Emily Zemler is a freelance writer based in London.
Memorabilia celebrating the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be sold on May 8 in a gift shop in Windsor, west of London. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP / Getty Images)
One and a half years ago I left my life in sunny California to move to London, where I, a stubborn, outgoing American working in the entertainment industry British married. He was not a prince, but he felt like one to me, and since then I've tried to understand British life and history, much of which is rooted in inexplicable traditions – nothing more inexplicable to me than the continued fascination of the Country with everything that is royal.
I have never understood the charm of the royal family, nor have I succumbed to the obsession for their existence. My mother-in-law knows everything there is to know about the royal family and can explain every detail of her story. But I could never connect. I did not turn on when Kate Middleton married Prince William; I only watched "The Crown" because I was hired to write articles about it. I ask all the time to explain to my friends and family in England why the royal family is important and why they care about it. I did not, at least not until the arrival of Meghan Markle.
The media have made much of the harsh opposition of Markle and her new in-laws. The British royal family is rooted in centuries-old rigid historical traditions. Markle is American – from Free Spirit California, home to avocado toast and kale – and she's divorced, biracial and stubborn. She wants a wedding cake that goes far from the pies of yesteryear. She is a working actress. And she's older than Prince Harry, a fact that is obviously unpleasant to many. For an older generation (and some younger ones) these facts are not seen positively. But Markle points out that life does not have to go this way. And that's a good thing.
My husband is 10 years younger than me, a fact that only becomes apparent when I make a reference from the 1980s and then find that he did not live in the 1980s. Most people do not know our age difference unless they are specifically mentioned (and then the response is typically a shocked open mouth, followed by an elongated "what …?"). I do not find the fact that I exist for more than a decade, strange or unusual, but many other people do.
In Britain, as in America and many other places around the world, there are certain types of people doing things And there is often a blind assumption that life should follow a certain path, simply because it was in the past. This is especially true for the British Royals. Harry's great aunt, Princess Margaret, was not allowed to marry the man she loved because he was divorced; His aunt, Princess Anne, could not marry his friend Andrew Parker Bowles because he was a Catholic. The break with tradition is not easy. Markle, a particularly identifiable figure, has become an icon of non-traditional representation and, for women who could never imagine marrying a prince before. And she stood strong in the face of the devastating blows of the tabloid tabloids that have made much of their race and personal history.
Progress comes in a society when those who dwell in it can imagine positions that are not their own. It's not necessarily about empathy, though that helps. It's about expanding your worldview beyond what you personally know and the ability to accept that we do not see or feel the world in the same way. What matters is that a princess does not have to be British or white, and that she does not have to shut up on global issues, especially with regard to gender equality and diversity. Since adopting Harry's suggestion, Markle has turned the fairy tale into something more accessible, especially to those who do not come from noble backgrounds or aristocratic (and white) bloodlines. It allows us to visualize a more progressive version of the royal family and offer a new acceptable reality – one that could perhaps even become more traditional.
It is ridiculous and restrictive to assume that life should be lived either way a bride should look, act or be in a certain way because of who marries her, whether she is royal or not. I got married at 11am on Thursday at Islington Town Hall, which is as good as someone who had a massive church wedding or made his vows to Elvis before Las Vegas. Markle's willingness to fight against tradition and withstand the resulting public scrutiny offers more scope for the rest of us. We can go and marry younger redheads (like me) with hopefully less judgment. The sooner we accept that there are infinitely many versions of acceptable reality, the better.