Two weddings, and a childhood memory

BY: Ajoa Yeboah- Afari

The wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and American Meghan Markle took me back to my earliest memory as a child of learning about the British royal family.  At that time, too, it had to do with a wedding featuring in global headlines.

It was 1960 and my British stepmother had taken me to the Rex Cinema, in Accra, next door to the then Parliament House, to watch a film of a wedding. Mama had explained that it was the wedding of a lady called Princess Margaret.

A wedding was a novelty to me then and I was fascinated. I still remember her telling me that the Princess had wanted to marry another man, but had not been allowed to. However, it was only the bride’s dress and the bridesmaids, the glamour of the event that had interested me!

The bride was Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, and the groom was Mr Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowdon; now both deceased).

It was much later, when I grew up that I read the fascinating story, and of why the British authorities had not allowed Princess Margaret to marry her lover, Group Captain Peter Townsend.   

As explained by writer Erin Blakemore (in History Stories): “ Townsend was not considered an appropriate royal match … Group Captain Townsend had divorced his wife and proposed to Margaret – and that she had accepted.

“At the time, divorce was considered a major scandal, and it was unthinkable for a royal to marry both a commoner and a divorced man.”  

Fast forward to 2018, May 19. There I was, glued to a screen, this time at home, watching, as did people all over the world, the spectacular fairy tale wedding in the church of Windsor Castle, near London, Queen Elizabeth’s residence. In 1960, I’m sure this marriage could not have been predicted by even the most acclaimed fortune-teller!

Prince Harry, 33, a senior member of the British royal family, was marrying an American and a commoner. His bride, Meghan Markle, an actress; was older by three years and she was also a divorcee. Reportedly, they had been introduced by a mutual friend through a blind date.

Not only that, Meghan, 36, is of mixed race, with a white father, Thomas Markle, and black American mother, Doria Ragland.  A black Princess in the House of Windsor – except that she’s equally white, too.

I admit that I’m somewhat disappointed that so far I have seen only photos of Meghan looking more Caucasian than black; for example, no ‘trademark’ braids. However, refreshingly and assertively, at the wedding, her mother visibly sported braids.

The marvellous simplicity of Meghan’s dress apart, an interesting aspect of the wedding fashion was that the outfits of the Queen and Ms Ragland were almost in the same shade of appealing, soft green colour. A mere coincidence? I wonder!

An intriguing part of the story is that according to reports, Mr Markle’s family and Meghan have not been in contact for years. Apparently, she has not been on good terms with her two siblings by her father’s first marriage, Samantha Grant and Thomas Markle Jr.

Indeed, incredibly, it is reported that two weeks before the wedding, Thomas Jr even wrote an open letter to Prince Harry, published in a gossip magazine in America, advising him not to marry his half-sister! He alleged that Meghan was only a social climber, a phoney and not a suitable wife for the Prince; not fit to join the House of Windsor! “This is the biggest mistake in royal wedding history,” Thomas Jr, 51, had added.

Is it surprising then that none of them was invited to the wedding? Her father had to opt out of the traditional, coveted honour of walking his daughter down the aisle due to medical reasons, it is said. Thus, poignantly, Meghan’s mother was the only family member of hers present at the ceremony. But, strangely, there has also been no mention of Meghan’s maternal family.

Unbelievably, the Markle family members who admit that they have not seen Meghan for years, are said to be upset that they were not invited to the wedding!
Did they want to be invited just so they could be seen as now part of the British royal family?  And they are the ones accusing Meghan of social climbing!

Little wonder that a sympathiser was moved to write, on a social media platform, this caption about Ms Ragland, under a lovely photo of mother daughter in the bridal limousine: “Imagine, you were emotionally abused by your step kids, you were isolated by your ex-husband’s family for being black …. You had to raise your daughter on your own and she’s now a PRINCESS. There’s a God, I’m telling you.”

As to the open letter her brother reportedly wrote to the Prince, hoping to torpedo his sister’s wedding, could Thomas Jr have been so naïve as to think that the royal family would not have had Meghan’s background, and family, including Thomas Jr himself, investigated thoroughly before the Queen gave her consent to the union?

Anyhow, following the iconic wedding, described as the Wedding of the Year, if not of this period, Meghan has a new, even grander title, the Duchess of Sussex.  Not that she came empty-handed to the wealthy House of Windsor. Media reports indicate that Meghan, who has been working mostly in Canada, is not one of the starving actors. Last year her total net worth was estimated at $5 million.

Thinking back to that wedding I watched at the Rex Cinema decades ago, which so awed me as a little girl and its background story, maybe one can conclude that in our present era there are no more ‘impossibles’?

But, anyway, why should people in other parts of the world, people like us, care about this wedding? Why the interest? I guess it’s for the same reason that Ghana is currently in the grip of Latin American telenovelas; the soap opera fever. It seems all our TV stations rely on the soap operas as the public are clearly addicted to them.

Perhaps it’s the perfect tonic to be able to share in others’ happiness or good fortune, to forget one’s mundane life and the numerous troubles of one’s environment, and of the world, even if only briefly. Escapism is the word!

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