Royal wedding breaks tradition on more than one front

British throne welcomes first biracial person into royal family

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Meghan Markle, with a white father and African-American mother, is the first biracial person to join the UK's royal family. Some have wondered about her ethnicity and what it will mean to the British people.

University of North Florida history professor, Albert Dorsey Jr. gives some insight on what it is like to live in England and be black.

"Black folks in England probably share a very similar role as those here in the USA. However, there's not the prison industrial complex. Great Britain did not suffer a legacy of lynch mob violence. so I think they're better positioned to have a better criticism of how Meghan will fit into English society," Dorsey said.

He said while it appears the royal family has embraced Meghan, others in England may not.

"There is a wave of nativism going across Europe, as there is in the United States. And some of those folks will never accept her as being equal."

The professor says Meghan is a role model so it will be interesting to see how this changes things in England.

"Perhaps it'll change things for young African-American girls. Perhaps things might get worse, who knows how she'll have to navigate her way through royalty, or what kind of individual she'll be after she gets married. I think its a positive thing personally," Dorsey said.

Another issue is that Meghan had been married before and is divorced.

Times do change, especially when you consider the history of the monarchy.

Another royal wedding was not accepted back in the 1930s because the bride was previously married. That unapproved marriage ended up placing Queen Elizabeth on the throne.


"The government of England said no, not a chance. We will not accept her in any role in a royal capacity," said Dr. Elizabeth Furdell, professor emeritus of history at UNF.

In 1936, King Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was twice divorced.

That unwillingness to accept Simpson and Edward's refusal to give her up led to his abdication in 1936.

He was succeeded by his brother George VI, Queen Elizabeth II's father.

"We wouldn't have Harry had that first marriage back in 1936 been recognized as authentic," said Furdell.

Part of that acceptance now might be because of Harry's position.

"Harry is sixth in line for the throne so it's not the same if the king were to marry an American who is divorced," Furdell said.

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The royal family has accepted Meghan so much that Prince Charles escorted her halfway down the aisle to marry his son.

"I think it's a really lovely gesture of inclusion and affection for Harry that they are doing this. Charles didn't have to, he's not giving her away, it's a very gentile gesture on his part," said Furdell

She has no doubt that Meghan will make a wonderful addition to the royal family.

"She's great with children, they like her because she's pretty and kind and has the same sort of appeal Diana did to become the people's princess. They seem to be marrying for love which is a nice notion rather than having something arranged," Furdell said.

Meghan did not make the promise to obey Harry, which follows more modern vows.

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