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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

The 'diversity' royal wedding had shades of black and white

Bride Meghan Markle pinned her colours to the flag and brought a distinctive touch to the ceremony

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in Windsor last Saturday / Getty 
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in Windsor last Saturday / Getty 

In the end, it was not the dress, the fairytale carriage, nor the prince dressed in military regalia, waiting nervously by the pulpit, that dominated the headlines. It was how, when Meghan Markle said: “I do” to Prince Harry on Saturday, there were shades of black, white and grey in the ceremony. Whether it was the Bishop Michael Curry, who sparked a frenzy on social media – and some raised eyebrows in St George’s Chapel – with his passionate address referencing Martin Luther King and slavery; whether it was the gospel choir, a staple in African American churches, crooning the civil rights anthem Stand By Me at the end of the aisle; whether it was the bridal procession to the tune of Etta James; or whether it was the performance by Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the first black winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year – perhaps it was all those things that led to the royal wedding being dubbed “the diversity wedding” and “a celebration of blackness”.

In truth, the British royal family – and the country at large – has sometimes struggled to appear inclusive. The scandal of the Windrush generation, which saw descendants of immigrants to Britain being wrongly deported, has left the government looking racist and out-of-touch. The shell left from the Grenfell Tower fire is a stark reminder of how its migrant inhabitants were abandoned in their hour of need. And the royal family has previously been mired in controversy, whether it is via Prince Harry’s youthful high jinks, Prince Philip’s inappropriate comments or Princess Michael of Kent wearing a blackamoor brooch the first time she met Ms Markle. What was clear on Saturday was that the former actress was defining her terms and pinning her colours faithfully to her own flag. No doubt she is aware of the reputation for aloofness and occasional cultural gaffes of the family she has married into. But the welcome extended to her and her mother are perhaps indicative of a softer, kinder side to the royal family, forced to re-evaluate its appearance to the public in the wake of Princess Diana’s death. Prince Harry is a symptom of that lesson learnt and it showed in the way he has gently guided his family into a new era.