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SARAH VINE: Meghan will be a great force for change. But she must pay heed to tradition too 

Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle as she married Prince Harry on May 19

Her Majesty, like the Lord, works in mysterious ways. You would never catch her expressing an opinion in public — but she has her own way of making her views clear.

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So it is perhaps no coincidence that the Queen saw fit to confer upon Meghan Markle the title of Duchess of Sussex on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Harry.

After all, there is no better county in Britain more suited to this most politically correct of new royals.

It plays host to Brighton and Lewes, spiritual homes to those members of the liberal intelligentsia for whom Hampstead and Islington have become a trifle too reactionary.

So what better title to confer on the couple who have just staged the most ‘woke’ wedding in royal history.

For those unfamiliar with this fashionable expression, ‘woke’ denotes a person whose sensibilities are perfectly attuned to the modern way of thinking. That is to say, someone who is rigorously respectful of individuals’ life choices and cultural traditions, scrupulously virtuous in both thoughts and deed — and who sees each new day as an opportunity to spread the gospel of inclusivity and diversity.

It’s fair to say that the Royal Family has never been terribly ‘woke’.

Injustice

Sound asleep and snoring loudly might be a better way to describe their general attitude to political correctness, especially in the Duke of Edinburgh’s case.

But Meghan and Harry are here to change all that, and their wedding was only the beginning.

Less than 24 hours after saying her wedding vows, a biography of the Duchess of Sussex was put up on the royal website, underlining the selfless nature of her existence and her burning desire to oppose injustice in all its forms.

Above all, it cites her ‘keen awareness of social issues’ and tells us she is ‘proud to be a woman and a feminist’.

It also speaks of her ‘lifelong commitment’ to ‘social justice and women’s empowerment’.

These are all deep preoccupations in the mind of the new duchess, the website informs us.

But then we kind of knew that already, did we not? After all, Meghan and Harry seem to have spent the entire period of their engagement proselytising on such right-on issues.

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, center, in Windsor Castle surrounded by their little loved ones. (From left back row) Brian Mulroney, Remi Litt, Rylan Litt, Jasper Dyer, Prince George, Ivy Mulroney, John Mulroney; front row, Zalie Warren, Princess Charlotte and Florence van Cutsem

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, center, in Windsor Castle surrounded by their little loved ones. (From left back row) Brian Mulroney, Remi Litt, Rylan Litt, Jasper Dyer, Prince George, Ivy Mulroney, John Mulroney; front row, Zalie Warren, Princess Charlotte and Florence van Cutsem

Meghan Markle's official page launched on the Kensington Palace website says she will continue with her charity work 

Meghan Markle’s official page launched on the Kensington Palace website says she will continue with her charity work 

And for anyone who had not yet cottoned on to Meghan’s Mission, Saturday’s wedding ceremony will have made it crystal clear.

There was the invitation to a former gang leader among 2,000 ‘ordinary’ guests invited to the wedding itself. And there was the request that instead of wedding gifts, donations could be given — among other worthy recipients — to a charity that empowers women in urban slums.

Meghan and Harry’s big day was, as much as anything, an exercise in making sure the entire world knew exactly how much they cared about everyone as well as each other.

Everything about it was scrupulously politically correct, from the hand- embroidered flowers on her veil (representing all 53 countries of the Commonwealth) and the choice of a non-polluting electric battery-powered car (albeit worth a very uninclusive £350,000) in which Harry drove them to the after-party at Frogmore House, to the dress itself, a £200,000 creation designed by the first British woman to head a Paris couture house.

Even the flowers were locally sourced. As if that weren’t enough, Meghan took herself down the aisle (an audacious look-at-me move which is apparently a feminist triumph), succumbing only briefly to tradition to take Prince Charles’s arm — though note that he was not ‘giving her away’ — and wrote and delivered her own speech at the reception.

But perhaps the strongest statement of all was the people in St George’s Chapel, the guests and performers.

The American preacher Michael Curry who, with his iPad and Episcopal passion, blew away the cobwebs; the brilliant young cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who held us all spellbound during the signing of the register; the wonderful Kingdom Choir gospel ensemble, led by Karen Gibson.

An official photograph released by Kensington Palace shows Meghan and Harry surrounded by their loved ones, including the Queen and Prince Philip 

An official photograph released by Kensington Palace shows Meghan and Harry surrounded by their loved ones, including the Queen and Prince Philip 

Admire

Not to mention all the representatives from various charities espoused by the royal couple.

And then the celebrities, there for their roles as charity do-gooders as much as their glamour: David Beckham, Oprah Winfrey, Elton John, Amal Clooney. Everywhere you looked, a festival of diversity and inclusivity, not a note out of place. It was perfect.

Almost too perfect, some might say.

Because for all the gushing tributes, there was something just a little ostentatious about all the sincerity.

Don’t misunderstand me: I think that Harry and Meghan make a wonderful couple, and I am sure they will bring nothing but benefit to the Royal Family. And I admire their commitment to doing good in the world.

But sometimes one gets the sense that they are ever-so-slightly just a little bit pleased with themselves, a little too keen to convey their selfless dedication to those less fortunate than they are.

To be fair, this is a common affliction of the modern age.

The days when royals such as Princess Anne just went off quietly and got on with their charity work without really mentioning it to anyone apart from the odd horse are, sadly, long gone.

And it is hard to imagine a future monarch behaving like the Queen, full of warmth and generosity towards her subjects, yet at the same time able to maintain that all-important mystique that still surrounds the monarchy and makes it so compelling.

For all the positives of Harry and Meghan’s all-star union, this is my one worry. That in seeking to show the world what a wonderfully modern couple they are, they will unintentionally undermine the institution of monarchy — and risk turning the whole thing into a circus of virtue-signalling.

And the problem with that is that it becomes less about the people they wish to help, less about the causes and issues that Meghan is so passionate about — and all about them.

Already with the wedding, I couldn’t help feeling that there was a sense that it was as much engineered to cast the couple in a certain beatific light as it was to honour those involved.

There is no question that, as royal weddings go, this broke all the moulds in terms of overcoming barriers of class and race.

Feminist and activist Meghan Markle will not stop her charitable work when she begins royal duties, she confirmed

Feminist and activist Meghan Markle will not stop her charitable work when she begins royal duties, she confirmed

Elitist

At the same time, though, it also felt strangely elitist, as though they were simply replacing one exclusive club — the aristocracy — with another, Hollywood celebrity.

The trick to any kind of modernisation is being able successfully to blend the old with the new without alienating either.

To understand how and when to respect certain traditions and not to be subversive just for the sake of it.

There is a lot about the Royal Family that remains sacred to the people of Britain, however irrational that can sometimes seem.

Let us rejoice at the evolution of monarchy; but let’s also not turn it into a glorified lifestyle blog for guilt- ridden millennials.

It is wonderful that Meghan and Harry have such a shared passion for doing good in the world. And I have no doubt that, together, they will prove to be a great force for change.

I just wish they would be a little less #MeToo about it all.

 



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