I am not a monarchist, a trait I share with many British people, including Jeremy Corbin, the leader of the Opposition Labour Party, although his views on this matter are now muted. I believe that heads of state should be elected. I hasten to add that if elections were held in Britain for head of state, Queen Elizabeth would win hands down. Not being British, my views are of little consequence. But Guyana has had a sympathetic view of the British Monarchy because we were a colony of Britain for 150 years during which we were indoctrinated into loyalty and support for the Monarchy. Since Independence we have been in the Commonwealth of which Queen Elizabeth has been the head, which is soon to be Prince Charles. In recent years Queen Elizabeth and members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles, Prince Andrew on a private visit and Prince Harry, have visited Guyana. Therefore, Guyana’s connection with, and even respect for, the British Royal Family is long and enduring and remains current.
The entry of Princess Diana into the Royal Family by her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981 added a dash of glitter and glamour to an otherwise conservative, staid, reserved, unsmiling, unadventurous, stiff upper lip, emotionless operation, referred to by its members as the “firm.” Her charitable work and the causes she undertook, both before and after her acrimonious divorce from Prince Charles in1996, catapulted her into international stardom. Princess Diana embraced the underprivileged and disadvantaged, ended the myth that AIDS was transmissible by contact by shaking hands with AIDs victims and highlighted the dangers of land mines. Her iconic life and good deeds after her divorce attracted worldwide support and attention and it has been suggested that her presence in the Royal Family and separation therefrom started the process of bringing it into the modern world.
Her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, appeared to have started the process of modernization. Prince William married a commoner, that is, not a person of Royal heritage. They are a modern couple who have dispensed with the trappings of royalty in their private lives and are engaged parents to their three children. Prince Harry in his teenage years and early adulthood appeared to be a rebel, wearing a Nazi symbol on a jacket, drinking and carousing a great deal. We now know that much of that behavior was as a result of the painful loss of his mother at a young age. After joining the British Army in which he spent 10 years, he appeared to have achieved stability in his private life and enthusiastically embraced his Royal duties with gusto. His organizing of the Invictus Games for disabled veterans, supported by Barack Obama and Michele Obama was a signal achievement and hailed as a great success.
It was at the Invictus Games that Prince Harry first appeared together for the first time with Meghan Markle, an American actress of mixed African and White heritage, both casually dressed in jeans. It was publicly known that they had been in a relationship and the media was full of comments and speculation, some racially motivated. Prince Harry was prompted, unusually, to castigate the press for its racially tinged reporting.
Meghan Markle is an accomplished woman of progressive views. She began earlier than most, before she was well known, to embrace causes of importance to the disadvantaged in Africa, India and other places, not merely for photo opportunities, but as a committed activist, available to the communities which she is assisting through the long hall, be it water projects in Africa or girls’ education in India. Ms. Markle is an established supporter of women’s causes and is enthusiastic about the #MeToo movement. She has said that her support will continue after her marriage. It would advance the Princess Diana Revolution if Ms. Markle is able to introduce the open advocacy of progressive ideas that have unanimous worldwide support into the Royal Family’s agenda.
I have left the most important issue for last. It really ought to be of no importance. But we don’t live in that kind of a world as yet. Ms. Markle, no doubt like most people, is proud of her heritage and embraces both parts. Members of the British Royal Family have not been known as understanding of ‘the other’ and for decades, derogatory insinuations of other peoples and heritages have flowed forth liberally from some, including Prince Phillip. Only a few months ago Prince Charles told a Guardian journalist of Indian (Guyanese) descent that she does not look as if she comes from Manchester when he asked her where she is from and she said Manchester. The suggestion appeared to be that only if you’re white you can come from Manchester. While Prince Charles would most likely not have intended to cause offence, the remark demonstrates how ingrained the prejudice is and how difficult it is to eradicate it.
Ms. Markle brings a bright and sparkling presence in the British Royal Family that, if allowed to flourish, can only enhance its image, help to eradicate the cobwebs of conservatism and prejudice of all kinds and enhance its prestige among the British people, especially Black Britons.