LONDON: News of Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress Meghan Markle has been dominating headlines ever since it was announced on November 27. Markle who is a mixed-race and “fiercely independent” woman is expected to breathe fresh air into the British royal family and break all sorts of stereotypes.
Playing a lawyer on the hit television show Suits, the 36-year-old actress was barely known in Britain when her name appeared on newspaper front pages last October. Over the past year, her relationship with the Prince has been widely discussed and speculated upon.
However, their relationship was formalised by Kensington Palace, which handles communication for Prince Harry, in November in a most unexpected way.
Exasperated by the media frenzy, the palace released a statement attacking the “sexism” and “racism” Meghan Markle faced on social media. It also blasted the press for “harassing” the actress.
The Sun, one of Britain’s top-selling newspaper, ran a piece on its front page that tied “Harry’s girl” to an adult video website, which featured a clip from a scene for her show Suits.
The couple made their first official public appearance together in September, attending the opening ceremony of the third Invictus Games, an initiative by Harry for the disabled or wounded soldiers and veterans.
“We’re two people who are really happy and in love,” Markle told magazine Vanity Fair shortly before the event.
The daughter of an African-American mother and white American father of Dutch and Irish descent, Markle grew up in Los Angeles.
Her parents divorced when she was six and she has half-siblings on her father’s side, from whom she is estranged.
With a degree in communication, Markle appears to have navigated her career without a hitch.
Like Harry, she is also involved in humanitarian work.
She is also telegenic, practises yoga, and drinks detox drinks including “green juices,” according to her Instagram account.
Tabloids were quick to point out that the actress who is three years senior to Harry’s is divorced, unearthing pictures of her first marriage (2010-2013) with an American producer.
However, none of this was enough to derail a royal wedding, which will take place early next year, according to Monday’s announcement.
Speaking on Markle, Prince Harry’s biographer Penny Juno said, “I think that would be no problem at all (the divorce), and the fact that she is of a mixed race might even be a bonus,” she told AFP.
“It would show Harry, a senior member of the Royal Family, to be a thoroughly modern man — not a precious, strange creature from another planet, which is how the royals are sometimes seen”.
Some believed, however, that her proud independence — the actress had maintained a long-distance relationship with the prince for much of their courtship — could be a source of contention for the Windsor family.
“I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches; I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works,” Markle once wrote on her blog “Tig“.
Popular tabloid the Daily Mail wrote that it was “easy to see what happy-go-lucky Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have in common”.
“What’s less clear is… what some female members of the Royal Family will make of a fiercely independent young woman”.
Beyond her role as an ambassador for the charity “World Vision Canada”, which works to improve children’s lives in developing countries, Markle regularly asserts the feminist beliefs she forged during her childhood in California.
“Aged 11, she forced a soap manufacturer to alter an advert after she wrote a letter to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton and other high-profile figures complaining that it implied women belonged in the kitchen,” wrote BBC.
Nowadays, the actress also campaigns for women’s rights alongside the United Nations
In a speech she made on the 2015 International Women’s Day, she urged women to make their voices heard.
“Women need a seat at the table, they need an invitation to be seated there, and in some cases, where this is not available, they need to create their own table,” she said.