In the end – after all the melodrama about in-laws and outlaws, race and clashing cultures – it was both a deeply personal moment and a global event brimming with cultural meaning.
A justifiably proud, almost wistful mother seeing her daughter off into a new life; a father-in-law stepping in to escort a bride who might’ve represented the daughter he never had; a self-possessed scion supporting his adored, rougher-around-the-edges kid brother on his big day; and oh, that kid brother – like a hero out of Jane Austen – waiting, craning his neck, hoping almost against hope, as it were, for “her” to appear. Then, finally, yes, it was she, of course, poised at the entrance of the church, but then, who else would it, could it, be? Looking like a goddess, an angel, a bodhisattva in a bateau-neck silk Givenchy gown and a 16-foot veil embroidered with the flora of the 53 Commonwealth nations, she seemed to have alighted from another world to signal both an end and a beginning.
As the former Rachel Meghan Markle – now Her Royal Highness Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex – stood there at the entrance to St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, she was a woman in full, complete unto herself, one of the psychological virgins that Jungian Esther Harding describes in her book “Woman’s Mysteries.” She didn’t need Prince Harry, or any prince for that matter. She didn’t need anyone.
But then, this has never been about the completion of Meghan Markle – feminist, activist, independent-minded American. This has always been Prince Harry’s journey, as The New York Times noted a few days ago, from motherless child to wild child lost in the media woods to disciplined soldier and mental health activist to what one Vanity Fair headline called “Harry Ever After,” prince of hearts both still and at last.
And what of the deeply political bride, now part of a world where dark nail polish is verboten? She may not need her Harry but it was clear to all who watched them gazing into each other’s eyes during the ceremony – holding hands, sharing a shy laugh – that she loves him as he loves her. And love is a funny thing as Bishop Michael Curry said in his stirring, ecumenical address – one whose words should resonate in our troubled times. It is the world lit by fire, he said – quoting both Teilhard de Chardin, the French Roman Catholic Jesuit, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one that requires that you love yourself but also be unselfish, a delicate balancing act.
Now the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex walk that narrow path together.
We hope it will be Harrily ever after.