixed one. But the show’s producers weren’t looking for someone mixed, nor someone white or black for that matter. They were simply looking for Rachel. In making a choice like that, the Suits producers helped shift the way pop culture defines beauty. The choices made in these rooms trickle into how viewers see the world, whether they’re aware of it or not.” The same goes for her relationship with Prince Harry—by falling in love and getting married, the couple has helped shift the way pop culture defines beauty.
The actress might have shut down her lifestyle website, The Tig, but her new platform ensures girls looking for a role model will be able to hear her voice on a much larger scale than before.
With her lifelong devotion to fighting for women’s rights—she wrote to then First Lady, Hillary Clinton and Procter & Gamble to protest a sexist commercial at age 11—and dedication to humanitarian work, Markle is reminiscent of another princess who championed social causes: The late Princess Diana. In another op-ed, Markle, who has worked as the U.N. Women’s advocate and a World Vision global ambassador, wrote: “With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility—to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.” With the news that she will be the fourth patron of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, we can expect to see her continue to inspire by joining her husband and in-laws on more philantrophic missions.
In the BBC interview, Husain asked, “Prince Harry, do you have that sense that the combination of the two of you, your different backgrounds, that you together represent something new for the royal family?” He replied, “I don’t know if it’s something new. I think, for me, it’s an added member of the family... For all of us, all we want to do is be able to carry out the right engagements, carry out our work and try and encourage others and the younger generation to be able to see the world in the correct sense rather than perhaps being—having a distorted view.” The wedding might be on everyone’s lips now; and “The Meghan Effect” (the idea that everything Markle wears will boost sales and the reputation of the brand) is only just beginning; but the impact of Markle joining the royal family is forever. ■
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Clockwise from top: The couple celebrating their engagement with a photocall in 2017. Markle gave a speech at the U.N. Women’s 2015 conference. At age 11, Markle appeared on Nick News to speak out about a sexist commercial
PHOTOGRAPHY: 123RF.COM; INSTAGRAM; YOUTUBE