Living in the United States, we usually have the Atlantic Ocean and our own emotional arm’s-length distance from the goings-on in England. Even though they were once our Mother Country—and we the rebellious child who revolted and ran away from home—we’ve always remained tied together through language, customs, and culture. Now, with the announcement of Prince Harry tying the knot with U.S. actress Meghan Markle, we are about to be bombarded with all manner of bridal collectibles and novelties.
I, for one, love the idea of a “commoner,” though Meghan is hardly common at all, rising to the rank of princess. Markle hails from a privileged Hollywood background. Her father was an Emmy Award–winning lighting designer, and she always attended prestigious private girls’ schools. Educated in theater, with a dual major in international studies, she is smart, self-assured, talented, and extremely contemporary.
However, even a woman as sophisticated and worldly as Meghan Markle (she’s 36 years old and has been in show business for 15 years) can’t help but glimmer and glow when she’s presented to the press as a future princess. One of the hallmarks of entering the royal realm is that you suddenly become a part of the public domain. Privacy eludes you once you become a royal, and one’s mettle is tested by how well you react to a million shutterbugs flashing their cameras as you attempt to buy a latte at Starbucks.
Marrying a prince turns you into a princess and also a star. Luckily, Meghan Markle knows how to sparkle in front of a camera crew. Hopefully, she’ll draw upon her years as an actress in “Suits,” “Fringe,” and even the game show “Deal or No Deal”—where she was one of the suitcase models, number 24—and stand her ground, beaming and waving to the paparazzi.
Her future sister-in-law Kate Middleton (Duchess Catherine of Cambridge) conducts herself like a born princess no matter the circumstances. And, as I mentioned in a previous Royal Baby blog, the monarchs are often “assaulted” with stuffed animals and other plush freebies. Fans tend to crowd around the beloved Prince William and Kate and hoist enormous bears, bunnies, and giraffes into their arms. Kate has mastered the art of accepting every gift with aplomb and appreciation. I am sure that Meghan, trained in the dramatic arts, will pick up that gentle touch in no time flat.
Just as her brother-in-law and sister-in-law have had all types of Teddies thrust at them, they’ve also been interpreted as teddy bears. That’s what is so remarkable about this whole royal-wedding scenario. We Yanks think of “princess” as the heroine of a bedtime story or a Disney animated film. It’s hard to imagine any little girls in America actually curling up in their canopy beds and drifting off to sleep, hoping for a prince to come and carry them away.
Even the youngest American child, on some level, knows that the world of princes and princesses is the stuff of legend. It is a fairy tale that has the good being rewarded, and the evil being severely punished. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, that’s how we know it is fiction: the good have good ends, and the bad come to a bad conclusion. But Meghan Markle shows us that princes and princesses are real, and they can stroll amongst us.
It is fun to speculate how she will fare as a part of the British upper-upper-upper class. Of course, she’ll have to keep a stiff upper lip, and appear dignified more often than not. In many of her current photos with Prince Harry, who has a reputation for being a “onetime wild child,” both of them seem to always be on the verge of a giant guffaw, clearly enjoying their time together and one another. It will be a shame if their playful carrying-on is muted and they have to “keep calm and carry on,” embodying royal restraint.
Perhaps because Harry is fifth in line for the throne, there will not be so much pressure on him and his wife to toe the staid line. Maybe they will be given more leeway to be jubilant and joyful?
As an actress, Meghan has had to assume many roles, many guises. This new one, where she will renounce her U.S. citizenship and become British, will most likely be the most difficult one to navigate. One thing to keep in mind as we watch her evolve into Princess Meghan is that princesses come in all manner of appearances, attitudes, and activities.
If we look to the daily newspapers, we see that Kate Middleton has continued her charitable outreach. She is a tireless advocate for children’s causes, giving her time and her sponsorship to both fund-raise and raise the organizations’ profiles. Princess Diana, of course, known as the People’s Princess, crusaded to eliminate landmines, fought to eradicate the fears surrounding AIDS, and championed mental-health issues. What will Meghan’s platform be?
And, since so many of us still equate “princess” with fairy tales and pop culture, will she be a Princess Anna of Arendelle? The feisty, younger sister of Elsa from “Frozen,” she never had to worry about assuming the royal obligations—after all, ascending to the throne was not her destiny.
Or, will she be like Princess Leia? Yep, that protagonist of the “Star Wars” franchise was indeed a princess, and a bona fide action hero to boot. Will Princess Meghan speak up for causes and charities that are more cutting-edge, more American, more egalitarian?
We don’t know, and that is the fun about royal watching. We can witness history unfolding, and we can enjoy the costumes and the collectibles. It is like a fairy tale come true. And in this instance, it’s an American myth made real!