When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle first announced their engagement in November, there was speculation that the American actress, a self-described feminist, would have her identity subsumed by the crown. She’d shut down her lifestyle blog, given up her work with the United Nations and other philanthropic organizations, and quit her acting role in Suits. Before the wedding, she’d been baptized into the Church of England, to which Harry belongs.
But the couple’s wedding on Saturday at Windsor Castle provided a powerful reminder that making sacrifices for a spouse and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive.
In short, even as Meghan assumed her new royal title—the Duchess of Sussex—she and Harry threw a big, fat, feminist wedding.
It wasn’t just that the bride walked herself down most of the aisle, that she omitted a promise to “obey” from her vows, or that her new husband Harry will break with male royal tradition and wear a wedding ring.
What truly elevated the ceremony was the way it made clear that Markle’s cultural background—the child of an African-American woman, Doria Ragland—was on level footing with the traditions of Harry’s family, arguably the most prominent and storied on planet Earth.
There were the lessons of love from Bishop Michael Curry, the first black head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, who, in the animated style associated with pastors of black churches, seemed to rattle the dust off the chapel’s centuries-old rafters with quotes from Martin Luther King and references to the antebellum South.
“Dr. King was right, we must discover love. The redemptive power of love,” he said in his barnstorming homily. “And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”
His forthright delivery left pews of aristocrats gap-mouthed and summoned admiration from on-lookers across the globe, who’d been craving an uplifting message for a world in tumult. They ate up every feel-good morsel.
Then there was the music, which mixed traditional hymns with soul classic “Stand by Me” and the civil rights anthem “This Little Light of Mine.” The Kingdom Choir, a Christian group from Southwest London made up of black Brits and led by celebrated gospel singer Karen Gibson, belted out that last song in foot-stomping fashion, as the bride and groom processed from the church and stepped into the gleaming English sun.
It was enough to give you goosebumps.
Outside Windsor Castle, after the ceremony, Karen Smith, 75, from Naples, Florida, told me she hoped Meghan would continue to promote the causes that she appeared to hold dear, like supporting women’s rights in the workplace and providing resources for women who’d experienced domestic abuse.
If Saturday’s Royal Wedding was any indication, Meghan’s feminist causes will carry just as much weight as Harry’s projects. So cheers the newlyweds and to what—in this early stage, at least—appears to be their marriage of equals.