Meghan Markle joins the Bri­tish royal fam­ily

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

I am not a monar­chist and nei­ther is Jeremy Corbin, the leader of the Op­po­si­tion Labour Party, and many other Bri­tish peo­ple. I be­lieve that heads of state should be elected. I has­ten to add that if elec­tions were held in Bri­tain for head of state, Queen El­iz­a­beth would win hands down. Not be­ing Bri­tish, my views are of lit­tle con­se­quence.

Guyana has had a sym­pa­thetic view of the Bri­tish Monar­chy which is long, en­dur­ing and re­mains alive. We were in­doc­tri­nated into loy­alty and sup­port for the Monar­chy dur­ing 150 years as a colony. The Queen is head of the Com­mon­wealth, of which Guyana has been a mem­ber since In­de­pen­dence, and soon Prince Charles will be the Head. In re­cent years Queen El­iz­a­beth and mem­bers of the Royal Fam­ily, in­clud­ing Prince Charles, Prince An­drew on a pri­vate visit and Prince Harry, have vis­ited Guyana. So, like prob­a­bly many Guyanese, I watched the spec­tac­u­lar wed­ding cer­e­mony on TV yes­ter­day.

The en­try of Princess Diana into the Royal Fam­ily by her mar­riage to Prince Charles in 1981 added a dash of glit­ter and glam­our to an oth­er­wise con­ser­va­tive, re­served, un­smil­ing, emo­tion­less op­er­a­tion, enor­mously wealthy and liv­ing in strato­spheric iso­la­tion, re­ferred to by its mem­bers as the ‘firm.’ This was how it sought to pre­serve its ‘mys­tique’ and longevity. Princess Diana’s life mod­i­fied all that. The causes she em­braced, both be­fore and af­ter her ac­ri­mo­nious di­vorce from Prince Charles in1996, cat­a­pulted her into in­ter­na­tional pop­u­lar­ity. She shook hands with AIDS vic­tims and high­lighted the dan­gers of land mines. Her iconic life and tragic death, im­me­di­ately af­ter bap­tized by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair as the ‘Peo­ples’ Princess,’ was fol­lowed by much crit­i­cism of the Royal fam­ily and the way they treated Princess Diana in life. The changes have cul­mi­nated in the ac­cep­tance of Meghan Markle.

Her two sons, Prince Wil­liam and Prince Harry, to whom she was close and openly af­fec­tion­ate, un­like any par­ent in the Royal Fam­ily be­fore, helped the process of mod­ern­iza­tion. While not rev­o­lu­tion­ary, Prince Wil­liam mar­ried a com­moner. They are a modern cou­ple and are en­gaged par­ents to their three chil­dren. Prince Harry in his teenage years and early adult­hood ap­peared to be a rebel, wear­ing a Nazi sym­bol on a jacket, drink­ing and carous­ing openly. We now know that much of that re­bel­lious be­hav­iour was as a re­sult of the painful loss of his mother at a young age, which the broth­ers talked about openly, hith­erto un­heard of, in an ef­fort to des­tig­ma­tize men­tal ill­ness. Af­ter join­ing the Bri­tish Army in which he spent 10 years, Prince Harry ap­peared to have over­come his early dif­fi­cul­ties and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braced his Royal du­ties. His or­ga­niz­ing of the In­vic­tus Games for dis­abled vet­er­ans, sup­ported by Barack Obama and Michele Obama, was a sig­nal achieve­ment and a great suc­cess.

He ap­peared pub­licly for the first time with Meghan Markle, an Amer­i­can ac­tress of mixed African and White her­itage, both ca­su­ally dressed in jeans, at the In­vic­tus Games. It was pub­licly known that they had been in a re­la­tion­ship and the me­dia was full of com­ments and spec­u­la­tion, some racially mo­ti­vated. Prince Harry was prompted, un­usu­ally, to cas­ti­gate the press for its racially tinged re­port­ing.

Meghan Markle is an ac­com­plished woman of pro­gres­sive views. She be­gan ear­lier than most, be­fore she was well known, to em­brace causes of im­por­tance to the dis­ad­van­taged in Africa, In­dia and other places, not merely for photo op­por­tu­ni­ties, but as a com­mit­ted ac­tivist, avail­able to the com­mu­ni­ties which she is as­sist­ing through the long haul, be it wa­ter projects in Africa or girls’ ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia. Ms. Markle is an es­tab­lished sup­porter of women’s causes and is en­thu­si­as­tic about the #Me Too move­ment. She has said that her sup­port will con­tinue af­ter her mar­riage. It would ad­vance the Princess Diana Rev­o­lu­tion if Ms. Markle is able to in­tro­duce the open ad­vo­cacy of pro­gres­sive ideas that have grown un­con­tro­ver­sial, into the Royal Fam­ily’s agenda, de­spite its enor­mous wealth, priv­i­leged ex­is­tence and con­ser­va­tive views, which Ms. Markle will now ex­pe­ri­ence.

I have left the most im­por­tant is­sue for last. It re­ally ought to be of no im­por­tance, but we don’t live in that kind of a world as yet. Ms. Markle has said that she is

proud of both parts of her her­itage, Black and White. Mem­bers of the Bri­tish Royal Fam­ily have not been known as un­der­stand­ing of ‘the other’ and for decades, deroga­tory in­sin­u­a­tions of other peo­ples and her­itages have flowed forth lib­er­ally from some, in­clud­ing Prince Phillip. Only a month or so ago, Prince Charles told a Guardian jour­nal­ist of In­dian (Guyanese) de­scent that she does not look as if she comes from Manch­ester. He had asked her where she is from. “Manch­ester,” she replied. The suggestion ap­peared to be that only if you’re white you can come from Manch­ester. While Prince Charles may not have in­tended to cause of­fence, the re­mark demon­strates how in­grained the prej­u­dice is and how dif­fi­cult it is to erad­i­cate it.

Ms. Markle brings a bright and sparkling pres­ence to the Bri­tish Royal Fam­ily that, if al­lowed to flour­ish, can only en­hance its im­age, help to erad­i­cate the cob­webs of con­ser­vatism and back­ward­ness of all kinds and en­hance its pres­tige among the Bri­tish peo­ple, in­clud­ing Black Bri­tons.

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