WINDSOR, England—We were expecting a strong independent black woman to walk herself down the aisle before taking her place in arguably the world’s most elitist and impenetrable family. Perhaps her mother would even be at her side, stride by stride, to celebrate the most stunning royal match in generations.
And Meghan will indeed go solo—but with significant nod to royal tradition. Prince Charles will step in to partially escort the bride after Meghan’s own father, Thomas Markle, was laid low by a bad publicity strategy and failing health.
Tomorrow morning, Meghan Markle will walk the first stretch to altar by herself, with her future father-in-law, Prince Charles, escorting her for the final portion of the procession.
Reports emerging from Kensington Palace suggest that Meghan asked Charles on Thursday to walk with her from the Quire, where assembled royals will be seated. However, it seems hard to imagine that this request was the result of genuine affection developing between the two. Britain has known Charles for approximately 69 years longer than the new princess and we’re still waiting for that first flush of warmth. Just 22 percent of the British public have told pollsters they want Charles, the next in line to the throne, to take the crown when his mother’s reign comes to an end, so while it’s kind of Charles to step in, he can hardly be considered Prince Charming.
Less cynical observers have welcomed Charles’ role as a sign that Markle has been taken into the family’s bosom, even after a rocky week that has seen Meghan’s sister hospitalized after a paparazzi car crash, her father exposed as staging photos for the newspapers, and various members of the extended clan pointing fingers of blame at others until her dad was felled by an apparent heart attack.
For Charles—the future king of England— to step up and deliver a symbolic gesture of approval to the union does show how far the royal family has come since another divorced American, Wallis Simpson, was so brutally shunned.
Among the crowd already gathered in Windsor the day before the ceremony, the gesture by Charles was well-received. Gail Markle, 61, an American who was at pains to point out that she is not related to Meghan, said she was planning to camp out tonight near the church after flying in from Arkansas. “I think it’s great Charles will be doing that,” she told The Daily Beast. “As her future father-in-law, it is a good way to welcome her to the family. I think as a woman she could have walked herself down the aisle or had her mother do it, but it is usually a gentleman who does that and I think she just wants to respect that.”
Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry will, of course, remain a historic moment for the royals, but it would have been fitting to mark this official entry into British public life with an iconic entrance into the church by two beautiful black American women.
Meghan is also an entirely new kind of princess and it’s fiercely appropriate for her wedding to challenge the old misogynistic traditions of the establishment and the church, including by inviting her mother to fulfill the patriarch’s duties.
Doria Ragland will at least accompany her daughter on the way to the church, which is perhaps more fitting that her father delivering Meghan to the service.
Doria was undoubtedly the primary caregiver in Meghan’s life after her parents—who met on the set of General Hospital where Thomas, who had two kids from another marriage, was doing the lighting and Doria was working as a makeup artist—split just two years after she was born. They were officially divorced by the time she was 6.
Thomas was, by all accounts, an involved parent, and through him, Markle was exposed to the Hollywood world. She wrote in her now-shuttered blog The Tig: “There I was, behind the scenes of a glossy soap opera and a TV sitcom, surrounded by famous actors and their glam teams, multimillion-dollar budgets, and crew lunches that always included filet mignon and enough sweets to make you think you were at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.”
It’s not known when or why relations soured, but by the age of 18, Meghan was captured on video telling a friend as they passed his home, “We aren’t going to go there… We aren’t on the best of terms.”
Years later, Thomas would be left bankrupt from credit-card debt of less than $30,000. He moved to Mexico, where he now lives, in apparently straitened circumstances.
It always seemed slightly unlikely that Thomas would therefore be given a plum job at the wedding. And when it was announced two weeks ago that he would be walking her down the aisle, many people who have followed the story closely were taken by surprise, not least because he had never even met Prince Harry.
By contrast, Meghan has never described her relationship with Doria—whom Harry has met on several occasions—in anything but the warmest terms.
Following the separation of her parents, Markle lived with Doria full-time and they clearly have a close bond: “We can just have so much fun together, and yet I’ll still find so much solace in her support,” Markle, wrote of her mother in Glamour. “That duality coexists the same way it would in a best friend.”
Meghan has had an extremely difficult week, but now it seems she is, finally, on the glide path to Saturday’s big event. The rehearsal today went well, judging by the smiles on her and Harry’s faces after they left the church. Let’s hope everyone is still smiling by Saturday afternoon.