Traditional ceremony in changed times

The letter was reportedly addressed to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Photo: Reuters
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Photo: Reuters
Later tonight,  the most anticipated wedding of the year will take place at St George’s Chapel,  Windsor, when Prince Harry  marries American actress Meghan Markle.

The traditional ceremony will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor, the Rt Rev David Conner, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will officiate as the couple makes their marriage vows.

Preparations for the wedding have not all been smooth. Miss Markle’s father  will not  walk his daughter down the aisle after having heart surgery. Mr Markle was caught up in a paparazzi furore, the blame for which is now being laid at the doors of Windsor Castle for not providing him with protection. Miss Markle’s mother will attend the wedding.

Prince Harry is used to high public scrutiny, particularly since the death of Princess Diana, mother of Prince Harry and his brother and  second in line to  the throne Prince William. As a  prominent cast member of the popular television series Suits, Miss Markle is  used  to the demands of the media. However, a royal wedding lifts interest to a completely new level.

Pioneering American bishop the Most Rev Michael Curry, from Chicago, Illinois, has been invited to deliver the address as the couple demonstrate their transatlantic relationship amid the tradition of St George’s Chapel. Bishop Curry is the first African-American bishop to have served as the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, a role he has held since 2015.

Miss Markle, who was a women’s advocate for the United Nations, and Prince Harry are likely to chose the Series One (1966) Book of Common Prayer ceremony, which allows the bride to remove "obey him’’ and "serve him’’ from the religious proceedings — another sign of equality in a world seeking better recognition of the role of women.

The Royal Family are still held in high regard,  mainly because of the love and respect people have for Queen Elizabeth. The Queen has been a tireless advocate for the Commonwealth, and, although there have been a few missteps along the way, particularly around the death of Princess Diana, she remains revered by her adoring supporters.

It is interesting to note how different history might be playing out if it was not for the Queen’s uncle King Edward VIII also expressing his love for an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.In 1936, King Edward abdicated  the  throne so he could marry Mrs Simpson. As Prince Harry is set to tie the  knot with Miss Markle, also a divorcee, the story of Edward and Wallis needs refreshing.

Historically, marrying a divorcee was considered a taboo among the British monarchy. As the monarch, Edward was by default the head of the Church of England which prohibited people from remarrying especially if their former spouse was alive. In the case of Mrs Simpson, she had two living former husbands. Besides the dilemma of breaking the law of the church, Mrs Wallis was looked upon as a woman who was unfit to be queen because of her failed marriages. Realising how he would jeopardise the monarchy and the church by marrying Mrs Simpson, Edward chose to renounce the throne and make way for his brother, George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth.

Times have changed remarkably. The wedding tonight of Prince Harry and Miss Markle is a sign of the progress the Royal Family has made. Three of the Queen’s children are divorced from their first spouses. The Royal Family is opening up and the openness is being welcomed.

Importantly for the United Kingdom, Miss Markle, who is of mixed race, will provide a huge boost to the confidence for people of colour in the British community.

The rise of right-wing racism in Britain and Europe has been a concern as immigrants pour across the borders.

Making such an important statement about love, whatever the background and colour,  sends a strong message to the community at large that embracing different cultures is not a threat to one’s own wellbeing.

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