As the scary, stressful 2017 limps to a close, we all need a treat, and when it comes to the good news, there is nothing quite as fun and distracting than the privileged pomp and circumstance of a royal marriage.
When we were in Toronto this past summer, we took a double-decker bus tour around the city. As we passed a skyscraper on Bay Street, we were informed by the tour guide that, “the building to our left is where the show Suits is filmed, and an actress from the show, Meghan Markle, lives right over there.” And that is exactly everything I could tell you about Ms. Markle until last week.
She is the 36-year-old American actress whose engagement to 33-year-old Prince Harry became official early last Monday. Given that the royal family is one of the most famous families in the entire world, everything they do will be of interest to someone. I’m sure she’s aware that she is now engaged to the entire world, in a way.
The wedding is scheduled for next spring, which means at least four months of obsessive news coverage, dissecting everything from bridesmaids and guest lists to the identity of the wedding-dress designer, wondering where they will go on their honeymoon, and what their cake tasted like. I was never much of a royal watcher, but even I tuned in to the 2011 wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.
It is silly and meaningless, but in these days of “all bad news, all the time,” this news is the cultural equivalent of a Cadbury Creme Egg at Easter – it has no nutritional value and yet it’s absolutely necessary. In fact, the marriage of this British prince has the makings of the best, most escapist royal wedding ever.
To start with, we have Prince Harry, who is the outspoken, redheaded “wild royal” who appears to be the least stuffy member of the family. He has been Britain’s most eligible bachelor for years, having only a few relationships for which the press could speculate the possibility of a future engagement, neither of which materialized. When he was sowing his wild oats a few years ago, he raised a bit of hell at several San Diego nightclubs during his 2011 military training, and followed that closely by a night of partying in Las Vegas that saw him, after the fact, all over the news wearing no pants. And I don’t mind saying, although I’m sure that put him squarely on the top of the Queen’s Naughty List, it made him that much more relatable.
But the real prize here is the royal bride-to-be. A Hollywood actress, a rare divorcee in the royal circle, a humanitarian, swept off her feet by a young prince and given a key to the castle – if ever a real-world fairy tale existed, I’ve never heard it.
Born in Los Angeles to a social worker mother and a cinematographer father, Markle is a breath of fresh American air, someone who grew up outside the confines of royal privilege, sent to Windsor Castle to whisk the cobwebs off the crown. Her mother is black and her father is white, which sent the tabloids into a tasteless frenzy that led Prince Harry to attack the “racial undertones” of the British news coverage, and making him more likeable than he already was.
While her IMDB biography and backstory might make for good headlines, it’s who she is as a person, who she was before she was the future Duchess of Sussex that makes her an ideal princess.
In 2015, Markle, a United Nations Women Ambassador, gave a speech at a U.N. conference which included an amazing story. When she was 11, she saw a commercial for a dish soap whose tagline was, “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” Even a pre-teen Meghan recognized this was sexist, and she wrote letters to several influential women, including then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, telling them so.
Not only did she get lovely responses from Clinton, attorney Gloria Allred, and TV host Linda Ellerbee, but just one short month later, the parent company of the dish soap, Procter & Gamble, changed the tagline to, “People all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.”
So as we drown our current-events sorrows in wedding fluff, I will happily watch Meghan and Harry make their way in the world. A royal distraction is a welcome one, at least at this time in history.