Nearly four decades ago in Lahore, Pakistan my grandmother watched Lady Diana Spencer gingerly step out of a carriage in a froth of white taffeta and walk into St. Paul’s Cathedral to marry Prince Charles. My maternal grandmother, although a married mother of three in her 40s in 1981, couldn’t help but be swept up in the worldwide mania with what seemed to be a fairytale come to life.
This weekend the world watched with the same rapt attention as another bride-to-be emerge from a sleek car and shyly waved to the expectant crowds before walking into Windsor’s Castle’s St. George’s Chapel to meet her prince. Meghan Markle’s matte white silk wedding dress with its tailored silhouette was a complete departure from the billowing, bejeweled gown Princess Diana wore nearly four decades ago. Not a ruffle or pouf in sight. But then it is more than just this bride’s style that defies royal conventions.
A mixed-race American divorcee in her mid-30s is hardly the image that comes to mind when most think of a princess, or Duchess of Sussex to be exact. But this is Meghan Markle’s unique background. And it is likely the very reason the 100,000 well-wishers lining the route of the couple’s carriage-trot, gleefully waving flags and whooping their congratulations, as well as those watching around the globe, are both intrigued by and enamored of her.
It was surreal, yet heartwarming, to see Markle’s African American mother, a social worker and yoga teacher who raised Markle as a single mom in Los Angeles, seated near the Queen of England! Her dreadlocks piled neatly under a mint green cocktail hat, she looked on with misty eyes as her daughter became the first mixed-race member of England’s royal family. As a brown-skinned woman, I can only imagine the excitement and sense of identification that must have welled up in the black and biracial girls and women watching the ceremony.
In a world where so much is ugly at the moment, this wedding added a welcome spark of diversity and inclusion. And in America in particular, where the prevailing political climate is one of hatred and nativist intolerance—be it towards blacks, Muslims, women or immigrants—this royal wedding demonstrated that diversity is not a threat to one’s culture, but rather strengthens bonds and revives traditions. It may not be the antidote to exclusionary ways of thinking, but this royal wedding is a drop of love and diversity.
Zehra Rizavi is Managing Editor of altM.