Good heavens, hide the china!
A clamorous clutch of dreadfully gauche Yanks has been making a mockery of the royal wedding, set to occur on Saturday in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Can the aristocracy survive?
That’s hard to tell, judging from the class-based ruckus churning around Meghan Markle, the American actress (Rachel Zane on Suits) and California gal who’s marrying His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales (a.k.a. Harry), 33. He descends from Charles and Diana, as well as Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith (a.k.a. Grandma).
It appears that Markle, 36, has the temerity to actually have a family herself. A nutty American one.
And therein lies the problem.
“It’s like The Dukes of Hazzard and The Simpsons vs. the royal family,” said Markle’s 51-year-old half-brother, Thomas Jr., a window fitter in Oregon. He would know.
The guy was arrested for allegedly shoving a gun against his girlfriend’s head in a drunken argument. He also hand-penned a note to Harry (complete with misspellings) warning him not to marry Markle, calling her a “below C average actress” who’s “jaded, shallow, conceited” and will “make a joke of you and the royal family heritage.” He also called his half-sibling a “phoney,” which in the United Kingdom, America, and anywhere else they speak English is spelled “phony.”
Then there’s dad, Thomas, 73, who lives bankrupt in Mexico and has been accused of working with a British tabloid photographer to stage phony (phoney?) wedding-related photos, for which he may or may not have been paid.
Also, Markle’s half-sister, Samantha, 52, has been overheard telling all and sundry that little Meghan (whom she hasn’t seen in more than 10 years) “would be busing tables and babysitting” if it weren’t for her father.
Samantha is also writing a book titled The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister — not a tell-all, she insists, but an enchanting account of “the beautiful nuances of our lives.”
Not to be outdone, out of the Markle woodwork is assembling another Oregon contingent of the family, including former sister-in-law Tracy Dooley Markle and her sons (Markle’s nephews) Tyler and Thomas Dooley. Tyler, 25, is a cannabis farmer who’s apparently unveiling a potent strain of weed known as “Markle Sparkle.” He has said he’d be happy to offer Meghan and Harry a sample.
The Dooleys showed up this week in Heathrow Airport, with one of the nephews rocking a diverting tank top in what may have been his homage to The Beverly Hillbillies or Jersey Shore or something.
In a stunning display of what observers are hailing as good taste, none of the relatives is invited to the wedding, save Thomas Sr., who had surgery this week and isn’t expected to attend, and Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, 60, a social worker and yoga instructor.
Undaunted, the Dooleys promised they would appear as TV commentators during the wedding for Good Morning Britain, eager to dish on a relative they have not seen in two decades.
And to put the cherry on the Bakewell tart, so to speak, Markle’s ex-husband (yes, O shocked Britannia, she’s divorced), Trevor Engelson, has been shopping a sitcom about a divorced American mother who moves to London to marry a British royal.
“All in good fun,” the British might say, if they weren’t British.
Instead, U.K. TV interviewer Piers Morgan uttered this: Markle’s family has “behaved like the worst kind of vile, dysfunctional, money-grabbing misfits. …”
Other commentators shared that unvarnished thought. Similarly, the queen is said to be piqued, although no one has confirmed that.
While they haven’t acquitted themselves all that well, the Americans may never have stood a chance with the English upper crust because of social-class differences, according to historian Stephanie Coontz, an expert on marriage and the family, at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.
“The Brits have a more historical notion of class that has to do with breeding and bloodlines,” Coontz said. “One is judged by the extent to which one has been socialized into aristocratic manners.”
And manners may be in short supply among the Markles and other Americans, in the eyes of the British.
No less a British intellect than George Orwell, who penned Animal Farm in 1945, wrote disparagingly about how the lower classes smell and how the upper classes are disgusted by the working class.
“That’s been going on for a long time,” said sociologist Allison Hurst, an expert on class from Oregon State University.
For example, the middle and upper classes in England (and the United States for that matter) will see photos of Markle’s overweight father holding a bag of Kentucky Fried Chicken and mock him, Hurst said. They won’t directly make fun of his class, which is taboo, at least in public. But they’ll disparage his eating habits, Hurst said, as a code for saying he’s less than.
“Therefore, people can mock him without sounding like they’re being class snobs,” she concluded.
In the end, it seems, this wedding is placing Markle and her fellow Americans in the worst possible light.
But there are a few factors to consider before we bow our heads and succumb to British superiority:
Markle herself, whose mother is African American, said that she is descended from slaves, 3.4 million of whom were taken to the Americas by British ships, according to historian David Richardson of the University of Hull in the United Kingdom.
While British weddings are long on pomp, some were short on substance. King Henry VIII, for example, beheaded two of his six wives.
Americans kicked the Brits out of America twice (the Revolution, the War of 1812), then bailed them out in World War II.
The British press may be hounding the Markles, but they’re also famous for tapping the phones of their fellow Englanders.
And, let’s face it, Harry’s dad, Prince Charles, was somewhat less than discreet in his marriage to Harry’s mother, Diana.
And if all that weren’t enough, the British gave the world the Spice Girls.
So, chin up, Meghan Markle. It’s your day. Ignore your relatives.
And let England see you smile.