Harry’s fierce fiancé, Meghan Markle, has UK's knickers in a twist

UK’s response to Prince Harry’s fiancé, Meghan Markle, reflects complex interaction between race, class and gender.

The last time a member of the British Royal family married an American divorcée, he was forced to abdicate the throne. It was the mid-1930s and Edward VIII’s marriage to twice-divorced Wallis Simpson was met with not a little antagonism and a slew of bad press. 80 years later, and it seems a lot has changed. Prince Harry is set to marry American actress, Meghan Markle in Spring 2018 and the news seems to have been widely accepted by British royalty, despite the fact that not only is Markle a divorcee who doesn’t have noble British lineage, she is also of mixed African American and Irish heritage.

While the British press has made what Afua Hirsh, writing for The Guardian , calls “frequent and cryptic references” about Markle’s race, the response on social media has been diverse. Earlier this month, for instance, Daily Mail declared that “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight out of Compton,” while Facebook commentators on a video of Markle shared by the Independent focused on the soon-to-be-princess’ credentials as a feminist rather than on her race.

Several comments focused on what some considered Markle’s privileged background, while others accused her of making up stories that would add weight to her new role as an ambassadress.

More than one person argued that Markle’s willingness to give up her career to join the Royal family is anti-feminist and shows that she will now have to do what she is told. When race was mentioned at all, it was to express joy that Prince Harry had chosen to marry “a Black woman,” something that would soon force the world to face up to the existence of racism.

The spectator may have been quick to point out that Markle would have been the Prince’s mistress 70 years ago rather than his wife, but in Brexit land, there is more than one perspective on the upcoming Royal nuptials. Hirsch describes the monarchy as “fundamental to Britishness and says in its exclusion of blackness, it “made other people perceive being truly British, and being black, as incompatible identities.” “When Meghan weds Harry,” she writes, “Britain’s relationship with race will change for ever.”

Read more about the UK's soon-to-be princess in “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wedding: Will the bride really be our first mixed-race royal?” by DeNeen L. Brown and published by The Independent on November 28, 2017.