Harry & Meghan: a union that was once for­bid­den

The Daily Courier - - OPINION - NEIL GODBOUT

Re­mem­ber the last time a Bri­tish prince wanted to marry an Amer­i­can woman? No, of course you don’t, un­less you’re a sim­i­lar age to Elsie Chris­ten­son and Char­lie But­ler, two Prince Ge­orge res­i­dents who cel­e­brated their 100th birth­days this month.

They both would have been 18 years old when King Ge­orge V died in Jan­uary 1936. Prince Ed­ward be­came king but the 41year-old was madly in love with Wal­lis Simp­son, a twice-di­vorced Amer­i­can.

When the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, as well as his fel­low prime min­is­ters in Canada and the rest of the Com­mon­wealth, said they would not stand for the mar­riage, Ed­ward ab­di­cated the throne that De­cem­ber to his younger brother Al­bert (who be­came King Ge­orge VI), re­fus­ing the crown in favour of the woman he loved.

Eighty years later and Prince Harry doesn’t have to make such a choice. No­body cares that Prince Harry’s fi­ance is an Amer­i­can ac­tress, a di­vorcee with a liv­ing for­mer spouse (this was a big is­sue for Wal­lis Simp­son) or the first per­son of mixed race (her mother is African Amer­i­can) to marry into the up­per ech­e­lon of the Bri­tish royal fam­ily.

She’s also three years older than her prince. Not only have things changed in so­ci­ety in Eng­land and else­where, they have ob­vi­ously changed in Buck­ing­ham Palace. Un­der royal pro­to­col, an heir to the throne’s mar­riage must be ap­proved by the monarch.

In this case, Harry — fifth in line be­hind his fa­ther, his brother Will, his nephew Ge­orge and his niece Char­lotte — needed his 91-year-old grand­mother, Queen El­iz­a­beth, to give her bless­ing.

The fact that Mon­day’s an­nounce­ment was about Harry and Meghan’s spring wed­ding and not about his sur­ren­der­ing of his claim to the throne in or­der for them to be mar­ried shows that bless­ing was given. Thank­fully so. The Royal Fam­ily (they are Canada’s Royal Fam­ily, as well) may not have sur­vived a scan­dal where a pop­u­lar prince was forced to di­vorce him­self from the in­creas­ingly re­mote like­li­hood of ever be­ing king be­cause his grandma didn’t like his fi­ance. Even if El­iz­a­beth had her own rea­sons for with­hold­ing her bless­ing, Markle’s race would quickly have been cited as the is­sue.

The re­sult­ing up­roar would have been dev­as­tat­ing.

At her age, Her Majesty would have child­hood mem­o­ries of the con­tro­versy about her un­cle and how her fa­ther be­came king. She has lived through Diana, the mar­riage to Charles, the di­vorce and her tragic death. She had to deal with Prince An­drew’s mar­riage, sep­a­ra­tion and di­vorce of Sarah Fer­gu­son. And Camilla. When it be­came pub­lic, that long af­fair with Prince Charles was deeply hu­mil­i­at­ing both to the fu­ture king and the en­tire Royal Fam­ily, es­pe­cially in the wake of Diana’s death.

The pub­lic’s view of both Charles and Camilla im­proved, thanks largely to the ex­ten­sive hu­man­i­tar­ian work they have done, both at home and abroad. The Queen gave her bless­ing for their mar­riage in 2005, but they could not hold a royal wed­ding, since the head of the royal fam­ily is also the head of the Church of Eng­land. The church al­lowed the mar­riage to pro­ceed but the cer­e­mony was a small, civil one.

While Camilla will never be queen (her of­fi­cial ti­tle will be “princess con­sort” af­ter Charles takes the throne when his mother dies), she is part of the fam­ily. As Markle now finds her­self. Much has changed dur­ing the sec­ond El­iz­a­bethan Era, now into its 66th year, in­clud­ing both the monar­chy and the monarch her­self. While she is Her Majesty, with all of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that ti­tle con­fers, it is her role to see that the monar­chy re­mains loved and revered by its peo­ple, both now and into the fu­ture. Yet she is also a grand­mother (and great-grand­mother), ea­ger to see her fam­ily live full lives, filled with joy and love.

Long may they - joy and love, that is reign.

A young man, who lost his mother as a child, who bravely served his coun­try in com­bat in Afghanistan and who has pub­licly ac­knowl­edged his chal­lenges with men­tal health, has fallen in love with a suc­cess­ful pro­fes­sional woman with a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion.

And she loves dogs, just like the Queen does.

What­ever Markle’s of­fi­cial ti­tle and role be, her ties to Canada are al­ready strong, thanks to her years work­ing in Toronto as a cast mem­ber of the le­gal drama Suits.

As a mem­ber of the Royal Fam­ily, she will not only make that fam­ily bet­ter and stronger, she will inevitably be part of our fam­ily here in Canada.

A prince and a princess have found love in each other.

As with any young cou­ple pro­claim­ing their love to the world, they de­serve our best wishes for a beau­ti­ful life to­gether.

Sadly, that op­tion wasn’t of­fered to another prince and his Amer­i­can love in a dif­fer­ent era.

Neil Godbout is man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of The Prince Ge­orge Cit­i­zen. This col­umn ap­pears weekly.

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