Arushi Sinha - 37 weeks ago
Meghan Markle has made salacious news with every move since she became a Princess. The documentary Million Dollar American Princesses – Meghan Markle, is as much about love as it’s about the changing face of the royal family on race and tolerance.
When one thinks of an ‘American Princess’, the first name that comes to mind is Meghan Markle, an American actress, who gained popularity as the smart paralegal Rachel Zane on the American legal drama Suits, and subsequently left acting to marry Prince Harry, a global celebrity, British royal and prize catch for upper crust British girls. Before earning the title of princess, however, Markle was known as an avid feminist, outspoken and passionate about women’s rights since a very tender age.
Becoming a part of the British Royal family meant giving up quite a few choices for this sassy young actor. A rare trait amongst celebrities, Markle had an informed opinion, which she would air on her blog The Tig. Before marrying Prince Harry she had to close the blog in April 2017, taking all of its articles offline, and had to delete her social media accounts since January 2018. Her friend, Priyanka Chopra, had stated on the popular American talk show, The View, that by marrying a prince, Markle was entering a whole new level of craziness, where her every move and every moment spent in public view would be clicked, covered and judged by tabloids and common folk. In short, the royals are natural fodder for gossip. And Markle is a prime case of this.
Million Dollar American Princesses, an informative and entertaining narrative of Meghan Markle’s remarkable life story, offers a succinct view of a woman who has wanted to do something good for this world. In more ways than one, this incisive documentary is the ideal starting point in understanding the challenges that a woman like her faces in the structured world of royalty. Meghan’s life after she became part of the royal family makes for a fascinating view and Million Dollar American Princesses: Meghan Markle, a Smithsonian Channel produced documentary captures the monarchy’s new attitude towards conventions. This American Princess, millions aside, has taken on her part as Duchess of Sussex sincerely, tackling tasks close to the Queen’s heart. Apart from being the UN Women Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership, she has been vocal about using her royal position to create positive impact on issues around gender equality and civic issues like provision of potable drinking water in the Third World countries.
But, like with every new member of the royal family, she was greeted by tons of pressure not only in terms of incessant media coverage of the royal couple but also targeted negative and salacious coverage of the new American Duchess. During the course of their first royal tour, Markle’s outfit choices, her conduct in public and her footwear - everything was nastily remarked upon by the British tabloid press, and picked up regularly by international online media. That it surpassed limits of decency was evident when Prince Harry issued a public statement addressing the excessive media coverage as ‘harassment’ and even ‘cyber-bullying’ towards Meghan and her rather random bunch of relatives. Then came a slew of stories about Meghan and Princess Kate, Prince William’s wife, of not getting along. The palace was forced to clarify on these as absolute fiction. Mean coverage of Markle’s pregnancy continued unabated, despite the fact that she was a mom to be. Markle has delivered a healthy baby boy recently.
(Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their wedding last year)
What first began as mere speculation towards Prince Harry’s new love interest soon escalated to comments about her being a divorcee and her biracial ethnicity. Prince Harry received full support from the royal family to propose to Meghan and the wedding was fixed, even if some percentage of the public was against having a ‘black princess’, a ‘biracial princess’ or even a ‘retired actress who has shot intimate scenes with co-workers’. In the pre-judgment that continue to impact Meghan Markle’s run as an imported American princess, it is impossible not to notice an outdated elitism rather reflective of the British ‘stiff upper lip’. After all, an actor’s career choices or a divorce can’t be considered grounds of rejection. Add to that Markle’s natural proximity towards philanthropy and social work, which make her a different kind of celebrity from the world of showbiz. In the relentless media attention that she draws, her life as princess is reminiscent of another American princess and also of a dead royal.
(Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth during their visit to Cheshire)
Meghan was definitely greeted more warmly by her in-laws than a previous American royal bride. What is hardly known to people of the current generation is that the first American Princess was Wallis Warfield Simpson, married to King Edward VIII. She was not only American but was divorced from her first husband and estranged from her second! A royal marriage would have conflicted with the king’s role as head of the Church of England, which at the time forbade marriage to a divorcee with a living former spouse. In 1936, Edward abdicated from the throne because he found it difficult to discharge his duties as King, without the help and support of his love. He was given the title of Duke of Windsor and Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, after their marriage in 1937. However, she was not greeted with the usual “Her Royal Highness” salutation but with “Her Grace” - a position far lower than her rank. Obviously, media coverage wasn’t the best for them, with Wallis being cited as the reason for the separation of Edward VIII from the Royal Family.
(King Edward VIII with his wife Wallis Warfield Simpson)
Perhaps the extended British Royal family reserved the harshest form of exclusion for one of their own - Lady Diana Spencer. Diana, the people’s princess, carved her own path with philanthropy and empowerment for women and children. Her legend continues to enchant young people till today, and her mistakes have been forgiven by public memory given the merciless treatment that she faced from her royal in-laws. Diana took her time to state in public what was already known through tabloids, when she stated to the BBC, “There were three in our marriage.”
Diana was always the larger draw amongst people, overshadowing her reserved husband Prince Charles at charitable dos and international events. She took social causes to a whole new level of engagement as a Royal. She was a princess you could touch and feel, rather than just wave to. Her divorce only served to bolster her popularity but the Western media continued to paint her as a scarlet woman. Mother to princes William and Harry, Diana’s accidental death along with Dodi Al Fayed in August 1997 indicated harsh fact - tabloids could risk lives to get a photo. Ironic as it may be, it is Diana’s tragic death that did more than decades of British public opinion’s disapproval to make the Royals accessible to people. The Queen gave a public statement of condolence on TV even though technically Diana was divorced and not a member of the Family.
(Meghan Markle playing with a Rwanda child during her charity trip to the country)
Outsiders, who have been part of the royal family have time and again made their mark on a pitch that could best be described as a difficult social and political setting. Meghan Markle’s journey to the position she has reached now makes Million Dollar American Princesses – Meghan Markle, a compelling view. The documentary serves to engage, inform and tells viewers in no uncertain terms that life is never a fairy tale, not for anyone.
(Million Dollar American Princesses – Meghan Markle is currently playing on myNK)
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