Yesterday I woke up at about 6 am and watched the Royal Wedding. While enjoying the pomp that comes from the British institution, and also looking forward to making fun of the hats and fascinators, I never thought about how this new generation of royals are inherently different than the last. As an American, our perception of the royals comes from the outside looking in. American “Royalty” are just really rich people or people with political influence. Americans tend to believe that system to be more fair because, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, you could be one of those elites. British Royalty is something you are born into and must be of a certain “class” in order to marry into it.
Those facts changed yesterday, and the hopes of many little girls wearing plastic tiaras just got bigger when Meghan Markle married Prince Harry yesterday. The Duchess of Sussex, as Markle is now known as, did not come from ordinary circumstances. She was an actress on the popular show Suits. She was known for her charity work and had many influential friends. This was how she was able to meet Prince Harry, she was set up on a blind date with him. What makes her different is that she’s American, she’s divorced and she’s biracial.
Markle came from a background with some privilege. Her father was an Emmy Award winning lighting director. She was also able to go to private school. She went to college and was in a sorority, and did charity work. While early in her acting career, she had to work side jobs to pay the bills. She married young and divorced after a short marriage. In many ways she came from the upper middle class’s ideal of the American dream and then made it as an actress.
As a white Millennial, although I prefer the earlier monicker of “Generation Y,” learning that Markle and Prince Harry were engaged was exciting. I did not think about her biracial ancestry as being an issue. After watching Netflix’s The Crown, I would have thought that Markle’s divorce was a bigger issue than her race, and maybe it was with the royal family. After watching the wedding I spoke with a relative who said that this marriage, “changes the royal family” because of the ancestry of Harry and Meghan’s children.
This idea seemed preposterous to my husband and I, first because Harry’s children would never be more than junior royals, rich but will still get jobs just like their cousins, and secondly, maybe because I am in a mixed race marriage myself, I never noticed. I noticed her American accent more than her race. And maybe that is how this new generation of royals will be different.