Nobody can have escaped the last few months of media fascination and sensationalist reporting of Prince Harry’s relationship with new girlfriend, Meghan Markle. The flurry of stories has ranged from the sublime (“She spoke to the UN!”) to the ridiculous (“She’s on Pornhub!”). Onlookers appear to fall in to two opposing camps – those who see Ms Markle as a potentially refreshing addition to the royal family, with an already existing track record of philanthropy and people skills; and those who see Ms Markle as a social climbing, media manipulating, naive prince accosting harridan. The fact that Meghan Markle is slightly older than Prince Harry and has been married previously AND has mixed race parentage AND a possibly dysfunctional family has caused some royal traditionalists to have apoplexy on a scale akin to the days of Princess Margaret daring to wish to marry the debonair, divorced Peter Townsend.
However, times have changed. We now have several members of the royal family who are themselves divorced – The Prince of Wales is famously married to his ex-mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, following his disastrous union with the luminous Diana Spencer; The Duke of York is also divorced, as is the Princess Royal. The royal family is in no position to take the higher ground on divorce issues these days.
For a modern royal family, the emphasis has to be on how this centuries-old institution can adapt to stay meaningful in an ever-increasing world of diversity and relaxed rules on gender, sexuality and identity. In the internet age, the world has shrunk, so that everything that happens globally is transmitted to screens around us within hours, if not minutes. The institution of monarchy must be able to move alongside this generation of information, while still maintaining mystique and majesty.
It seems to me that the addition of a clearly intelligent, charismatic woman who happens to be mixed race, who happens to have experience of a wider world, who happens to have already shown a capacity for humanitarianism and can give a decent speech might just be one of the best things to happen to the royal family for a very long time. In fact, possibly since a very young Diana Spencer tripped nervously down the palace steps wearing her huge sapphire engagement ring and an ill-fitting bright blue suit while clinging on to the arm of her “Whatever love means” prince.
Let’s not give up on Ms. Markle yet.