My daughter is growing up in London with an American mother and British father. And like most 5-year-old girls, she is obsessed with princesses. She adores the Disney Princesses, but she is beginning to understand that princesses can also be real — and a few them live in the big palace near her favorite duck pond. She told me once that Kensington Palace is “not as good as the castle at Disneyland.” Although I beg to differ, I guess it depends what you’re looking for in a royal residence.
As princesses continue to fill her head (and toy box, book shelf, and TV screen) we talk a lot about what “being a princess” really means. I try hard to make her understand that royalty is not just about castles, dresses and jewels. I want her to know being a princess is also about kindness, compassion, and using your privileged position for the greater good of your kingdom.
That said, I was overjoyed to hear the news that Prince Harry was engaged to America’s very own Meghan Markle. Because when it comes to the true meaning of power — she gets it.
Meghan was the most Googled woman of 2016, but she has stayed true to her mantra: “With fame comes responsibility.” Long before Prince Harry came into her life, she was working as an ambassador for UN Women. She visits refugee camps; raves about the Rwandan government (where 64% of parliamentarians are female); and campaigns relentlessly against the shame of menstruation in developing countries. As a famous actress, Meghan used the spotlight not for own gain, but to bring attention to those in need.
That’s right out of Princess Diana’s playbook. It’s no wonder Harry fell for her.
In addition to that mischievous grin, Harry exudes accessibility and empathy (a combo that constantly reminds us of his late mother). When he talks about what it means to be royal, Harry frequently speaks about using his platform to constantly give back. These are the values Princess Diana instilled in him and it’s clear he kept these in mind when choosing his royal bride.
Ironically, these same qualities are exactly what attracted Meghan to Harry.
“Many people become starstruck by A-list actors,” she once told ELLE. “But I’m only in awe of people effecting change.”
Meghan’s taste for activism began at an early age. She was just 11 years old when she saw a commercial claiming that “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” Appalled by the idea that women were the only ones in the kitchen, Meghan immediately began a letter-writing campaign and within months the word “women” was replaced with “people.”
And while parents talk a lot about wanting movies and books to include diverse female characters in leading roles, it’s important that children see these in the real world as well. Meghan’s mom is black and her dad is white, making her the first person of black origin to marry into the British royal family. As hostility toward immigrants continues to grow in both the UK and the US, watching the multiracial Meghan cross borders and thrive makes my heart soar.
Meghan is also determined to stay true to her roots despite her new royal life.
“My parents came from very little so they made a choice to give a lot: buying turkeys for homeless shelters at Thanksgiving, delivering meals to people in hospices, giving spare change to those asking for it,” the soon-to-be royal told ELLE in 2016. She has no plans to abandon these values of benevolence once she marries a prince.
I predict the things that make Meghan Markle a “different” kind of royal will actually make her a better one — and a great role model for our children. Her unique background will allow her to connect more deeply with the disenfranchised; to better engage and to better empathize when she meets people from around the world and from other walks of life.
I hope my daughter grows up to be just as strong a woman as Meghan Markle already is. Because Meghan has shown us that you don’t need a royal title to speak up for what’s right — and you don’t need a prince or a palace to help others or try to change the world.