Meghan Markle will officially join the royal family as Prince Harry‘s wife, according to several reports.
The news of the forthcoming nupitals is significant for myriad reasons: the potential for the family to have a greater worldwide influence, the possibility of carrying on their bloodlines and believable increases in the royals’ diplomatic relationships. Perhaps the most important point is that Markle, who stars on USA Network’s Suits, will represent her African heritage as a member of the royal family.
Markle may draw similarities to iconic figures who some historians believe were African, including Queen Charlotte.
Black people in the U.S. and Britain have long talked about Charlotte, known to history as the wife of the English King George III (1738-1820). She is a direct descendant of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House, according to Mario de Valdes y Cocom, a historian of the African diaspora whose research was published by PBS. Castro y Sousa’s ancestry is traced back from the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana, who may have been a Moor and thus a Black African, Valdes y Cocum wrote.
Other historians have disputed Valdes y Cocom’s reasoning, but the questions arising from his research are alluring. If Queen Charlotte was African, then the possibility of having a royal family full of members with Black heritage becomes more real, ushering the subject of racism to the forefront.
Allegations of racism against Blacks were raised about Queen Elizabeth by Sir Roy Strong, former director for the National Portrait Gallery in London, according to UK’s The Times. Strong, a diarist who documented his relations with the royal family for decades, described one encounter with the matriarch.
‘I can remember the Queen Mother came to lunch at Ham House, which was a branch of the V&A, and she said, ‘I will bring the liquid refreshment’, and we all knew what that meant,” recounted Strong. “Suddenly in the middle of lunch, I was on the left of her I think, and the Queen was in Africa at the time, and the Queen Mother leant over to me and said, ‘Beware the blackamoors’. I thought, ‘I can’t put that down, it’s too awful.'”
The dark shadows of racism in the UK, like that in the U.S., will not stop people from celebrating Markle and Harry’s engagement.
“The mixed-race population in the UK is the fastest-growing ethnic group and it’s lovely to see couples like ourselves reflected in the royal family,” a woman identified by only her first name, Rosa, who is Black, said to The Guardian. “No doubt closet racists will be upset, but Harry himself comes from mixed stock, so they’ll have to get over it… I hope their union chips away at some of the latent prejudice in this country, where people bemoan “PC culture” because they’ve been deprived of the right to use racist language as they used to.”