Forget Jenny from the Block. Meghan has the right royal rocks
By Will cook
Republican, royalist, or the awkward in-between. No matter how you like news about the British royals delivered, there consists a consensus that Prince Harry’s marrying B-List actress, turned UN-ambassador, and now princess Meghan Markle signifies another jewel in the Windsor family’s Crown of 21st Century awakenings.
At the turn of the last Century, Australians went to the polls for a referendum. Almost 12 million citizens voted, with nearly 55 per cent saying no. No, it was not time to curtsey to Queen Elizabeth one last time and become a republic. Marred by division within the then-Howard government, the referendum was doomed from the start. No matter how ready Australians might have been to ditch the Royal family, we ran scared in the face of an incomplete republican model.
The decade leading up to the referendum had been far from courteous for Lizzy and co. After wooing the world, Dianna Spencer divorced second-in-line to the throne Prince Charles in the wake of affair allegations. Symbolic of the media’s obsession with her, a year later Princess Di was killed in a car-accident following a paparazzi pursuit. To this day, the palace’s handling of Di’s death is lauded as a PR nightmare that tarnished the already disintegrating royal reputation.
A reputation that, like a fable princess on her deathbed, seems to have been resurrected with a kiss. In May, part star of American television drama Suits, part philanthropist Meghan Markle entered the royal-fold. Watched by the world, including more than 6 million Australians, with a kiss (and a multi-million dollar ceremony) Markle entered into a lifetime of lavish “servitude”.
In 2012 commoner-Kate, now Markle’s sister-in-law, bewitched the royally obsessed and casual addicts, like myself, when she wedded William and became the Duchess of Windsor. Kate is undeniably charismatic, yet her child-rearing and charitable abilities have nothing on Meghan’s determination, as fixed upon her by fans, to burn down the plush curtains that clamp the traditions of Buckingham Palace. While the pomp and ceremony at the 2012 and 2018 weddings is comparable, something about Meghan and Harry’s nuptials seems to have captured the imagination of royal novices more than before.
Markle might not be “straight from the Bronx” as the tabloids have suggested. However, her brand and her story are so distinctly unregal that it captures the Bronx-esque makeover the primed royal face has needed. Everything that Meghan has done has been so adored by fans, be they in the crowds or the media, that we have somehow forgotten the striking similarities this moment in time shares to a scandal that the Windsor’s tried feverishly to cover-up and forget.
In 1936 King Edward III ignited a Constitutional crisis when he declared his intent to marry the woman he loved. American, socialite, divorcé. Wallis Simpson’s un-ladylikeness was scolded by royal watchers and the government. Political pressure forced Edward to abdicate the throne in his labour for love. Oh the scandal!
The parallels between Meghan and Wallis are obvious and eerie. Villain or victim, debate continues to rage as to the crimes committed by Wallis. Yet, when the sparkle fades around Windsor Palace time will remember Meghan as a head-strong 21st Century royal. A woman who, although blemished by family history and some appalling films, has been able to unite a nation facing pressures of a fading Empire and inequality.
Both metaphorical and, in this case, physical, one could argue that Meghan’s homely welcome into the House of Windsor signifies a royal changing of the guard. Yet with a history that is traced back to times where men married multiple wives who were then beheaded, the time that has elapsed between 1936 and now is but a speck of dust on a finely brushed Palace table.