The understated fashions at Saturday’s royal wedding between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry served as perfectly tailored nods to British nuptial tradition, yes. But that’s where stodgy British tradition stopped. Meghan and Harry’s wedding was a delightfully bold celebration of the couple’s authentic style. A peek into what the future might hold for the nontraditional monarchs. And to this I say, “Amen.”
Markle chose a beautifully low-key yet absolutely stunning solid white sheath — featuring a demure bateau neck and three-quarter-length sleeves — that Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy designed especially for her to marry her prince, calling back to the Hollywood glamour of Audrey Hepburn.
As tradition would have it, the now Duchess of Sussex opted for a 16-foot cathedral veil fashioned from silk tulle. Paying a sweet homage to Markle’s new home across the pond, the veil’s edging was embroidered with 53 flowers, each one representing a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Markle’s tiara came straight from Queen Elizabeth’s jewelry vault as the diamond bandeau piece, made in 1932, belonged to Queen Mary.
The horse-drawn carriages were ready to take the “The Long Walk” at Windsor as Harry — ginger beard gloriously unshaved — was all smiles in the Blues and Royals frock coat reflecting his 10 years of service in the British army.
And we can’t forget the page boys and bridesmaids. The little boys donned frock coats like Harry’s straight from Savile Row, and the precious little girls were, like the bride, decked out in Givenchy Haute Couture. Precious. Markle arrived dutifully beautiful (and a tad bit fashionably late).
While there has been much fanfare about a biracial American woman marrying a prince of England — both sides questioning her authenticity to either race — Markle, 36, didn’t make a big deal about her cultural choices. That was the beauty of this wedding. She just let the newness of the union wash over her and us. In embracing all of who she is — her freckles, her mama, her preacher — she stood confident in her truth. So it felt easy, natural, as though she belonged in a palace that not so many years ago would have made her enter through the back door.
Unlike the 18th-century Queen Charlotte, who was trotted out in earnest as the first part-black princess in the days after Markle and Harry announced their engagement, Markle is not erasing her blackness. Nor is she hiding behind it. She’s just letting it be.
And that, at least to me, was way more stunning than her minimalist Givenchy.
There is no bible of blackness. But many of us — white and black — think there is. When other people don’t play by these rules, we wait, we wonder, we judge. This wasn’t a black moment. Nor was it a white moment. It was her moment. It was a beautiful moment. And in this way Markle, standing firm in simple, satin pumps, made history, as details we never thought we’d see at a British wedding became real, naturally unfolding before our eyes. I’m glad she could have that. That moment.
Markle arrived at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in a vintage Rolls-Royce with her mother, Doria Ragland, who came to slay in a sage Oscar de la Renta dress and matching hat that sat perfectly atop crinkly locks swept gently into a low ponytail. And wait. Did I spot a teensy diamond nose ring? Yep. Do you, girlfriend!
Under the chapel’s soft lights, Markle’s freckles were a can’t-miss on naturally bronze cheeks under sheer, pink blush. Clearly no effort was made to cover them up.
It got real when Markle, whose mother was the only member of her family in attendance, still managed to coolly bring the African American side of her family through the front of the palace gates with the Most Rev. Michael Curry’s moving 13-minute sermon.
“There is power in love,” said Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, in a tone that rippled through the space the same way I imagine the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice would have.
“When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook,” he preached, echoing the civil rights leader’s exact sentiments.
This was followed by a soulful rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” by Britain’s Kingdom Choir, a 20-person gospel group led by Karen Gibson. Talk about a palpable departure. There was a lot of fascinator nodding, but eyes registered surprise. Because, face it, this is not a place where black sermons are traditionally given. If it were warmer, I would have expected to see fans moving. And surely there were some inaudible mmhmms.
Whatever the response, it didn’t matter. The new duchess’ very presence will bring new cultural traditions to the palace. But she won’t make a fuss about it. She’s independent and she’s grown. And from this wedding it’s clear that Markle has no intention of letting the monarchy suffocate key parts of her. This wedding wasn’t just a celebration of a marriage to a prince. It was one of an independent American woman who comes to the monarchy with new ideas and clearly won’t let it obliterate her complexity as a biracial woman of color.