Henry the Eighth and numerous other British monarchs were no doubt rolling over in their graves as a biracial American divorcee and the son of Princess Diana upended traditions in a beautiful celebration of love.
When Meghan Markle walked herself most of the way down the aisle to marry Prince Harry on May 19, 2018, she ended over 1,000 years of multiple British monarchy traditions. It was only 82 years ago in 1936 that King Edward VIII had to abdicate the British throne in order to marry the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson – an American divorcee after a “scandalous” affair. Scandalous, simply because she was an American divorcee, like Markle. Now, however, in 2018, Meghan, who has described herself as a “strong, confident mixed-race woman,” and a “feminist,” and who had a successful career as an actress, received the blessing of Queen Elizabeth to marry “royal” Prince Harry. The Queen was also A-OK with Markle walking herself down the majority of the aisle in St. George’s Chapel because as an adult and independent woman, she didn’t want to be “given away.” A far cry from when Henry VIII could chop off the heads of wives who didn’t bear him a son. The Queen, at 92, was also clearly all in, with all the ways that Harry and Meghan created a wonderfully modern and multicultural wedding. A wedding unlike any other Royal Wedding.
Despite the size of the wedding – 600 guests – the nuptials felt deeply intimate. Prince Harry, 33, couldn’t stop beaming when he saw his beautiful bride, 36, begin her walk down the aisle, and when she reached his side, he reportedly told her, “You look amazing.” The pair couldn’t stop locking eyes and smiling at each other as they stood at the altar. They may have been watched by 2 billion people around the world, but it was obvious that for this pair, their wedding, their vows, were highly personal and meaningful. However, it was when the couples’ handpicked minister, African American Bishop Michael Curry, began his sermon about “the power of love” that the upending of tradition became drastically clear. “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way,” Curry rang out, quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his opening sentences.
And could any words have been more appropriate for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who were sweeping in a new world of love and acceptance to the British Royal Family? And were they also trying to send a message of love and acceptance to all British citizens, in the wake of the vote to “Brexit,” and to the American President, Donald Trump, whose platform and administration, are anything but about “the power of love”? “Imagine our new neighborhoods and community where love is the way. Imagine our governments and nations where love is the way… Imagine this tired old world where love is the way,” Curry preached, no doubt expressing Meghan and Harry’s hope for the world.
If Curry’s sermon wasn’t enough of a surprise, neither have we ever heard a gospel choir bringing African American tradition to a Royal Wedding. And I bet Queen Elizabeth hasn’t either. Nevertheless, the London-based Kingdom Choir rang out in a stirring rendition of “Stand By Me,” celebrating not just Harry and Meghan’s equal partnership of love but also her roots, as a descendant of men and women enslaved in Georgia. And then there was the breathtakingly talented 19-year-old cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who stunned guests and viewers with his moving performance of three pieces, including Franz Schubert‘s “Ave Maria”, while the couple took a private moment to sign the marriage register. To say that no one was expecting that, would be an understatement. Nor was anyone expecting the Kingdom Choir to launch into a joyful rendition of Etta James‘ “Amen/This Little Light of Mine,” as the newlyweds walked out of the chapel to greet the waiting crowds.
Breaking tradition, never has a Royal Wedding celebrated a “mutual partnership” in marriage before. Meghan’s character and intelligence aren’t just valued by her new husband, but he made a statement about loving and respecting her identity, just as much as she respects and values his role in the British monarchy. Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, who started a revolution in the royal family, would be proud of the son she raised and the partner he chose. Congrats, Meghan and Harry. Your marriage is a true testament to the power of love!