Imagine, for a moment, that Prince Charles, at the age of 32 (the age Harry is now) had, instead of announcing his engagement to the 19-year-old ingénue Lady Diana Spencer had started going out with a 35-year old American actress with a show reel full of steamy sex scenes, like Prince Harry’s new girlfriend, the American Suits actress Meghan Markle.
As the case of Prince Andrew (whom, one may recall, was banned by his mother’s flunkies from marrying the actress Koo Stark on the grounds she had once appeared for a brief moment naked in a movie) reveals, there would have been a major scene.
Now imagine that Charles—or indeed Andrew—had started going out with girl who had a white father and a black mother.
As the writer and aristocrat Lady Colin Campbell told the Daily Beast it would have been ‘unimaginable’ as little as 20 years ago for a senior member of the House of Windsor to have a mixed race girlfriend.
So, the lack of comment with which the news that Meghan Markle has an African-American mother has been received is a heartening sign that the British monarchy, dragged perhaps by Prince Harry, may finally be embracing our multicultural world.
Lady Colin adds that she is unsurprised that Harry’s new relationship has been received without a murmur.
“The ethos of the age is acceptance and inclusiveness,” Lady Colin said. “The days when marriages were regarded as desirable only if people were of the same class and color are gone. People have awoken to the fact that such marriages may have lots to recommend them. What used to be verboten is now regarded as desirable in many quarters,” she said.
The Windsors have not always projected the most open-minded of attitudes when it comes to race—consider Prince Philip’s ‘jocular’ racist outbursts—but in fact there is an interesting precedent.
The Queen was required to give assent to the marriage of the Honorable James Lascelles, her first cousin once removed, when he married his Nigerian wife, Joy Elias-Rilwan, in 1999.
The Queen had to approve the marriage because rock musician James, 57th in line to the throne, is in the direct line of succession, and she did.
Markle has written (on her lifestyle website The Tig) that when she is asked about her parentage: “I could say Pennsylvania and Ohio… instead I give them what they’re after: ‘My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African-American. I’m half black and half white.’”
Whether or not this relationship is the real deal is of course a matter of conjecture. Harry’s friends have been notably silent on the subject of his new relationship, largely because all except a key few have been kept completely in the dark about it.
But since the story was broken by the established and reliable royal reporter Camilla Tominey last weekend, details of the romance, which allegedly began in June when Harry was in Canada helping promote the Invictus Games, have been leaking out.
In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman in 2014, Gilkes—declining to speak of his friendship with Prince William and Kate Middleton, said: “I’m the son of a doctor, and the key to working in the art world is to have boundaries of discretion. If you can’t act in a discreet manner, you won’t have a long career. I respect people’s privacy. Celebrity is not something I consciously pursue.”
Among the claims that have been made is a report that Harry spent Halloween with Markle at Soho House Toronto, and Markle’s Instagram account wearing a beaded bracelet matching one that Harry often wears.
There have been reports that Harry has spent the last week holed up at her Toronto home on a sleepy suburban street, and may even be there still.
How much of this is true and how much exaggeration is anyone’s guess. And although the palace never comments on the love lives of its star cast members, if the story was without foundation it would have been killed by now.
So, it is safe to say, after a week of speculation and rumor, that this is real—and Harry now has a terrific chance to change the shallow ‘party prince’ narrative that has dominated so much of the last decade and more of his life.
The prince has previously spoken of the difficulties of meeting a partner, lamenting that any sign of him speaking to a woman leads to rumors she is, “suddenly my wife.”
As Harry has always been keenly aware, the difficulty he faces is someone who fully accepts and is prepared to take on the surrender of privacy that being his wife entails.
In that sense, Markle is a catch; the fact that she is already famous means that dating a royal is likely to be less of a leap for her than the other girls he has tried to share his life with thus far.
But the most remarkable thing is what Harry and Meghan’s relationship has already quietly announced: that the age of multicultural inclusiveness has finally reached the House of Windsor.