Reader comments in Britain on the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have an inevitable sprinkling of the enough-already-about-the-royal-family variety. But not many. Most reflect a genuine fascination, ranging from simple expressions of good wishes to commentaries on royal weddings past and the significance of a popular, modern prince marrying a mixed-race American actress.
There’s a lot of grist there. And it couldn’t come at a better time: Britain in the throes of a miserable divorce from the European Union; Europe (and America) dealing with nationalist and even racist sentiments; sex-pest revelations everywhere — a whole world, it seems, in desperate need of diversion and romance.
We have learned why Ms. Markle may soon be the duchess of Sussex but will never be “Princess Meg” (“princess” is reserved for royal blood) and has almost no chance of being queen (Prince Harry is now fifth in line for the throne, and when Catherine, duchess of Cambridge, to use Kate’s formal name, has her child, he will drop to sixth).
This and much more we have discovered or rediscovered, all to the refrain of “how things have changed.” A royal prince marrying an American whose mother is African-American, who is divorced to boot, is not something that could have happened 100 years ago, maybe not even 20. When the British tabloids first found out about the relationship a year ago and let loose, Prince Harry was compelled to issue a fierce broadside denouncing “racial undertones” in some of the commentaries.
Yet it is by breaking taboos that Britain’s royal family has remained not only entertaining, but also relevant to all the many people who ardently follow them. Diana, Princess of Wales, remains revered as the “peoples’ princess” for refusing to be constrained by barriers of tradition and snobbery, and her sons, Prince William, the heir apparent, and Prince Harry have been true to her legacy.
Prince Harry has become possibly the most popular of the royals by being arguably the most modern, in part through his history of questionable behavior, but also for his cheeky smile, distinguished military service and dedication to worthy causes like the Invictus Games, a sporting event for wounded or disabled veterans he created. It was at the Invictus event in Toronto in September that the English prince and the American actress of mixed race made their first public appearance, holding hands, laughing and even kissing.