Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London on Monday, Nov. 27.
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“The choice by Prince Harry and Prince William to marry ‘commoners’ with real-life backgrounds brings our royal house closer to the people, paving the way for a new-style monarchy,” wrote the British tabloid The Sun.
The paper was supportive of the engagement of Prince Harry, noting, as all British newspapers have, that his fiancee, Meghan Markle, an American actress, is also biracial.
Other British publications have observed that Ms. Markle’s father once went bankrupt and was able to send Meghan to private schools chiefly because he won the lottery and that Meghan’s brother is of the laboring class.
Class is something of an obsession in Britain, and in ways that Americans cannot quite fathom.
Royal marriages and romances are closely followed, as well. And sometimes they change history.
Some 80 years ago, the king of England abdicated the throne to marry “the woman I love.” Wallis Simpson was a divorced American.
“Obviously, 70 years ago, Meghan Markle would have been the kind of woman the prince would have had for a mistress, not a wife,” sniffed the Spectator.
Meghan Markle is also divorced, hardly seen as a disqualifying fact or character flaw in most of today’s world (thankfully).
So, while much of England has applauded an infusion of healthy DNA into the Royal Family, a very small part asks: “has she the breeding” to be a royal? She is, after all, a “commoner,” as Kate Middleton was.
Actually, Ms. Markle is not a “commoner,” because she is American. While the elegant and uncommon Kate Middleton, as a British subject not of royal blood, was, technically, a commoner, Ms. Markle is an American citizen. This means that, by definition, she is of the same rank as all other Americans — from a street person to President Trump.
The word commoner may simply seem unkind, like the Spectator. Or it may be seen as insulting, as in the applied use of the word common. But it has a specific meaning in Britain with regard to class. So its misuse only confuses things.
“So far, there hasn’t been a single female commoner who has married into the highest echelons of the Windsor family who has maintained a successful career,” wrote Jennifer Wright in the New York Post about Prince Harry’s engagement to Ms. Markle. An American writer should know better.
We do not have commoners and royalty in the U.S.
An American woman in Great Britain is a foreigner, but she is not a commoner. For, in her country of origin, there is no legal status of “commoner.” Meghan Markle has the same standing in Britain that she would have in America: She is a full-fledged citizen of a country that does not have peerage or ranks. The most uncouth American who travels to England is (in our eyes) equal in social and civic rank to any of the peers of the realm in England.
One cannot help but think of Winston Churchill and his great pride in his American mother, whose memory he cherished. He also loved the United States and his friends here. He knew us and understood us, as no other British leader ever has. And in one of his several addresses to Congress, Churchill opined that, had his father been American and his mother British, “I might have got here on my own.”
That speech, known as the “masters of our fate” speech, can be seen here.
But if Churchill had been American and had advanced politically, it would have been without title or royal blood. For there is none in this land.
There are no commoners in America, and we need to tell that to our British friends. America abolished ranks of precedence. We may be a pretend meritocracy, and we may have too much plutocracy, but we have no commoners. Meghan Markle is a citizen. The new U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James should seek a meeting and make that point clear.
Every one of us 330 million Americans — happy as we all are to see our countrywoman betrothed to a British prince — will agree, and affirm, with one loud voice: “No American is a commoner.”
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