Americans will get their own princess Saturday, even if she’s technically a Duchess.
Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry will elevate her to a position as one of the most visible Americans on the planet. Though the family she’s joining is purposefully apolitical, Markle brings with her a clear set of political beliefs.
They are beliefs formed by her upbringing as a biracial woman in America and inspired by her father and a group of powerful women, including Hillary Clinton. Her platform, laid out before she met her future husband and codified in a UN speech and glossy magazine editorial, is clear and simple: equality, regardless of gender or race.
When Markle was 11, she saw a commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid in class with the tagline “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” Two boys in her class said women belong in the kitchen, and it upset her. Her dad suggested she write letters, so she did. She wrote to the most powerful women she knew – Clinton, “Nick News” host Linda Ellerbee and attorney Gloria Allred – and she also wrote to the parent company responsible for the ad, Procter & Gamble.
Markle received letters back from the three women, there was a “Nick News” special and Procter & Gamble soon changed its ad tagline from “Women all over America” to “People all over America.” She wasn’t even a teenager yet, but Markle had become an accidental activist.
In seventh grade, when filling out a mandatory census form in English class, Markle was confused by a question asking her to select just one race. Her teacher told her to pick Caucasian because, “That’s how you look, Meghan.” But she left it blank, not wanting to pick one parent over the other.
She told the “People all over America” story in 2015 at the UN Women Conference in New York, where Clinton also spoke. Markle opened her remarks declaring, “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.” She noted her letter-writing campaign had happened two decades earlier, “around the same time as the Beijing conference,” where Clinton had delivered her “women’s rights are human rights” speech as US first lady.
Markle said the elimination of gender inequality around the world wasn’t happening fast enough. “Come on, this has to change,” she said. “We need a global understanding that we cannot implement change effectively without women’s political participation.”
And the future royal said equality meant “a wife is equal to her husband, a sister to her brother. Not better, not worse – they are equal.”
It’s something with which her soon-to-be-husband agrees, she later said.
Greeting supporters in January at her first official visit to Wales, a 23-year-old woman told Markle she was glad there would be a feminist in the royal family.
“He’s a feminist too,” Markle said, gesturing to Prince Harry.
Markle wrote an op-ed for Elle four months after her UN speech, in July 2015, titled “I’m More Than an ‘Other.’ ” The piece is about independence, and she wrote about filling out the census form in seventh grade, Hollywood’s race-based casting and her refusal to check the “other” box even today when asked her race. She wrote about her great-great-great-grandfather, who chose the name “Wisdom” after he was freed from slavery. “He drew his own box,” she wrote.
There are other signs of Markle’s politics, too. On her since-deleted Instagram account, she had posted photos of herself meeting former President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and of a Brexit protest sign. During an appearance on “The Nightly Show” in May 2016, she called then-candidate Donald Trump “misogynistic.” And in August 2017, in a piece for Glamour, she named former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright one of the 10 women who changed her life. (“I double majored with international relations as one of my concentrations at Northwestern, so I’ve always been drawn to that world. Albright was the first female secretary of state for the US, the US ambassador to the UN, an author, and a mom – and she seemingly juggled it all with finesse,” Markle wrote.)
Her marriage may mean she tones down her political expression, but it’s not as if her beliefs will evaporate. She’s an American feminist marrying into the royal family, and fittingly, CNN has learned, she’s planning on an unprecedented entrance to the ceremony: beginning her walk down the aisle unescorted, something she came up with herself.