A royal wedding like no other: Diana would have approved

A black, American bishop invoked Martin Luther King Junior in a rousing address. A black cellist played at the ceremony. From Serena Williams to Oprah Winfrey, many of the world’s most famous black women were in attendance.

And then there was the bride: a mixed race, African American; a divorcee; a woman with an immensely successful career behind her; and a woman who announced herself a feminist on the website of the royal family.

This was a royal wedding like no other. In that most insular, class conscious and whitest of white cliques, aka The Firm, this was a magnificent, unprecedented celebration of diversity. The fact that it was occurring at a royal wedding, in one of Britain’s great chapels, in a town renowned for housing Eton, one of England’s oldest, finest and snootiest public schools, in a place that is home to the world’s oldest inhabited castle, and in which the population is overwhelmingly white-Anglo-Saxon, made the occasion freighted with symbolism.

This was as removed as it could have been from Prince Charles’s wedding with Princess Diana. Meghan Markle is not an English rose. She is a feisty, confident, accomplished woman of the world with a well-documented private life. Her mother is black. It is hard to imagine that the royals will be able to want her to be dutiful and pliant.

Even the vows the couple exchanged were different from what they had been when Diana married Charles. As the New Yorker magazine reported, Meghan did not, like Diana, need to recite the groom’s litany of first names. Nor did Harry have to say, as his father did, “And thereto I plight thee my troth.” Instead, it was “In the presence of God, I make this vow.” Subsequently, the official portraits the newlyweds released broke with royal tradition. Informal and vibrant, they were refreshingly different from even the ones released after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The senior members of the royal family have always been lofty, remote, inscrutable, almost unknowable to the public. And some of those in attendance at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Saturday, certain reports suggested, were made dizzy by the scale of the change they were encountering.

Change has been a while coming. Princess Diana, who revelled in the sobriquet of the people’s princess, had tried to hammer away at the staid and stodgy façade of the royal family and what it represented. She had tried to drag the institution, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Her younger son’s wedding to Markle closes the loop on her efforts.

At the royal wedding, the monarchy appeared accepting, even encouraging, of a new reality. Emerging from the shackles of fustiness and primness, it came across as contemporary and relevant.

The wedding did not — as it would have in previous generations — shower pixie dust on the bride. It seemed to be the other way around. Diana would have approved.