When American Adventurism Meets British Conservatism
Rather than a clash of traditions and expressions, the wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is regarded as a symbolic and significant blend of two different lives, cultures and history â€“ one steeped in White supremacy and the other in emancipation. Bayo Akinloye writes
The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has been aptly described as a blend of American adventurism and British conservatism â€“for good reasons. The marriage is the 76th wedding among members of the United Kingdomâ€™s Royal Family in recorded history. The ceremonies turned out to be a fair share of deeply rooted British symbolism, traditions and perhaps, the American dream. Though the royal wedding had come and gone, the symbolism and significance regarding Prince Harry and Meghanâ€™s nuptials are worth examining.
For a swirling couple of days Meghan and Harry had to ride the storm of bad press and scandalous conducts on the part of the brideâ€™s family â€“with a Thomas Markle described as an opportunistic father and Meghanâ€™s half-sister as a hell-bent party pooper. In the end, only her mother made the wedding.
In absence of the brideâ€™s father, Harryâ€™s father, Prince Charles, accompanied Meghan up the final aisle. He saved the day in some way because Meghanâ€™s father refused to show citing ill-health as reasons.
Meghanâ€™s veil was both a political and personal statement. Meghan represented the Commonwealth and her home state of California by incorporating flowers representing each one with a flower on her veil. The hand-embroidered 16-foot train required seamstresses to wash their hands every half hour, according to Kensington Palace.
In 1619, the first captured Africans arrived in the British colony of Janestown, Virginia. Three hundred and ninety-nine years later, a descendant of African-American slaves and sharecroppers from North Carolina and Alabama delivered the sermon at a British royal wedding.
In a historic and intriguing move for the royal family, Bishop Michael Bruce Curry became the first African-American to have served as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, an offshoot of the Church of England in the United States and part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Curry started and ended his sermon quoting Martin Luther King and preached of the power of love: â€œWe must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world, a new world.â€
In between, he also referenced slavery, colonialism, and poverty, all while standing in the heart of the former British Empire. His sermon was steeped in the oratorical tradition of black American preachers, which would have elicited some interesting reactions from the royal family.
It is also symbolic, even though to a small measure, to note that while the wedding invitation cards, and the company that made them, are English, the ink used was American. The cards and ink are a poetic symbol of Harry and Meghan themselves; a complementary fusion of two countries, two cultures, and two backgrounds.
The sermon was followed by Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choirâ€™s rendition of â€œStand by Me.â€ The hit 1961 blues song is not only about enduring love, but a powerful rallying cry for racial justice and unity. Originally performed by American singer-songwriter Ben King, the song rose in popularity during the civil rights movement. It has been covered by more than 400 artists, including Otis Redding, John Lennon, and Tracy Chapman.
In 2015, â€œStand By Meâ€ was deemed â€œculturally, historically, or aesthetically significantâ€ enough to be preserved in the Library of Congressâ€™ National Recording Registry. The song, an alluring one for a wedding ceremony, smacks of hidden and poignant political meaning.
The wedding came at a time of racial discontent in the United Kingdom. From the rise in hate crimes following Brexit to the Windrush scandal, discrimination against Britainâ€™s ethnic minorities has come under sharp focus. While anti-racist leaders in the UK gave a warm response to the wedding ceremony, they also warned against attaching too much meaning to the wedding.
Is this the beginning of the end of a monarchy steeped in white supremacy? Many think only time will tell. They feel, as things stand, the wedding is a personal expression and that it does not reflect the belief and traditions of the monarchical establishment.
On Harryâ€™s invite list were ushers Tom Inskip and Guy Pelly, while Army comrades who he served alongside in Afghanistan also made the cut. All three of Princess Dianaâ€™s siblings attended â€“ Lady Jane Fellowes, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Earl Spencer, as well as his daughter Kitty. A fleet of glamorous pals including tennis ace Serena Williams alongside her Reddit founder husband, Alexis Ohanian, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, and stylist Jessica Mulroney all showed up.
Several of Meghanâ€™s Suits co-stars flew over for the big day â€“ Patrick Adams, who plays her on-screen love interest, was joined by his Pretty Little Liars actress wife Troian Bellisario, Rick Hoffman, Vanessa Ray, Gina Torres, Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty. Two of Prince Harryâ€™s former flames, Cressida Bonas and Chelsy Davy both scored invites. George and Amal Clooney, Idris Elba, James Corden, Tom Hardy, Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford were all spotted at the service too.
Long-time royal friend Sir Elton John, with husband David Furnish, was at the ceremony and is believed to have performed a mini concert for the happy couple at their reception following the nuptials. David and Victoria Beckham, long-time friends of the royals who have both been honoured by the Queen made the short trip to Windsor.
US TV titan Oprah Winfrey was one of the surprise names to attend. Prince Seeiso of Lesotho and his wife, Princess Mabereng, who have worked alongside the Prince and his charity Sentebale since 2006, also attended. Other surprising names at the grand event included pop star James Blunt and his wife Sofia, rugby ace James Haskell and his fiancÃ©e Chloe Madeley, soul singer Joss Stone, and rugby legend Sir Clive Woodward and his wife Jayne Williams.
Most political figures were not invited but former Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, was a guest at the wedding, with wife Norma, as he was appointed as a special guardian over both Princes William and Harry following the death of their mother, Lady Diana, in 1997.
In addition to the US President Donald Trump missing at the occasion, a whole host of political big names including former President Obama, his wife Michelle, and Theresa May did not make the cut. While David Cameron, then the Prime Minister, attended Prince Williamâ€™s wedding in 2011 – the situation was different for Prince Harryâ€™s.
A Kensington Palace spokesman had explained prior to the event: â€œIt has been decided that an official list of political leaders â€“ both UK and international â€“ is not required for Prince Harry and Ms Markleâ€™s wedding. Her Majestyâ€™s Government was consulted on this decision, which was taken by The Royal Household.â€