One thing is clear: the world is excited about the royal wedding in the UK this Saturday. Prince Harry, sixth in line to the royal throne, is marrying an American actor – a woman of modest beginnings and also a woman of colour.
The royal family seems to have accepted the idea without a hint of any brouhaha. Of course, royals previously have married commoners in recent times, but Meghan Markle will be the first person of known mixed race to join the British royals. These are enlightened times.
How will Markle define her role as a royal? William, Kate and Harry have all, to varying degrees, tried to infuse once stuffy royal activities with some humanity. In this they are very much carrying out their late mother Diana’s legacy.
Markle has been a philanthropist from the start. She has actively participated in humanitarian causes and is likely to exceed the others in these efforts. After marrying the prince, perhaps she will give back to the British public and the rest of world what was so tragically lost on Diana’s death in August 1997.
Markle’s work as a philanthropist began long before she knew she was marrying a British prince. Perhaps growing up as a woman of colour attuned her sensitivity towards the less fortunate. Even as a teenager she had volunteered in soup kitchens and spoken out for women’s and children’s rights.
Not only in her own country but internationally, she has fought for the rights of those suffering and dispossessed. She has been intimately involved with the humanitarian work of World Vision. She represented the organization many times, including on her most recent trip to Rwanda where she helped establish clean water facilities for about 1,000 people in one community.
This achieves more than it may appear, because, in Meghan’s own words, “I think there’s a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water; which, of course, it is. But it’s so much more than that. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school, because they aren’t walking hours each day to source water for their families.”
The fight for gender equality also took her to India as a World Vision ambassador. There she worked with local activists and policy makers to enable young women to receive an education, as in some parts of India they face similar social pressures to young women in Africa.
Meghan Markle has also reportedly visited cancer hospitals and HIV victims. As personal gestures of kindness and goodwill, she has also visited people injured by landmines or in fires, such as survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in London.
Her humanitarian efforts recall the commitment of the late Princess of Wales. Diana set an example in carrying out humanitarian work, for example by visiting terminally ill children or helping African famine victims. It is unsurprising that this woman, soon to become the newest royal, has been compared to her late mother-in-law.
Other royal family members have also supported humanitarian causes, but usually in a more measured way. Meghan Markle seems passionate about her good deeds. Hers may be the very spirit that not only the royal family needs, but that all of us do. In a divisive world, it is still worth emulating this kind of committed and inclusive philosophy.
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