Meghan Markle: race and the royals

On May 19, 2018, an estimated 3 billion people tuned in to watch Meghan Markle walk down the aisle and marry her Prince Charming. It was with an “I do” that the American-born actress made history as the first woman of color to marry into the modern-day British royal family. A divorced, Catholic-raised, American woman of color, Markle broke down barrier after barrier when it came to not only the traditionally homogenous nature of the House of Windsor, but also the British subjects, who had grown accustomed to a long line of white (and slightly incestous) royal families. Initially, Markle was praised by the British press for her revolutionizing entrance into royalty; her place as princess would bring in the culture and modernization that the English monarchy had long been lacking. But the key word there is “initially” – the excitement of her newfound title was short-lived and it only took the media a few days before their coverage of Markle turned from outward admiration and approval into criticism. Since then, the new Duchess has constantly been negatively featured in the tabloids, and all you need to do is take a glance at the headlines: Markle dared to bare her shoulders at an event; she made Kate Middleton cry; she gave out weed at her first wedding; her pregnancy is fake. Her royal status has come with an onslaught of gossip, most of which – I’m calling it now – is untrue. When Markle accepted the most coveted and commercialized spot in British society (not only a princess, but a princess to the Kingdom’s most eligible bachelor), she unknowingly pulled back a curtain to one of Britain’s secrets: the nation has deep biases against ethnic minorities. This is a little shocking because, honestly, the U.K. hides it well; the island uses its air of sophistication and much-prided 1833 slavery abolishment date to its advantage. However, racism is as prevalent an issue in the U.K. as it is in the U.S., and it’s taken the coming of Markle for the world to finally see it. The Duchess has spent months being demonized at such an aggressive level by the press, and she’s constantly being placed in this war against her sister-in-law. In a Washington Post article published on Feb. 9, the author Yomi Adegoke breaks down said slander against Markle, going into the structural racism that lies within the theme of “British identity.” The country has a deep-rooted respect for their traditional monarchy, and while they originally tried to use the marriage of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan to weave a story of changing times, the media now tells us a different story. The fairytale English image of accents, tea and royalty is not only an economical goldmine in terms of tourists, but a core part of Great Britain’s identity –  and a fragile one at that. It’s almost as if Markle was too much; she represented the step towards Britain’s progressive future that put the final nail in their coffin of outdated traditions. There are bigoted parts to the United Kingdom just as there are in any other country, and while the level of callousness came as a surprise to many in the outside world, it needs to be recognized in order for Great Britain to finally move on its path forward.

Emma Bickerstaffe is a second-year English writings major and journalism minor. EB891492@wcupa.edu

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