Welcome To The United Kingdom, Meghan (Repost)

Appropriate today, I think for a “repost.” Aside from the very end, I originally posted what follows on November 28, 2017:

Once upon a time, a princess (and occasional prince) journeyed from their court to a distant foreign court to marry a prince (or princess) without knowing much about the country she (or he) would be residing in the rest of their life. For example, Maria Antonia of Austria was taken to France in her teens having already married (by proxy) the young man who would be France’s future king, Louis XVI. A young German prince, Albert, would marry Queen Victoria.

As we know, yesterday it was announced Prince Harry is marrying L.A. born Meghan Markle. Talk here has been of course initially about her foreign American nationality and her mixed racial background. There has also been comment that she has been divorced and that she is “an actress.” (Her USA Network lawyer series was shown here on a small cable channel, but dropped. It is now on Netflix only – and one supposes its viewership will now skyrocket.)

It has also apparently been a whirlwind romance. It is said they were set-up by a mutual friend in Canada in 2016, and became an “item” earlier this year (and such was my not paying very much attention, I had thought until yesterday’s engagement announcement that she was a Canadian). Reportedly they had a wonderful August holiday in Africa, too.

All of that is well and good, but it smacks also of a bit of “the unreal.” In comparison, Catherine Middleton had been born and raised here in Britain. She had known Prince William since university together and had been part of his life for years afterwards before they married. She knew fully well what she was getting into in marrying him and in becoming Duchess of Cambridge – and future queen.

However, it is unclear if Ms. Markle even “knows” the United Kingdom very well. She has not spent even 3 or 4 years at, say, Oxford. Aside from an “internship” at the US embassy in Buenos Aires during her college days, although she has traveled extensively (including for charitable work) she appears not to have resided outside of the US for any extended period. (Other than a Toronto, Canada apartment where she lived when filming her USA drama.)

[St. Giles Church. Church of England. Codicote, Hertfordshire. Photo by me, 2017.]

Evidently she has visited Britain only irregularly – mostly due presumably to Prince Harry. Suddenly she is not only changing countries and citizenship, but will be marrying one of the most high-profile people in the world. While she is certainly not going to be facing the daily mundane struggles of most immigrants or expats in working or home life, she is going to have a public role; it was reported yesterday that she will be Duchess of Sussex. Whatever the accuracy of that, one wonders if in 2015 she could have even pointed out Sussex on an unmarked map.

It’s all smiles now. It’s about the wedding. It’s a happy moment.

But she is facing a lifetime commitment that will contain extraordinary pressures which – as the past has sadly demonstrated – not everyone is cut out for, including British women. As my mother-in-law told my wife yesterday evening: “Oh, I just hope it lasts.”

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here in noting this: Harry is being “allowed” to marry Ms. Markle due to the stars having “all aligned” only because it is now extremely unlikely she will ever become queen. Harry is increasingly well-down the line of succession with each additional child the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have. It is hard to believe that Ms. Markle would have been an “acceptable” wife choice for Harry to either the Queen or to Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales) if she were in line automatically to become queen as Catherine Middleton shall probably be someday.

And I don’t believe the reason for that would have been racial. After all, she could have been British and never before married and of the same racial background. The disqualifers would have been lots of the rest – the divorce, but also her foreignness coupled with her lack of experience of the United Kingdom.

For it’s now the 21st century. Likely the British people would have wanted a future queen to be “of these islands,” and the existing Queen and (her eventual immediate successor the) Prince of Wales would have known that. And that hardly would have been unreasonable of the British people to have asked in 2017-2018.

Yesterday, CNN’s Jake Tapper had a Twitter laugh over there being a royal family here at all. One is free to poke fun at the monarchy, but it is very popular in all polls and in fact is actually a “democratic” institution. For while it passes down roles by birth, the institution exists now ONLY because the overwhelming majority of the population “likes” it and expresses that will through their elected representatives.

Being a nearly powerless ceremonial head of state, the monarch is seen as a “unifier” and non-political national symbol; and the current one takes that role quite seriously. That is not something we as Americans should sneer at easily. After all, at any given time it appears roughly half of the US population absolutely hates our ceremonial head of state: the President.

UPDATE, January 8, 2020: The BBC reports:

Prince Harry and Meghan to step back as senior royals

Clearly she never became comfortable with a royal role. And he has his own issues. Frankly, it is not a shock.