Meghan Markle and the start of a new royal era

Waiting game: Some journalists expect the official announcement as soon as tomorrow. © Getty

What do we know about possible future princess, Meghan Markle? The BBC is reportedly “primed” for an engagement announcement from Prince Harry and his girlfriend, an American actress.

'What are you?' ... I get asked every week ... often every day. 'I'm an actress, a writer, the Editor-in-Chief of my lifestyle brand The Tig, a pretty good cook and a firm believer in handwritten notes.'

I give them what they're after: 'My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I'm half black and half white.'

These are the words (in Elle Magazine) of Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s girlfriend who is about to become the next member of the UK’s royal family.

Like Prince William’s wife, Kate, she is what British law considers a “commoner”. Unlike Kate, she is American, for one thing, and divorced.

Also like Kate, she does have noble, even royal, blood. Her father is descended from Lord Hussey, a member of Henry VIII’s court. But her mother’s side is different: her great-great-great grandfather was a slave, freed after the US civil war.

This would make Meghan the first mixed-race member of the British royal family in 200 years — perhaps ever.

Of course, she is more than just her ancestors, and she has urged people not to focus on “what colour your parents happen to be.”

Is it wrong to dwell as much on her background as her work?

The prince and the showgirl

Of course, say some. Who cares whether she is mixed-race, or American, or anything else? All that matters is what she has done with her life — and by most accounts she is a “grounded”, talented person who avoids controversy and cares about making the world a better place. She will fit right in with this generation of young royals.

Her background is important too, argue others. Britain can still be a racist country, as the coverage of her relationship proves. By welcoming her into the most famous family on Earth, the royals can send the message that these attitudes are unacceptable. That is worth celebrating.

You Decide

  1. What is more important: who you are, or what you do?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are one of Britain’s top newspaper editors. Create a front page reporting on Meghan and Harry’s engagement. Think about your headline, image, and how you introduce the story.

Some People Say...

“In the past, people were born royal. Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do.”

Gianni Versace

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Harry and Meghan began dating in 2016, and appeared together in public for the first time in September, at the 2017 Invictus Games. Meghan officially met the Queen a month later.
What do we not know?
If the couple are really engaged, when it will be announced if true, and when a royal wedding might take place. There are rumours that Harry would prefer a “non-traditional” wedding.

Word Watch

Commoner
British law divides its population into peers (members of the nobility) and commoners (everyone else). Mathematically, most British people are related to King Edward III (1327–1377).
Divorced
In 1937 King Edward VIII was required to abdicate to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
Civil war
A war over the continued use of slavery in southern US states. Slavery was abolished in the United States after the north won in 1865.
200 years
Historians have speculated that King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, had African ancestry.

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