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Is Meghan Markle the first black royal?

By Sinmisola Sode

Meghan Markle, American actress and humanitarian born on August 4, 1981 to Thomas Markle, a Caucasian and Doria Ragland, an African-American, had a relationship with actor and producer, Trevor Engelson in 2004 after which  they got married on September 10, 2011 and divorced in August 2013. Since June 2016, she has been in a relationship with Prince Harry,  who is fifth in line to the British throne. Prince Harry and Markle met on a blind date that a mutual friend set up.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The press began to report the relationship in October 2016. On November 8, 2016, the  British royal family’s communications secretary released an official statement that addressed the “wave of abuse and harassment” directed toward Markle. The statement spoke to the sexism, racism and defamatory stories directed at Markle, including an unspecified “smear on the front page of a national newspaper”.  It urged the press to “pause and reflect” before driving these storylines. Her engagement to Prince Harry was announced on November 27, 2017.  By then, she had met  Queen Elizabeth II, Harry’s paternal grandmother, several times. The engagement announcement prompted much comment about the possible social significance (or insignificance) of Markle becoming a proudly mixed-race  royal.

There is so much public scrutiny on Markle as she is set to become a member of the royal family. This is because she is black, she’s a foreigner, has been divorced, is in the entertainment industry and she is older than Prince Harry. But then she is not the first female to be married into the royal family with these features

The first black queen

Queen Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz ,  wife of King George III who was queen from 1761 till her death in 1818 was black and of mixed race. Charlotte, born on the 19th of May as the eighth child of Prince of Mirow, Germany, Charles Louis Frederick and his wife, Elisabeth Albertina of Saxe Hidburghausen was a direct descendant from Magarita de Castroy Sousa, a black branch of the Portugese Royal House.  She was the first black queen of England. Queen Charlotte maternity hospital, Charlotte town and many other places still carry her name in honour. Queen Charlotte was a patroness of the arts and an amateur  botanist, who helped expand  Kew Gardens. George III and Charlotte had 15 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood. She was distressed by her husband’s bouts of physical illness and insanity, which became permanent in later life and resulted in their eldest son’s appointment as  Prince Regent in 1811.

 The divorcee turned duchess

Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson met King Edward in 1936. Though she was married, they had a love affair till she divorced her husband on the 3rd of May, 1937. Edward who became king in January 1936, abdicated the throne on the 10th of December 1936 and left for France where he married Wallis in June 1937 following her divorce. Prince Albert, Duke of York, brother to Edward went on to assume the crown and took the royal name of George VI. King George gave his brother, Duke of Windsor which made Wallis the Duchess of Windsor though she was never granted the formal ‘Royal Highness’ title because the Church of England at that time didn’t permit divorced persons to remarry while their spouses are alive. And being King then, Edward was the head of the Church of England. His parents also neither attended the wedding nor gave their blessings,  but things are much different now especially since the Church of England changed the rule to permit divorcees remarriage while their spouses are alive in 2002.

The royal entertainer and celebrity

Hungarian-American actress and socialite, Zsa Zsa Gabor became the Duchess of Saxony after her marriage to Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, earning her the royal title of Princess von Anhalt. Born Sari Gabor on February 6, 1917 had been married several times before her final marriage to the Duke which lasted till her death on December 18, 2016. Her sisters were actresses Eva and Magda Gabor. Gabor began her stage career in Vienna  and was crowned  Miss Hungary in 1936. She emigrated from  Hungary to the United States in 1941. Becoming a sought-after actress with “European flair and style,” she was considered to have a personality that “exuded charm and grace.”

Outside her acting career, Gabor was known for her extravagant Hollywood lifestyle, her glamorous personality, and her many marriages. In total, Gabor had nine husbands, including hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton and actor, George Sanders. She once stated, “Men have always liked me and I have always liked men. But I like a mannish man, a man who knows how to talk to and treat a woman  — not just a man with muscles.

 Foreigner becoming royal

Emma McQuiston was born in 1986 in London to Suzanna McQuiston, an English socialite, and Chief Oladipo Jadesimi, a Nigerian oil magnate who is the executive chairman and founder of Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Company, LADOL. McQuiston has a half-sister by her father, Amy Jadesimi, who serves as the chief executive officer of LADOL. Through her mother, she has a half-sister, Samantha McQuinston, and an older half-brother, Lain McQuiston, who is the husband of Viscount Weymouth’s aunt, Lady Silvy Xerne Thynne. McQuinston served as a bridesmaid in her half-brother and Lady Thynne’s wedding and has known her husband since she was four years old. She was head girl at Queen’s Gate School  and later attended the University College London to study art history. After university education, she studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  McQuiston and Viscount Weymouth announced their engagement in November 2012. They were married at Longleat House, the family estate in Wiltshire on June 8, 2013. Upon her marriage, McQuiston became Viscountess Weymouth. The wedding ceremony was not attended by the groom’s parents, Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath and Anna Thynn, Marchioness of Bath. His father boycotted the ceremony after a feud with the Viscount over changes made at Longleat. His mother was banned from the ceremony by the Viscount after repeatedly making racist remarks regarding McQuiston. Viscountess Weymouth is the first black viscountess in England. When her husband succeeds his father as the Marquess of Bath, Viscountess Weymouth will become the first black marchioness in British history. She stated that she has experienced racism and prejudice from other members of the British nobility. Viscountess Weymouth gave birth to her first child, The Honourable John Alexander Ladi Thynn, on 26 October 2014  by surrogacy at a private clinic in West Hollywood. The couple had another child, The Honourable Henry Richard Isaac Thynn, on 30 December 2016. The use of a surrogate was due to health problems that Viscountess Weymouth was suffering from. The children’s paternal grandmother, The Marchioness of Bath, is banned from visiting the children due to her racist remarks.

Age is just a number even in royal relationships

Camilla is the eldest child of Major Bruce Shand and his wife, Rosalind Cubitt, the daughter of Roland Cubitt, 3rd Baron Ashcombe. She was raised in East Sussex and South Kensington, and educated in England, Switzerland and France. She worked for different firms in  central London, most notably the decorating firm, Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler.  Camilla, born in 1947 and Prince Charles, born in 1948 reportedly met in mid-1971. Though they both belonged to the same social circle and occasionally attended the same events, they were formally introduced to each other at an event by a mutual friend, Lucia Santa Cruz. They became close friends and eventually began seeing each other, which was well known within their social circle. As the relationship grew more serious, Charles met Camilla’s family in Plumpton and he introduced her to some members of his family. In 2005, it culminated in a  civil marriage  at  Windsor Guildhall, which was followed by a televised  Anglican  blessing by the  Archbishop of Canterbury,  Rowan Williams, at  St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. As Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla assists the Prince of Wales on his official duties. She is also the patron, president and a member of numerous charities and organisations. Since 1994, she has taken action on  osteoporosis, earning honours and awards. She has also raised awareness in areas including rape and sexual abuse, literacy and poverty.


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