It all started out as a fairytale. It reminded people of the children’s books that filled their bookshelves growing up – whose stories ushered them into their nightly dreams oftentimes before the final words had been read.
Tales like “Cinderella” are beloved not just because there is royalty and a fairy godmother. They are timeless classics because the reader is offered a mirror through the main character’s journey. The pages are laced with fantastical realities of trial and triumph that draws readers in as they relate to the simple beginnings and rejoice that the girl remains the same person after receiving the title “princess.”
But in 2018, the world no longer had to vicariously live through their childhood dreams and stories because when Prince Harry married American Meghan Markle, those stories appeared to no longer be bound by hardcovers and imagination. At Windsor Castle on May 19th, 2018, the world believed in possibilities a little more.
However, just beyond the flowers, carriages, and celebrities that framed Harry and Meghan’s wedding, an unseen political character of this televised story danced to a slightly different tune than what the festivities were exhibiting.
Modern-day fairytales do not have knights in shining armor and battles filling their pages; instead social media, Queen Elizabeth’s disapproving look, and John Bercow’s questionable choice in ties are the backdrop to this story. Their split from royal life comes in the midst of another messy split- the UK’s four-year attempt to leave the European Union. University of Southern California’s journalism professor and author Afua Hirsch in Mark Landler’s New York Times article comments that, “[Meghan] happened to arrive at a moment when Brexit emboldened people who advocated for a nationalist identity and a return to Britain’s imperial past.”
This newest member of the British Royal Family represented a lot of change that to a younger generation was inspirational, yet to “an older and more conservative people,” threatened tradition.
The couple’s recent departure from the royal institution due to possible reasons of familial tensions and media attacks comes on the heels of an entire country divided on departing itself from political familiarity in pursuit of greater independence.
Landler notes, “As the Harry and Meghan drama unfolds…it is resurfacing the same questions that animated the Brexit debate. What kind of society do the British want: open or closed, cosmopolitan or nationalist, progressive or traditional?”
This struggle questions whether to hold onto the principles of the past or progress toward a much different future for the nation and for Harry himself.
He appears to be wrestling with both desiring to be an agent of change but also to protect the legacy of those who came before him, especially his mother Princess Diana. Consequently, he is trying to protect his family against the paparazzi driven past. Harry said himself in the ITV documentary Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, “I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mom.”
The monarchy is a lineage of customs and practices that in many ways cannot afford what change would cost. Yet, is there a point at which the price for maintaining them begins to cost much more?
Harry and Meghan’s exodus calls some to examine traditional toxicity and to others to question “self-indulgence.”
Harry and Meghan are trailblazing their own path parallel to their mother nation. Their decision according to Mark Landler is representative of so much more than just themselves because in doing so, they are challenging a monarchy that symbolizes a nation’s stability during a time of great uncertainty.
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