Prince Harry's engagement news is truly exciting and not just because he's head over heels in love. Who he's marrying is a big deal, especially because Meghan Markle is challenging the royal status quo. She isn't like any other woman who has married into the royal family. Harry and Markle's relationship is a modern royal romance for a number of reasons.
It's been clear from day one that Harry sees Markle not just as the perfect fit for him, but also as a great fit for the royal family. There are some people who disagree with the marriage, but the fact that she isn't the typical royal partner is impactful. Markle is American, divorced, biracial, and 36 years old. She's achieving quite a few firsts for someone marrying into the royal family.
First, let's talk about how Markle is a woman of color. It's something she's spoken about from time to time, and she's written about challenges that have come along with her identity. As she wrote in an essay for Elle UK in July 2015, "While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that. To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman."
Harry proposing to a woman of color is something that many people are applauding. As one Twitter user wrote, "My grandma is a royal family junkie, but I haven't been more than mildly interested since Princess Di. But actress Meghan Markle as a black/biracial Jewish American princess? You got me." (Markle is Protestant, according to the BBC.) Another person tweeted, "I can't handle all of these people sad that Prince Harry is off the market. We're literally getting a stunning, biracial, American princess that Harry LOVES."
Markle will not officially hold the title of princess, but that doesn't mean her love story with Harry isn't a real-life fairytale. The fact that a woman of color is marrying into the royal family means a lot to so many people. Plus, seeing as she is going to impact the lives of many and be able to do great philanthropic work, like Harry, is inspiring. This is major, especially for little girls everywhere who didn't think that someone like them becoming a princess was a reality.
As previously mentioned, Markle is also a divorcée and an American actor. For nine years she was married to film producer and manager Trevor Engelson. In the past, romance with a divorced partner within the royal family hasn't come without much scrutiny. For those who recall, King Edward VIII ascended the throne after his father, George V, died in January 1936. However, Edward abdicated after reigning for 326 days, so he could marry Wallis Simpson. At the time, she was a divorced American socialite, which, according to The Atlantic, was frowned upon. The Church of England didn't allow anyone to marry a divorced individual if their former spouse was still alive.
As many viewers of The Crown know, there was also much controversy surrounding Princess Margaret's romance with Captain Peter Townsend, who was previously married with two children. The Queen even forbade her sister from marrying him. Granted, a lot has changed since then, but the fact that Harry is marrying a divorced American woman shows how much the British Monarchy has grown.
Furthermore, Markle is in her mid-30s, which now makes her the oldest woman to marry into the royal family. Kate Middleton used to hold that "title," as she was 29 when she married Prince William.
After they started dating, the the Suits star wasn't well-received by some people. The 36-year-old actor faced harsh criticism and harassment from the press, which Harry went out of his way to shut down, all while confirming rumors that the two were a couple. A letter released by Kensington Palace in November 2016 stated, "It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm." The statement continued, "[Harry] knows commentators will say this is 'the price she has to pay' and that 'this is all part of the game.' He strongly disagrees. This is not a game — it is her life and his."
Based on the many statements that have now been released commenting on their impending marriage, it seems that Markle and Harry's love for one another is well received throughout the entire royal family. For example, Kensington Palace tweeted the following message Monday from Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip: "The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness." And the official word of Harry's exciting news came straight from Clarence House, where Charles and Camilla reside: "The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle."
Even William and Middleton reacted to Harry and Markle's happiness by saying: "We are very excited for Harry and Meghan. It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together."
During their first official interview as an engaged couple, Harry reflected on how meaningful their relationship is and how, per the interviewer, they "represent something new for the royal family." To that, he responded,
"I don't know if it's something new, I think it's, for me, it's an added member of the family. It's another team player as part of the bigger team. For all of us, all we want to do is to be able to carry out the right engagements, to carry out our work, and try and encourage others and the younger generation to be able to see the world in the correct sense rather than perhaps having a distorted view."
It certainly appears that Harry and Markle's future together is being welcomed with open arms. Here's hoping that is the case, because Markle is redefining what it means to be a royal bride — and in an empowering way. She's breaking the norm because of what she has to offer, and not only as a divorced American woman of color. Like Harry, she is dedicated to bringing good into the world. As she said during their first interview about using her voice in a bigger way,
"As you said, the causes [she is an advocate for UN Women] that have been very important to me, I can focus even more energy on because very early out of the gate we realized once you have access or a voice that people are willing to listen to with that comes a lot of responsibility, which I take seriously."
With someone like Markle stepping into the royal family and challenging its status quo like she is, she's already bringing great change to the royal family in positive and amazing ways.
Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized Meghan Markle's religion. It has been updated.