When a newly retired, biracial American actress married into the Royal Family, I was one among the many, who developed a keen interest in her to the extent of writing an essay on the same. My expectation for the Duchess of Sussex then, was that she would go on to do amazing things especially in championing causes for women of all races, in her capacity as a royal. It was also my first time to learn of the many rules that members of the British Royal Family have to adhere to being representatives of the Queen. Some of these rules truly fascinated me.
I come from a Commonwealth country and prior to Duchess Meghan getting married to Prince Harry, my limited knowledge of the family was mainly on Princess Diana. I have a vivid memory of watching the live broadcast of her funeral procession and service with my mum as a child and how tears instantly welled up in her eyes when she saw the casket. In that childhood innocence, I immediately asked mum why she was crying and she told me that Princess Diana’s funeral had reminded her of my grandmother’s funeral.
My grandmother passed on in 1991 and being a toddler then, I barely have any recollection of what kind of a woman she was save for what I have heard from family members and seeing items she knitted and crocheted for her grandchildren. A couple of my baby clothes were actually knitted by my grandmother who was a Domestic Science teacher for many years. Some of my close relatives believe I got my teaching streak from her.
Seeing mum moved to tears by Princess Diana’s funeral created this curiosity in me that made me want to know more about her. I knew she had been a fan of the woman and it had to be because of something that Princess Diana used to do while still alive, that so much awed an African mother on the African continent such as mine. Growing up, there was a public library very near where she worked and I often ended up there when I accompanied her. Mum would make sure she had chosen child appropriate books for me before she left me under the watchful eye of the librarian in charge for the day.
I was quite a reader and a fast one too and within a couple of minutes, I would be done with all the books. Since the librarian would often be preoccupied, I would wander into the adult section looking for other books to read. At the time, library shelves in my country would be stacked with more of books written by authors from the West than from Africa. Then one day, I stumbled on a book about Princess Diana! What would soon follow was me carrying the book back to my table and reading page after page of what I knew my parents would not wish for a child my age to read.
I even stumbled on salacious accounts of the affairs the Princess is rumored to have had. I remember being so deeply engrossed in the book that I did not notice my mum come in. Her eyes widened in horror when she realized what kind of book I had just been reading. My good guess is the librarian that day got a thorough telling off for not paying attention to a 6, 7 year old.
In later years, I would discover that the Queen herself had learnt of her father’s death while on vacation in my country. And much later, I would find myself working in the Front Office Department of a hotel where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had spent a night in the hotel’s suite, on that very same trip where Prince William would propose to his longtime girlfriend, Kate Middleton. Indeed, it was something most of the hotel employees kept recounting to new employees with pride.
Then came Duchess Meghan and for the past year since she joined the royal family, I have kept up with news on her every single day. I have read the good and the bad. The latter outweighing the former much to my utter dismay. I had expected that whatever positive pursuits she engaged in would be focused on more than what was considered off in some quarters. It has been horrifying to read tweets which contained so much bile, directed at the newest family member of the royal family. I actually stopped actively checking any Meghan Markle related tweets, focusing on articles instead.
What has thoroughly impressed me this year though, is how the Duchess has amazingly managed to maintain that positivity when so much negative is put out there on a daily basis. As if on a quest to weaken her resolve, literally every aspect of Duchess Meghan’s life has been criticized. From how she chooses to wear her hair, to the frequency of holding her baby bump, to how much she holds her own husband’s hand, to how she even carries her own baby.
How the British press chooses to treat her deeply mirrors what her deceased mother-in-law faced. Something that American actor George Clooney and friends to the Sussexes once pointed out in concern. And while Princess Diana may have been ill-equipped to deal with the constant harassment she faced, there is something in Duchess Meghan that makes me believe that she can be able to overcome this.
In the past year alone, Meghan has worked with the Grenfell Fire Victims and managed to release a bestseller Cookbook. She is currently set to launch a fashion collection in the hopes of benefiting one of her royal patronages, Smart Works, which aids unemployed women in the UK to get back to employment. She guest-edited the September 2019 British Vogue issue whose cover she declined to appear on instead featuring 15 inspirational women dubbed Forces for Change. In all her undertakings often under a barrage of unfair criticism, the duchess has clearly not wavered from her quest to empower women of diverse backgrounds.