The unbridled joy with which Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle publicly announced their engagement was a beautiful reminder that love makes all things possible.
Their backgrounds could not be more different. Markle, the daughter of a white Jewish father and an African American mother, is a 36-year-old divorcee from Los Angeles. Prince Harry is the 33-year-old son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Much has been made of the interracial nature of Prince Harry’s relationship with the American actress. There has been criticism and outrage, vitriol and hate. But for me, the pending nuptials of two people so clearly enthralled with each another represent love’s greatest byproduct: hope. If love can propel Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to look beyond the racial hatred that has taken hold in our politics and in our societies, perhaps there is hope for the rest of us. Perhaps, if we are willing to follow their example, love can defeat the scourge of racism.
I’ve been told more than once that the idea is far-fetched, and maybe it is. But I am an incurable romantic, with an undying belief that love can defeat the unconquerable. And let’s be honest: If there is an enemy that looks impossible to defeat, it is the plague of modern racism.
However, when I look at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I am reminded that love and hope go hand in hand.
In a world where Donald Trump can rise to the presidency on a tide of racial resentment and a bevy of racist comments, we need hope. In a world where 60,000 far-right Poles can march against brown immigrants, we need hope. In a world where neo-Nazis are normalized, and Confederate slaveholders are memorialized, and anti-racism protesters are vilified, we need hope.
As a member of Britain’s royal family, Prince Harry must surely understand that truth. He had a front-row seat for the Brexit vote that succeeded thanks to a campaign that demonized black and brown immigrants while convincing Britons to leave the European Union.
But Prince Harry also saw another side of race through the life and loves of his mother, Princess Diana. Divorced by Harry’s father, Prince Charles, Diana embarked on a relationship with Pakistani surgeon and cardiologist Hasnat Khan. Soon after, she met Egyptian film producer Dodi Fayed. Fayed and Diana were in a car that was chased through a Paris tunnel by aggressive paparazzi, and Diana died in the ensuing accident. But before she died, Diana showed us all the power of love.
Through her various charitable endeavors, she exhibited a compassion for those who did not look like her. In her personal life, she was open to loving beyond the barrier of skin color. Prince Harry shares that quality with his mother, and he has invited his mother into his relationship with Markle by incorporating Diana’s diamonds into Markle’s engagement ring.
In a world where racism and bigotry are making furious inroads at the highest levels of governments from America to Europe and beyond, the love of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle could serve as a light shining through darkness. But theirs wouldn’t be the first royal relationship to serve as a precursor to racial change.
Britain’s King George III married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761. Queen Charlotte, according to sources, including PBS, was directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese royal family. Queen Charlotte’s African features are most obvious in paintings by Sir Allan Ramsay, an artist who was one of the leading anti-slavery thinkers of his day. Sir Ramsay married into the family of Lord Mansfield, the British judge whose 1772 ruling was the first in a number of judicial decisions that outlawed slavery in the British Empire.
It’s ironic that Charlottesville, the Virginia city named for the woman reputed to be Britain’s first mixed-race queen, was the scene of a deadly march by torch-bearing white supremacists earlier this year.
But maybe the violence that killed anti-racism protester Heather Heyer is a precursor to change. Maybe Meghan Markle, a mixed-race woman like Queen Charlotte before her, will bring about the racial progress we need. And along with Prince Harry, she is fully equipped to do so.
Call me crazy, but I think they can succeed using only a single word — love.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books. Listen to him weekdays from 10 am to Noon on Praise 107.9 FM