There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the recent Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Before and after it’s televisation on the 19th of May 2018 everything from the beauty of her wedding dress, the service, her family, and what it means to have a biracial female in the royal family have all been hot topics in the news, but also amongst the public.
On the one hand Megan has been labelled as an inspiration to black and biracial communities, and on the other as ‘classless’ to paraphrase Katie Hopkins’ latest controversial tweet. All this debate simply because she is of black heritage. Well, in fairness, her being of mixed heritage as an individual may not necessarily be the sole cause for such discussion, but rather this fact when placed within the context of the royal family. This is what changes, and is changing, people’s perspectives.
For many the idea of royalty is synonymous with ‘whiteness’. Such a view stems back to ideas of the white complexion as pure as opposed to those of a darker skin tone who are lesser than. This very notion, the notion of ‘pure white and sinful black’, is evident in many texts but most notably in Roxanne Wheeler’s ‘The Complexion of Race’. By stating this, one does not mean to suggest that by discussing race in the scenario one has a negative view of it, but rather that on some level many picture the British monarchy as white. This is the way we have always seen it, whether consciously or unconsciously.
This can seem surprising in a city like London that is essentially a melting pot, with 41 percent of the population being of a black and minority ethnicity (trustforlondon.org.uk). Race can feel of little significance under a climate that sees a large number of us constantly surrounded by, and socialising with, people of different races and backgrounds. It is not necessarily the first thing you notice about a person; it could be their character or their smile that draws you in. Seeing faces that look different to yours does not come as a shock, nor is it of huge note. It is part of everyday life.
Meghan Markle is of black heritage and she is the first biracial royal of contemporary times, but she is also an accomplished actress, activist, and self proclaimed feminist. She is a culmination of all these things and much more; it is not our role to define her in terms of what we find most comfortable or what society has led us to believe is the ‘norm’. The image of a black female within the royal family is a new one, her marriage symbolises a union based on love, but also acceptance. It is a symbol of inclusivity and that when it comes down to it, race is not a solid limitation.
Could this be a little snapshot of what is to come? What will the royal family look like in ten years’ time?