Timeline 1900 – 2024

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

On the 19th May 2018, Prince Harry, the second son of the future King of England and sixth in line to the British throne, married Meghan Markle, a American divorcee of mixed black and white parentage making Markle, arguably, the first person of colour to marry into the Royal Family. The couple’s relationship sparked an international conversation on race and interraciality.

In early July 2016, Prince Harry, the sixth in line to the British throne, and Meghan Markle, the American daughter of a black mother and white father, met each other on a blind date set up by a mutual friend. The couple immediately hit it off and embarked on a whirlwind romance out of the public eye, including taking a camping trip to Botswana. In October 2016, however, both the American weekly magazine People and the British newspaper Sunday Express reported that Prince Harry had secretly been dating the star of the popular television series Suits, American actress Meghan Markle for several months and was ‘besotted’. The relationship was officially confirmed in a statement issued by Prince Harry in November 2016 and the couple’s closeness over the following year was increasingly and feverishly reported on by the press, not least their engagement announcement in November 2017. The couple wed at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, with the immediate Royal Family in attendance, as well as Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland. On marriage, the title of Duke and Duchess of Sussex were bestowed on the pair. Amidst a sustained bout of media speculation, in October 2018 the Sussexes announced that they were expecting their first child in spring 2019.  The marriage is generally considered to be the first time a person of colour has married into the immediate royal family, though it has been theorised that both Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), the wife of King George III and Phillipa of Hainault (1310/15-1369), the wife of Edward III were of distant black African descent. 

Whilst most of Prince Harry’s relationships have previously attracted considerable and frantic press interest, his relationship with Markle appears to have drawn even more feverish levels of attention due in some part to her status as a divorcee, an American and an actress, but predominantly as a result of her mixed race heritage. In his statement confirming their relationship in November 2016, Prince Harry condemned ‘the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.’

From the outset of the relationship becoming public, there has certainly been considerable global commentary on Markle’s racial background and identity, with opinions spanning a wide spectrum of views and stances: from positioning her as both ‘exotic’ and ‘ordinary’, as someone who is both ‘trouble’ for and the ‘saving grace’ of the royal family, and as both authentically or not authentically ‘black’, ‘white’ or ‘mixed’ enough. Meanwhile, the couple have been situated as representative of everything from a ‘post-racial utopia’ to the ‘tainting’ of monarchy via black ‘seed’, and their wedding ceremony both celebrated and condemned for its multicultural nature.
While there is clearly a diversity and complexity of views, opinion polls indicate that both Meghan Markle and the high-profile integration of a person of colour into the royal family generally have the approval of the British public: in 2018, a YouGov poll indicated that 69% of people approved of a royal marrying interracially, and that Harry was the most popular royal and Meghan the 6th most popular, both ahead of all the Queen’s children and majority of grandchildren.

The couple are expecting their first child which is due in April 2019.