Along with 29 million other people from all over the world, I too was tuned into the Royal Wedding last Saturday, 19 May 2018.
I’ve been an avid follower of the British monarchy since stumbling upon a book on the notorious Henry VIII and his six wives, and also watched Prince William’s wedding to Catherine Middleton back in 2011, which was pretty standard, even for a royal wedding: a church decked out with flowers, guests arriving in their Sunday best, the bride’s father walking her down the aisle, vows being said, and the newlyweds kissing at the end.
Yet despite all that being present at last Saturday’s wedding, the overall atmosphere felt rather different, and a lot of that had to do with the woman who met the queen’s grandson at the altar. So, just who is Meghan Markle?
1. Meghan Markle is the first biracial woman to marry a British senior royal.
Born Rachel Meghan Markle, the LA native’s parents are Doria Ragland, an African-American yoga instructor and clinical therapist, and Thomas Markle, an Emmy Award-winning director of photography.
2. She started making waves as a feminist at the ripe, old age of 11.
For a social studies assignment back in grade school, a young Meghan and her classmates were made to watch commercials. Confused and upset by the sexist undertones of many commercials, she actually wrote to Procter & Gamble (and to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton) about her concerns. The gesture landed her on national television – and led to the consumer goods giant actually changing the language in one of their commercials based on her recommendations. Wow.
Markle continues to support women’s rights, including both the Time’s Up and #MeToo campaigns.
3. Her early years in the acting industry were cash-strapped.
Before she rose to fame as Rachel Zane in “Suits,” Markle apparently revealed in an interview that she once couldn’t afford to get her car fixed. The beat-up, hand-me-down Ford Explorer Sport apparently had doors that slammed shut, a motor that sounded like a “steamboat engine” when it started up, and a license plate tied to the bumper with a bungee cord.
4. Expert calligraphy is one of her many talents.
Most Hollywood celebrities waited tables or drove limos between auditions to support themselves before their big break, but the former Suits actress had a more unconventional day job as a freelance calligrapher. Dolce & Gabbana was among her clients in the day, and she credits her education at a Catholic school for her handwriting skills.
5. The Royal Wedding isn’t her first rodeo.
Markle was married once before, to LA production company manager Trevor Engelson. They tied the knot back in 2011, but divorced less than two years later.
6. Prior to giving up her acting career, Markle starred in Suits for seven years.
She’s played Rachel Zane, a paralegal with undeniable beauty, an astounding work ethic, and whip-smart intelligence on the popular legal drama since July 2011.
7. She had her own lifestyle brand.
Members of the royal family are forbidden from having their own social media presence (all their press is handled and curated by an official account), but before Meghan Markle officially became Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Sussex, she was quite active online. Her site, The Tig, covered everything from food to travel to interviews with other celebrities, and it had quite a decent following.
Fun fact: Claire Ptak, the baker who made the elegantly simple lemon-elderflower wedding cake for Harry and Meghan, was one of the people featured on the blog in the day.
8. Running is her go-to exercise.
“Running has always been my form of moving meditation, which I relish because it allows me to get out of my head,” Markle once claimed. Yoga is also one of the ways in which the former actress prefers to spend her downtime.
9. Prince Charles walked her down the aisle.
Markle’s father was allegedly unable to attend the wedding due to a recent cardiac surgery, so the Prince of Wales stepped in to escort his son’s bride to the altar. Prior to meeting her father-in-law at the quire of St. George’s Chapel, however, Markle made history by being the first royal bride to make part of the walk down the aisle unescorted, which many took as another subtle proclamation of her identity as an independent woman.
10. Harry and Meghan met through a blind date set up by one of their mutual friends.
They then embarked on a long-distance relationship for two years, balancing shooting schedules and conflicting time zones along the way.
Makes you wonder what your friends are supposed to be doing, eh?
Meghan Markle was 36 when she got married, three years older than her royal husband. A half-black American actress raised by a single mother and once divorced herself, she worked her way up the ranks to build a successful and meaningful career for herself. Nothing in her early life or career indicates a shrinking violet who never rocks the boat, which seems to run contrary to the image of a traditional princess. Just a few decades ago, her union with someone who is currently sixth in line to the world’s most powerful throne would have been unthinkable.
Yet there she was, not just marrying England’s last remaining eligible prince, but also honoring her unique heritage through infusing the royal wedding with some of the best examples of black excellence: Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir singing “Stand By Me” and Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon on “the power of love,” to name a few. And it all came together beautifully, powerfully.
Change is indeed afoot, and for now, at least, things look as promising as they ought to on any wedding day.