Prince Harry of the United Kingdom and his girlfriend, American actress Meghan Markle, announced on November 27 that they will marry in spring 2018.
Upon announcing the engagement, Harry said he was “thrilled,” while Markle noted that she was “so very happy.”
The decision represents a somewhat unprecedented move in the history of the British monarchy.
Markle’s mixed-race background has received much media attention, while her status as an American represents the first in the House of Windsor since Wallis Simpson, whose relationship with King Edward VIII created a constitutional crisis and led to his abdication in 1936, after which the couple formerly married.
Moreover, Markle’s role as a humanitarian spokesperson brings something different to the family, while her relatively modest upbringing contrasts with the aristocratic arena that the royal family tends to inhabit.
Her status as an American citizen also means she will have to apply for British citizenship, a process that could potentially take several years. Though it is unexpected that she will have any issues on this front, the undertones of how revolutionary a marriage this will be are clearly highlighted by such a fact.
In addition to this, the fact that a divorced Hollywood actress who attended a Catholic school is to marry a British prince has drawn surprise at such an egalitarian move from an institution that has prided itself on traditional values.
Despite all these peculiarities, the long-term repercussions of such a move have been contested. While many point to the wedding as a real watershed moment in British society and the future of the royal family, others are not utterly convinced. For example, author Reni Eddo-Lodge noted that “Markle is not Britain’s Obama moment and shouldn’t be covered as such.” Moreover, citing existing institutional inequalities in the country, British lawmaker David Lammy said that while the engagement “sends a very powerful message about what it means to be black…in 2017,” it is important to “never confuse powerful symbolism with the systemic action still necessary to address persistent discrimination and inequality.”
The announcement has received widespread approval. Prime Minister Theresa May warmly offered her congratulations, stating that “this is a time of huge celebration for two people in love…I wish them great happiness for the future.” Moreover, responding to the news at a campaign event in Scotland, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wished the couple “a great time and great fun together.”
No doubt, the nation and the world will find themselves galvanized once more by the excitement leading up to the marriage itself, an echoing of the same public sentiment seen in 2010 when Prince William married Kate Middleton. While the long-term social implications of the marriage remain to be seen, there is no doubt that it represents a serious change in the history and future of the monarchy, on many fronts. As such, in times like these, it may be better to put politics to one side, and simply be glad for two more people in the world who have found love.