By Kerry Tinga
The Union Jack was hanging above me along Regent Street, in Covent Garden, and just about any major road in London (and I assume all around the United Kingdom), all in celebration of the upcoming wedding between everybody’s favorite royal in terms of who we would like to grab a pint with, Prince Harry the rapscallion, and the American actress Meghan Markle from Suits. My main interest in the discussion in anticipation of the wedding day were the ones that surrounded who designed her not one, but two wedding gowns—Givenchy and Stella McCartney, if you still have not heard. For months there were news alerts on my phone about her family that seemed to cause more and more mischief as the day approached, taking over the headlines across all the tabloid papers that littered the tube lines.
It was nice, in a way, to have this grand party that everybody seemed to know something of to get our mind off the serious things in life. When I wake up and check my phone I am bombarded by news headlines of corruption from East to West, of tragedies striking the biggest cities and the smallest towns, of political intervention in the world of business, so overwhelming so early in the morning. I have not even had my first cup of coffee yet and so am not ready to start reading such serious news, instead scrolling through to photographs of the preparation of the royal wedding, who is designing the dress, who is attending, who is performing.
If romantic comedies have taught me anything, is that there is nothing that can bring people together like a wedding. I do not just mean the bride and groom, that is a given, but a whole family like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or two strangers who fall in love like in Four Weddings and a Funeral or 27 Dresses, or two old lovers who seek to reconnect like in Mamma Mia. There are dozens and dozens of mixed reviewed but wholeheartedly loved films, and wedding specials of television shows to increase ratings that keep reminding us of the power of a wedding, literally a celebration of people and of love, something we really need nowadays. This weekend we had just that. Through the power of television and the internet, the whole world was able to be a part of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s celebration.
And yet, this royal wedding was the one we needed in our time, more than Kate and Will or even Charles and Diana. Nobody would disagree if I were to say that Meghan Markle is not polished, at least not in the way Kate Middleton is perfectly poised in every candid photo; indeed, the mischief her family has made for her in the past few months shows that she is not from a family we would often see in The Crown, but she is more relatable than anybody else who has held a royal title because of that.
While Disney may have sought to show their progressive side by giving us the first African-American princess back in 2009 with Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, that was still only in the movies and in life few little girls who dreamt of being a princess but did not look like one in a conventional sense actually believed they could. While most of us who did dream of being a princess later on grew up a bit to have different goals, to be a doctor or a lawyer or a politician, it is still one of the first dreams little girls have for their future. It represents and means so much now, after this royal wedding, that every little girl’s dream can come true.
Just a few hours before the wedding, it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would be given the official titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex. There has only been one previous holder of the title, all the way back in 1801. Pierre Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, a son of George III and Queen Charlotte. At the time, he was apparently not a popular man in the King’s court because of his views supporting the abolition of slavery, the removal of legal restrictions placed on Jews and dissidents, and other such progressive and radical political reforms. When he died, he asked that his remains should not be placed with the rest of his family at Windsor, choosing instead to be buried in a public cemetery, forever being one of the people.
There may have been comparisons with Kate and Diana, since she too was a commoner, or even with Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, because of their shared background in entertainment. But those comparisons, in my opinion, do not work because there is something different this time. While the royal wedding was something we all turned on just to get away from the complexities of reality nowadays, to watch something as simple as a Prince and a Princess like one of those Disney movies we had on VHS when we were younger, it had subtle marks of progress and reform that inform our time.
Whether or not you like Meghan Markle, she is the Princess we definitely needed to have. She was without privilege or any classic markings of a Princess, not even that large a name on the small screen. In time, she can hopefully prove herself in this new role and be a role model for every girl that is outside a cookie cutter mold, which is in fact most of us.