In a royal wedding that has drawn global attention, American movie star Meghan Markle tied knots with Prince Harry on Saturday. The happy union of a prince and a biracial divorced American actress has marked a significant evolution in the British monarch, revealing the tremendous efforts that the royal family and the British society has made in breaking social taboos that still confine certain parts of the world.
A black preacher at the wedding, chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, spoke to Markle’s mixed-race heritage. Evoking Martin Luther King and slavery in an occasion that celebrates two people in love, his sermons have created an empowering moment for the black community and a global audience, who see a biracial and divorced Duchess making into a castle of white privilege as a beautiful step forward.
Divorce was another social barrier to enter the royal family not too long ago, and Markel’s historical moment wouldn’t be made possible without the previous painful emotional sagas in the monarch’s history. Queen Elizabeth II’s accession of the throne was a testament to the divorce taboo in British culture and the Church of England. Several decades ago, Queen Elizabeth’s uncle David fell deeply in love with an American divorcee, who was not granted to remarry a future king by the British power structures at the time. As a result, David abdicated in 1936, catapulting his younger brother, and later his niece, to the throne.
The second divorce scandal plagued the royal family during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. It was more than heartbreaking for the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret when her dream of marrying a divorced equerry, Group Capt. Peter Townsend went in vain. Margaret was told that she could marry Townsend — if she renounced her royal rights and left the country for some years. Facing a painful dilemma, she chose her royal position and eventually married someone else. The marriage ended up in divorce.
Apparently, had Harry lived in the historical times, he would not have been granted to marry a divorcee without renouncing his claim to the throne. But the remarkable shift of the public attitude towards divorce has fueled a wave of change that spreads to the monarch and beyond. It gives western divorced women equal rights to re-tie the knot – even with a man at the apex of society. However, despite the striking changes in the developed world, women in Asia still experience downward mobility after divorce.
In historic China and under traditional Chinese culture, women were deemed as a curse who could cast a tragic spell after divorce. They were frowned upon, not entitled to inherit any property, and treated as unsuitable for remarriage. Bringing shame to themselves and their families, they faced a devestating fate of either committing suicide or turning into a beggar or prostitute.
While divorced women in China today have enjoyed more equal rights than their historical counterparts, they are still suffering an inferior social status than men. Unlike the court system in western countries, China’s divorce court grants no custody of children to the divorced mothers and deprives their rights in sharing assets including matrimonial homes. Discriminations against black people are still a social norm, with physical assaults and verbal attacks against black people going rampant in every day’s life.
While Markle’s big day has drawn global enthusiasm, it has received a far less fan fair in China. Chinese social media shows significantly subdued interest compared with the wedding of Kate Middleton seven years ago. The Duchess of Cambridge has remained to be a fashion icon ever since the white, never-been-married Middleton’s announcement of her engagement with Prince William. It is unfortunate that the modern Chinese society is still shackled by the disgraceful values abandoned by much of the world. The lack of Markle fever in China may merely expose a naked truth that a bi-racial divorcee is not their cup of tea.
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