Ceremony celebrating diversity took note of slavery, quoted Martin Luther King Jr.
Owen Humphreys/WPA Pool/Getty Images(WINDSOR) — It’s safe to say that the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was the most racially diverse ceremony of the British royal family in recent history.
The couple, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, exchanged vows Saturday inside St. George’s Chapel in England in front of about 600 guests, with another 2,000 outside on the grounds of Windsor Castle and millions more watching on TV around the world.
The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the first black presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, spoke, quoting African-American civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world,” the bishop said. “Love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power — power in love.”
King’s daughter, Bernice King, immediately recognized her late father’s words.
She tweeted, “#MLK quote at the #RoyalWedding. Your life, teachings and words still matter so much, Daddy. Congrats, Harry and Meghan!”
Bernice King, 55, also used the opportunity to address a deeper issue: the reservations that some members of the African diaspora — from both sides of the pond — may have about the royal family due to Britain’s history of colonization and its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“Dear Family: It’s okay to watch and be moved by the #RoyalWedding,” she wrote Saturday. “It doesn’t make you insensitive or less caring about the inhumanity in the world. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten history. Find moments of joy. We need them to continue the work.”
In his address, Bishop Curry referred to America’s history of slavery.
“There was some old slaves in America’s antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way — they sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity,” Curry said. “This way of love — it is the way of life. They got it.”
And, immediately following Curry’s address, a gospel choir performed, displaying the spirit of the black church.
Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir stood at the west end of Windsor Castle wearing different shades of pale pink to perform a soulful rendition of Ben E. King’s 1962 hit, Stand By Me.
It was not the first time the Kingdom Choir, who come from southeast England, has performed for British royalty. They were also tapped to perform at the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating her 50 years on the throne, in 2002.
The choir’s musical interlude at Harry and Meghan’s wedding was followed by a performance by the first black winner of the BBC Young Musician competition, 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Later, the spotlight shone on the honorary chaplain to the queen — Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a black woman born in Jamaica — as she addressed the gathering.
The lineup seemed to break with royal tradition and embrace Markle’s American and African-American heritage.
The fact that the former actress, who was born to a white father and black mother, proudly identifies as biracial has been the subject of headlines since the two became engaged last year.
In a poignant essay written for Elle magazine, Markle wrote that after struggling with her identity growing up in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles, she matured into a “strong, confident mixed-race woman.”
Still, her ascent to the royal family has not protected her from racism.
Kensington Palace condemned the discriminatory “racial undertones” in some early coverage of Markle when she began dating the Duke of Sussex in an unprecedented statement issued back in 2016.
“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment,” the statement read. “Some of this has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
The statement noted that Prince Harry was “deeply disappointed.”
But if their wedding is any indication, the new duke and duchess may be the most inclusive members of the royal family yet.
For now, fans — and some critics — on social media seem intrigued.
One fan wrote that she was “grateful” for a ceremony that “connects us all not just as a diverse and multicultural nation, but to nearly every other nation around the world.”
Yet another person warned that diversity at the royal wedding is just one very small step.
“Let’s hope to see this beautiful diversity passing from the Royal family to every single aspect and corner in the UK,” he wrote.
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