Support and affection for the royal family is still surprisingly widespread. It’s interesting how those of us who scorn the royals and their pomp somehow still happened to gather around the TV on the 19th of May when the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was on. It’s estimated that 29 million people, fanatics and scorners alike, tuned in to watch Harry and Meghan do what no royals have done before and waltz down the aisle into an interracial marriage (Markle is half African-American). Their marriage has been hailed as ‘a big statement’, a union whose symbolism should not be underestimated and a possibility for ‘global race relations to move forward’ – the first steps towards the modernisation of a royal family that desperately needs a breath of fresh air. But Meghan Markle, for all the exposure and positive effects she has and will have upon Britain, cannot and should not absolve the royal family of its racist history.
Meghan and Harry’s wedding incited swathes of racism from Britain, exposing an ugly underbelly of classism and bigotry in what we usually like to think of as a kindly, tea drinking culture. The racist dialogue that has clouded Meghan and Harry’s union has ranged from doomsday predictions of Meghan’s “seed…taint[ing] our Royal Family” to sour comments in tabloids that should know better, commenting on her “rich and exotic DNA” and of her racial roots being “from cotton slaves to royalty. . . Now that’s upwardly mobile!” How could we expect any more consciousness and acceptance from a people whose history and royal overlords are just as racist in turn?
The royal family embodies whiteness.
With its centuries-long tradition of inbreeding to keep their bloodline pure, it’s only in recent generations that the strict tradition of arranged marriages has been discarded. It’s the newest generation of royals, William, Kate, Harry and Meghan, nicknamed the ‘fab four’, who are lauded for dragging the royal family kicking and screaming into the 21st century. But they alone cannot do it all. Meghan, even as a self-identified proud and ‘confident mixed-race woman’, cannot absolve the royal family of its insidious racism.
Accusations of royal racism, coming from both major and minor royals, come frequently, so much so that one cannot be blamed for expecting them. Just recently Prince Charles quipped at a brown reporter after she mentioned she was from Manchester, ‘well, you don’t look like it’. Princess Michael recently wore a ‘blackamoor’ jewellery piece depicting the bust of a black person wearing a gold crown and multi-coloured crystals, to a Buckingham Palace event wherein Meghan was to be introduced to the royal family for the first time. This racist rhetoric is indicative of the racist history of Britain’s ruling family and of the elitist ideology that allowed Britain to conquer and colonise the world with a clear conscience. Britain’s favourite family has never faced up to the displacement, genocide and slavery that occurred under its flag and for its name, and as long as it never faces these sobering facts, it will always feel in some way justified to have caused them.