By Christina Schultz
Yesterday, May 19, the world witnessed the royal wedding of British Prince Harry, brother of Prince William, son of Charles and Diana, grandson of the long-reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II, and Meghan Markle, the American biracial divorcée actress best known for her role as Rachel Zane in Suits (2011-), an American legal drama show airing on the USA Network. Their wedding was a beautiful spectacle to behold with the pomp and circumstance you would expect from such a joyous royal occasion. I was captivated by the wedding like so many others who turned up in Windsor to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. I hate to admit it, but the little princess in me, conditioned by my upbringing of consuming Disney films, playing with Barbies, and societal gender expectations, was in full force yesterday. I couldn’t help but regress to the days of my youth when I daydreamed about meeting Harry or William to then transform into a full-fledged royal princess (or duchess, I’m not picky) complete with a fairytale wedding that would cost as much as the entire budget of a small country. Feminist enlightenment be damned.
Now you might be thinking who cares about all this conservative heteronormative nonsense? Why watch a royal wedding at all? It’s a display of the utmost sexism and elitism. While this is understandable, you don’t have to be an obsessed fan of the Royal Family to find Harry and Meghan’s relationship and their union as husband and wife intriguing. I certainly find it intriguing on several levels because it breaks with so many of the stuffy British traditions we have come to know over the past centuries. Meghan is a true breath of fresh air to the endangered species that is the British monarchy. She does not at all fit the “blue blood” profile as a half African-American actress with a divorce and success under her belt. Her show Suits has been nominated for several awards and averaged a few million viewers per episode over the course of its seven seasons (by the end the numbers were more around the one million range; it has been renewed for an eighth season).
In becoming a princess, however, she had to make a huge sacrifice. She gave up her acting career and deleted all social media. She now belongs to the royal family and will have to play by their rules of conduct and etiquette. Naturally, this has been met with skepticism by many people, myself included. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier that Harry and Meghan are together. She has tamed the former wild child and royal pain in the ass of the Windsor family and the two seem oh so happy together. But the feminist in me cannot help but think really Meghan?!?! Especially since she is a self-identifying feminist (or was?).
By giving up her career and taking part in an “event steeped in patriarchal tradition,” it seems like we as society are taking quite a few steps back. However, the most modern wedding the royal family has ever seen did break with some of the typical traditions and, for some, actually brought feminism to the occasion. And while I'm not 100% convinced by that idea, I do agree with Valerie Wade, historian and archivist, that “the wedding is an opportunity for crucial political issues to get some mainstream attention. ‘Anything that sort of helps us think about race and gender and class in an accessible way is good,’ said Wade, ‘because I think a lot of those ideas sort of get stuck in the academy.’” Arguably race, and not feminism, was the hot topic yesterday with newscasters and commentators because the wedding proudly included African-American culture and excellence, a touching tribute to Meghan’s heritage, in an otherwise very white, stuffy, Anglo-Saxon, upper crust crowd. The royal family didn’t know what to make of the Reverend Michael Curry as he delivered a passionate speech with the mantra “love is the way.” It was a fitting mantra, however, especially considering that love was a powerful enough motivator for Meghan to dedicate herself fully to Harry and her new life as the Duchess of Sussex.
Whatever side of the pond you find yourself on, the royal wedding, and weddings in general, trigger a mixed bag of emotions, associations and reactions. It will be interesting to see how the couple fares in the coming years in addressing political issues and whether Meghan Markle retains her freedom and feminist strength. I see it as a good sign, however, that one of the charities she (and Harry) support is the Myna Mahila foundation, which empowers "women to speak about issues they are most afraid to discuss aloud and employs "women from urban slums in Mumbai to manufacture and sell affordable sanitary pads back into their communities, improving menstrual hygiene, providing stable employment, and building a trusted network." I hope we can expect more like this from Meghan as she settles into her new “career.”
Speaking of careers, would you be able to give up your career to be with your partner? Leave your response in the comment section. We'd love to hear what you think!
Special thanks to Caro for hosting me and to Robert for the idea to write about the “feminist dilemma!”
 North, Anna. “The fraught gender and racial politics of the royal wedding, explained.” Vox, May 15, 2018. https://www.vox.com/2018/5/15/17335946/meghan-markle-royal-wedding-2018-prince-harry-windsor-race-gender.
 Alexander, Ella. "5 ways Meghan Markle brought feminism to the royal wedding." Harper's Bazaar, May 18, 2018. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/bazaar-brides/a20757742/meghan-markle-feminism-royal-wedding/.