The Media and The Royal Engagement
01-Dec-2017


Media frenzy on the news about British royals is nothing new.

Engagements, marriages, births, deaths, scandals, extramarital affairs and divorces of British royals have always been excellent fodder for the world’s press.

After their ruling of almost half the world, until some 80 years ago, one thing is sure about British royalty. Everyone knows them.

Now, with the immensity of the speed-and-reach of social media, there would be hardly anyone who did not hear the news of the official engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.

Unless one is living under a rock, it is impossible to miss the excitement in the cyber world - and in the non-cyber world - of this royal engagement.

I had watched a few episodes of the Netflix TV’s legal drama series ‘Suits’ some time ago. And that is why I was genuinely surprised when I found out who Meghan Markle was, in the series.

She plays the role of Rachel Zane, a beautiful, strong, and lovable character, who – after the first few episodes – develops romantic feelings for the lead character Mike Ross; a lawyer with eidetic memory brilliantly played by Patrick J Adams.

Even though Meghan Markle’s humanitarian work included visiting Rwanda and India where she’d spoken up for underprivileged girls and for their empowerment, somehow her work as an actress dominates the media perception; and of the public.

In the past, British princes marrying divorced women caused enormous scandal. But, today, the media and public are simply not concerned about Meghan Markle’s earlier two-year marriage.

Born to a Caucasian father and an African American mother, perhaps, Meghan would also be “the first mixed-race British royal” we shall see.

Prince Harry, we know, has slipped down a few rungs in his line to the British throne in the last few years.

He was third in line until four years ago, when Prince George was born in 2013 to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

He became fifth in line after his brother’s second child Princess Charlotte was born in 2015.

And he might soon become sixth in line, if his brother’s third child arrives in April 2018.

But whatever his position in line to the throne, a prince is a prince.

And a commoner marrying a prince is the stuff fairy-tales are made of. And Hollywood, too.

Interestingly, if we look back at the divorced women British princes were engaged to, we can understand how things have changed, in the last 100 years.

When King Edward VIII announced his engagement to the twice-divorced Miss Wallis Simpson, in 1936, the entire country was thrown into a tizzy. It became a shock and scandal. The king had to finally abdicate, as he wanted to marry a divorced woman, rather than sit on the British throne.

Princess Margaret’s affair too, with Peter Townsend, a married man who later divorced caused enormous scandal in the late 1950s. And Princess Margaret had to leave him for Antony Armstrong-Jones. Her sudden engagement to Armstrong-Jones, following the scandal, had taken the press by surprise.

Queen Elizabeth II’s engagement to Prince Philip and Prince Charles’ engagement to Diana Spencer had made them media favourites. But the later engagement of Prince Charles – after Princess Diana’s death - had upset the media and public, which slowly gave in.

Prince Charles’ engagement to divorcee Camila Parker Bowles was grudgingly accepted by the public; as the future head of the Church of England simply cannot marry a divorcee.

But, with time, the public perception toward British princes and princesses marrying divorced persons has changed.  And we know media gives the public whatever the public wants. 


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