Wedding bells will ring in the spring when Prince Harry marries actress and Los Angeles native Meghan Markle in an unprecedented love story demonstrating a cultural shift within Great Britain’s Royal Family.
Markle, who’s mother is Black and father is White, formerly co-starred on the USA Network drama “Suits.” Prince Harry of Wales, youngest son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is fifth in the line of succession to the British throne behind his father, elder brother, William, and his nephew and niece George and Charlotte.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The couple will be married at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in May. At that time, they will be officially named The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It is unknown whether Markle will be named a princess after marriage. Prior to the ceremony, Markle is expected to be baptized into the Church of England. Tomorrow, the couple will undertake their first official engagement in Nottingham, England where they will visit a Terrence Higgins Trust charity fair and meet with representatives of organizations supporting people living with HIV/AIDS. While there, the two will speak to staff and mentors at Nottingham Academy about the Full Effect program which works to prevent young people from turning to violence and crime.
It was a whirlwind courtship culminating in Monday’s announcement that the two were engaged. Speaking on Monday outside Kensington Palace, Prince Harry said he knew that he would marry Markle after their first meeting—a blind date—and that “the stars were aligned when I met Meghan.”
Prince Harry said he popped the question earlier this month at Nottingham Cottage, his home at Kensington Palace, while they were roasting a chicken for dinner. Markle said she answered “yes” immediately before he had even finished proposing. “It was so sweet and natural and very romantic,” Markle said.
Tea with The Queen
Prince Harry was asked this week what his late mother would think of his bride and said they would have been very close. “They’d be thick as thieves, without question,” he said. “I think she would be over the moon, jumping up and down, you know, so excited for me.”
Markle said she has met Queen Elizabeth II “a couple of times” with Prince Harry commenting that his grandmother’s famous corgis liked his fiance right away. “I’ve spent the last 33 years being barked at; this one walks in, absolutely nothing.” “They were just laying on my feet during tea,” Merkle said. “It was very sweet.”
The Royal Family issued an official statement this week congratulating the couple. “The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness.”
Prince Harry’s brother and sister-in-law, William and Kate the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, said they were very excited for the couple. “It has been wonderful meeting Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”
Speaking during a visit to Poundbury, Dorset, Prince Charles told reporters that he was “thrilled” and “very happy indeed” at the impending nuptial.
British Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “warmest congratulations” to the pair, adding:
“This is a time of huge celebration for two people in love. On behalf of myself, the Government and the country, I wish them great happiness for the future.”
Cheers from View Park
Markle’s parents, Thomas Markle, a cinematographer, and Doria Ragland, a yoga therapist, said in a statement that they were “incredibly happy” at the news. Ragland resides in View Park.
“Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents. We wish them a lifetime of happiness and are very excited for their future together.”
Markle, 36, has reportedly finished filming her final scenes for “Suits” where for the past seven seasons she portrayed paralegal-turned-lawyer Rachael Zane. Markle has also appeared in “CSI Miami,” “90210” and “General Hospital. “Film roles have included Jamie in “Horrible Bosses” (2011) and as Megan in “Remember Me” from 2010. Other appearances included roles in “Without A Trace,” “Castle” and the science fiction series “Fringe.” Markle said this week that she will be retiring from acting to focus on a “new chapter” in her life. Markle, who resides in Toronto where “Suits” is filmed, was previously married to film producer Trevor Engleson for two years prior to a 2013 divorce.
‘We are a couple. We are in love’
In September’s Vanity Fair cover story, Markle, who in times past would be referred to as a “commoner,” described the fifth in line to the British throne as her “boyfriend” and talked about how they kept their relationship private despite intense media interest:
“We are a couple. We’re in love. I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that it’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story.”
The couple made their first public appearance that month, watching a wheelchair tennis event at the Invictus Games, the international sporting event established by Prince Harry for injured soldiers. Prince Harry served in the British Army for 10 years, rising to the rank of captain and undertaking two tours of Afghanistan.
Markle attended a private primary school in Los Angeles, before attending Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz. She matriculated to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., studying theater and international relations. Markle is a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, a Christian humanitarian organization.
An ‘ethnically ambiguous’ actress
During her youth in Los Angeles, Markle said she frequently traveled and shopped along Crenshaw Boulevard and made many fond acquaintances over the years.
In 2015, Markle wrote an article for Elle UK and discussed certain difficulties in forging a career as a biracial actor. She admitted that being “ethnically ambiguous” helped her to audition for virtually any role.
“Sadly, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t ‘Black enough’ for the Black roles, and I wasn’t ‘White enough’ for the White ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn’t book a job.”
Also that year in a speech at a United Nations conference on International Women’s Day, Markle said she was “proud to be woman and a feminist” in noting that her commitment to gender equality began when she was 11 years old when watching a soap commercial with the tagline “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.”
Markle described how two boys in her class said loudly in response that women belonged in the kitchen and how she became “shocked and angry.” She took action, and on the advice of her father she wrote to the soap manufacturer and dispatched another letter to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. In the end, she explained, the wording in the commercial was eventually changed from “women” to “people.”
Markle derived her social consciousness from childhood. She once said that because her parents “came from little,” they taught her to “give a lot.”
Channeling Princess Grace
“Buying turkeys for homeless shelters at Thanksgiving, delivering meals to people in hospices, giving spare change to those asking for it. It’s what I grew up seeing, so it’s what I grew up being: a young adult with a social consciousness to do what I could and speak up when I knew something was wrong.” Last year, Markle traveled to Rwanda to assist in a clean water project.
Markle is not the first American actress to assume a royal title. In 1956 Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco and shortly after abandoned her film career to become princess consort of the small European nation. Many attempts were made over the years to convince Kelly to return to acting, but she settled into her role as a ceremonial leader of Monaco and became involved in many cultural and charitable organization. In 1982 Princess Grace and her youngest daughter, Stephanie, were driving along the steep cliffs of Southern France when she suffered a stroke and lost control of the vehicle. It plunged off the cliff’s edge and the princess was rushed to the hospital where she spent 24 hours in a coma before being taken off life support. Princess Grace was 52.
Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
The last time a British royal married an American resulted in a global scandal. In 1936, King Edward VIII had assumed the throne and was torn between his duties as monarch and his love for American divorcee Wallis Simpson whom he had met in a London nightclub years earlier. British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin informed The King that he had to choose between being king and being Simpson’s husband, as the Church of England did not recognize marriages to divorcees and, as British monarch, he was head of the Church of England.
These rules changed and by 2002 the Church had loosened its restrictions, acknowledging that “some marriages regrettably do fail” and “there are exceptional circumstances” affecting the “decision as to whether or not to solemnize such a marriage in church after divorce rests with the minister.” But 80 years ago, it was strictly forbidden for a royal to marry a divorcee, leading King Edward VIII to issue the famous statement: “You must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” King Edward VIII stepped down from the throne, turning the job over to his brother, King George VI, who was the father of Queen Elizabeth II. The couple was given the title of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but spent their years together in exile until Edward’s death in 1972. Simpson died in 1986.
Intersecting with Henry VIII
Markle has British ancestors. Martha Sykes was her father’s great-great grandmother who was born in Yorkshire and left with her parents, Thomas and Mary, during the reign of Queen Victoria to settle in America during the 1860s. The Sykes family tree can be traced back to Yorkshire from 1067.
Markle and Henry VIII also intersect. She is related to Lord Hussey, First Baron Hussey of Sleaford, who was a knight during the Cornish Rebellion of 1497. Hussey was unable to put down a second rebellion in Cornish and was summarily beheaded by King Henry VIII.
Some British historians have suggested that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle may be very distant cousins through a shared ancestor: High Sheriff of County Durham Ralph Bowes, born in the late 15th century.
Since the engagement, social media has been flooded with comments, particularly from African Americans, in recognition of a virtual “sea change”in social hierarchy. “Prince Harry is in good hands. This amazing, beautiful Black woman did a sterling job raising Meghan (in reference to Doria Ragland). “We got one in the palace, y’all.” “Go Princess. Black Princess” and even “The Black women in ‘fascinators’ facing off with Brit women in hats at Harry and Meghan’s wedding is gonna be epic.”
Who was Queen Charlotte?
Markle probably isn’t the first British royal to have African roots. For decades genealogists on both sides of the Atlantic have argued that Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of the 1760s, was of European and African descent. If true, this fact could mean that the modern Royal Family has some African ancestry.
Queen Charlotte was directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. Apparently, an investigation into the Black magi featured in 15th century Flemish paintings suggested that the Black magi must have been portraits of contemporary people (since the artist, without seeing them, would not have been aware of the subtleties in coloring and facial bone structure of so-called quadroons and octoroons which these figures represented). Enough evidence was accumulated to propose that the models for the Black maji were, in all probability, members of the Portuguese de Sousa family.