Here’s Why the Royal Wedding Was Such a Big Deal This Time Around

“The wedding of the century,” indeed.
by Sophie Ross

It was unprecedented. On May 19, 2018, the world watched (nearly 30 million people, to be exact) while Prince Harry—sixth in line for the British throne—married a California girl, actress and activist Meghan Markle, making them the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

You (or at least your parents) have probably tuned into British royal weddings on a global scale before. There was the nuptials of Harry’s brother, William, to Catherine Middleton in 2011. And of course, 30 years earlier, Harry and William’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, married their father, Prince Charles, in 1981.  

But for some reason, this wedding feels unmatched in its scope, reach and impact on society.

Most obviously, Meghan Markle is a person of color, and the fact that a biracial woman is marrying into the British royal family deserves to be lauded. No, it shouldn’t be considered a “big deal” in 2018—but it certainly is.

“Pop culture does not frequently depict women of color realizing their happy ending,” former Bachelorette lead Rachel Lindsay said in a recap piece she wrote for Us Weekly earlier this year when talking about a black front-runner named Sienne on Arie Luyendyk, Jr.’s season. It’s a widely known (and heavily criticized) fact that Lindsay is the only black lead in the franchise’s 16-year history.

Of course, this is bigger than The Bachelor universe. (In fact, some argue that this marriage will change race relations in Great Britain forever.) Little girls and boys of color can now look at Meghan Markle and see that she became real-life royalty. While the royal family has its restrictions, to say the least—and it’d be irresponsible to act like anyone’s life is “perfect”—she’s the living, breathing embodiment of what most people would constitute as a fairy tale ending. (Especially when you factor in the notion that she’s a divorcée, which the Queen would have disapproved of just a few decades ago.)

Additionally, Markle is a vocal and outspoken feminist. It’s true you have to curb your political views once you marry into the royal family, but even in her bio on the royal website, the duchess describes herself as a “proud woman and feminist.” (You may have heard the story of the time she persuaded a dish soap brand to change its sexist tagline after Markle wrote in and complained at age 11.)

I don’t think Markle will be watching from the sidelines with her husband’s humanitarian efforts. Markle has been doing advocacy and charity work on her own for years—her work with UN Women and other organizations highlighting the lack of education for girls in developing countries is also mentioned in her royal bio. It’s safe to say she’s not going to stay quiet on the social-issue front anytime soon. In fact, with her new platform, many are hopeful she’ll be tackling even more of them.

The most obvious dissonance Markle has in regards to the royal family is that she, well, comes from an entirely different country. But it should be underscored that her American heritage is a vital part of why this royal wedding is so significant.

Formerly, there were only a handful of British “commoners” who’ve managed to marry into the royal family. Now, there’s a California girl who once stated her everyday style was cut-off jeans and flip-flops now having tea with the Queen of England. The United States has inexplicably held a fascination with the British royal family for years, and now we have “one of our own” sitting right in Kensington Palace.

Regardless of how you feel about the multimillion-dollar wedding, the new Duchess of Sussex or the British royal family as a whole, it’s hard not to feel a little bit of wondrous warmth and giddiness when you think of how two people—who came from different backgrounds, races and continents—found each other through the best matchmaker ever and fell in love.

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