At most modern weddings the congregation, when not snuffling or oohing, keeps an ear out for the word “obey”.
Will she or won’t she? To promise to obey in the vows shows tradition, humility, that a bride will submit to her husband and at no point bother herself with either a dictionary or a lawyer. To omit the word indicates that dread word “feminism”, the even-more dread word “feisty”, and also regular rows which, frankly, are in every marriage regardless of who said what.
So brace yourselves, tomorrow, to hear Nicholas Witchell’s opinion that “was to be expected, Meghan is a very different kind of Royal, but Diana never promised to obey Charles and we all know how THAT ended, don’t we Huw”.
It seems like every day we await the Royal wedding is another episode of the Markle Debacle, in which things do not run according to what you’d expect the palace’s plans to be, and therefore a little more like a normal wedding peppered with infighting, drinking and outcast relatives. The latest mismanaged news is that the bride’s father, who was going to walk her down the aisle then decided he was too embarrassing then said he would and then said he was too ill and now appears to be in hospital, is not going to do it after all.
Prince Charles is going to do it instead, perhaps because if there is any role he feels comfortable in it is that of an historical anachronism. But for reasons that no-one can quite fathom he’s only going to walk her halfway, with the bride abandoning her mother a the door of the church and doing the first 100 yards on her own and Chuck picking her up halfway, like a last-minute pint of milk.
There are three reasons for all the confusion: the Markles all seem to hate each other, the Windsors hate each other as well as everyone else, and Meghan Markle is an independent, feminist, career woman marrying into a family where she cannot be any of those things. Of COURSE the wedding is a mess.
But therein lies any marriage’s biggest risk: change. It’s something that’s inevitable over the course of a lifetime but most of us are resistant when asked to do it in a day. When the change is moving house, a joint bank account, or parenthood it’s bad enough – imagine changing every single thing about yourself, in order to join a family that refuses, under any circumstances, to change.
The Meghan we were introduced to after news broke of her romance with Harry was fun. An early starter marriage, some handsome ex-boyfriends, a role in a plot-free legal drama and social media accounts that made her accessible. We saw pictures of her drinking wine, cuddling her dogs, hanging out with celebrity friends in celebrity haunts doing celebrity things. Actual photographs of her with her father, which now seems like the last we’ll ever see of THAT . Meghan the charity campaigner, Meghan the Trump-loather, Meghan who smiled because she had a nice life.
And as soon as Harry and her were an item it stopped. Social media accounts were closed, all socialising was done behind closed doors, the acting and endorsements ended and one of her dogs was even abandoned with friends in Canada. She’s had two trips to the supermarket nearest Kensington Palace and soon stopped doing that when she was photographed picking up a loaf of bread.
Some change on the part of any Royal in-law is obviously necessary – learning protocol, lowering the hemlines, being camera-ready. But what, exactly, is Harry changing in return?
Well, presumably strip billiards, racist videos and swastika parties are now off the table. But they had been put behind him anyway, so don’t really count. There have been reports he’s started drinking green smoothies and going to the gym, but anyone will tell you that won’t last. And there is nothing else – not one single thing – that will change for Harry as a result of being married.
Yes, he’ll get a wife. Maybe children. But the “richer, for poorer” part of the vows will forever be a private joke, his work-life balance will stay the same and the chances are he’ll still be shooting birds at Sandringham on Boxing Day until, and perhaps even beyond, the point he’s in a wheelchair.
Meghan will learn to bow and scrape, to curtsey and hide, speak through others rather than for herself and to not put on a single ounce in weight. Harry will not learn how to deal with her family, as even now they’re almost all being kept locked outside the palace gates. There is no indication he’ll ever meet her father, as news of it would be on a showbiz website before the text message finished its ping.
His brother William managed to blend two families together when he married. Granted, the Markles are more likely than the Middletons to steal the spoons and trip over a corgi, but the entire point of marriage is taking the rough with the smooth.
It’s normal to sacrifice things when you marry. Most of us are lucky if we can limit it to sanity. But Meghan seems to have sacrificed almost everything about what and who she is, while her husband has sacrificed… biscuits? The second slice of cake? How every noble of him.
Meghan could, and may still be, a modernising and humanising influence on the monarchy. Much will be made of her being able to squeeze Ben E. King and Etta James songs into the wedding music. But all her independence seems, on marriage to the Royals, have been boiled down to two songs off the iPod and some finger food.
Of all that we know about Meghan before marriage – AM, if you like – that is all that remains. Meghan post-marriage may still have political opinions but is forbidden from uttering them, will still have relatives but never again speak to most of them, and when we see her smile it will be because she’s on camera, and not necessarily because she’s enjoying herself.
Yesterday she drove to her wedding rehearsal in £7,000 diamond earrings, and how many of those would it take for YOU to be happy as the junior partner in YOUR marriage?
Because if she wants to make a speech someone will check it for constitutional bear-traps first. If she patronises a charity, beauty salon or designer they’ll all be checked out for potential embarrassments. If she has children most if not all of the names will be chosen by history and if she ever wishes to leave it will be on his terms, not hers.
So Meghan can refuse to obey in the service, but will have absolutely no choice about it in reality. Her dress, utterances, behaviour and social circle will be forever under the control and scrutiny of others – courtiers, press officers, the media, Royal superfans and the elderly matriarch whose idea of change is the coins sewn into velvet bags that she gives out to plebs once a year.
Where one partner spends their life bending over backwards and other carries on precisely as before, no marriage is ever happy. See Prince Charles for details.
I don’t doubt Harry and Meghan are in love. Most beautiful, wealthy people in their position would have nothing to fear in their future. But Harry’s future is the same as his past, and hers will be the sort of prison that only the very young or very stupid can ever enjoy.
Meghan Markle seemed like a fun and interesting woman. Princess Meghan will, for the rest of her marriage, be under the kind of pressure that will not want her to be either.