Has Meghan Markle finally made Prince Harry woke?

Royals can be feminists, too.
Royals can be feminists, too.
Image: REUTERS/Geoff Pugh/Pool
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Prince Harry is a feminist—yes, you heard it straight from his fiancée Meghan Markle’s mouth. This past week, 23-year-old Jessica Phillips met Meghan Markle while the couple was greeting admirers on their first official joint visit to Wales. “It was really lovely to have a feminist in the Royal Family,” Phillips told Markle. “Oh, thank you,” Markle replied. “Well, [Prince Harry] is a feminist, too.”

33-year-old Prince Harry has come a long way since a time when he was certainly far less woke. Back then he notoriously wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party, just two weeks before Holocaust Memorial Day, in January 2005. He apologized in an official statement shortly afterwards, noting it “was a poor choice of costume.”

In addition to the Nazi uniform scandal, Prince Harry was also known for late nights in London’s most exclusive nightclubs, and for playing strip billiards in Las Vegas. At the same time, Markle was living far more modestly as a recent graduate of Northwestern University, working at the U.S. embassy in Argentina and going on acting auditions in a car that barely functioned.

This unusual history caused the world to wonder if Prince Harry—who grew up without a mother and rather remote father—was lacking moral guidance. As Dickie Arbiter, a former Buckingham Palace spokesperson told Sky News TV in 2005: “I’m sorry, the Prince of Wales, he’s a humanitarian and he does some terrific work, but I don’t think he has … the right discipline over his children, particularly Prince Harry.”

Markle, who noted on her former lifestyle blog The Tig that partying was not “on brand” for herself, is most definitely most woke. An outspoken (and long-time) feminist, she was just 11 years old when she wrote a letter to lawyer Gloria Allred, first lady Hillary Clinton, Nick News host Linda Ellerbee, and Proctor & Gamble to protest a sexist Ivory Dishwashing Liquid television commercial. “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans,” the voiceover said. Young Markle made it to Nick News, and the voiceover was changed from “women all over America” to “people all over America.”

Some two decades later, Markle’s feminism had a far larger platform when she gave a speech at the United Nations in 2015, where she was a celebrity advocate for UN Women, encouraging others to speak up for their values. And in May 2016, two months before she reportedly met Prince Harry, she appeared on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on a panel discussion about Donald Trump’s role as the GOP’s presidential nominee. “It’s really the moment where I go, we film Suits in Toronto, and I might just stay in Canada,” she said. “You don’t really want that kind of world that [Trump] is painting,” she added.

Prince Harry’s engagement to Markle, an American woman of color and a divorcée suggests a newfound openness to challenging his worldview. It certainly still needs challenging. Some of his relatives apparently retain racist views. And in a truly egalitarian society, a monarchy probably would not exist. His known social circle outside of Markle is also, well, white and wealthy.

But the prince is also one of the hardest working members of the Royal, putting in more days of public appearances (a core part of the job) than any other Windsor except for the Queen herself (and she’s past 90). In 2014, he launched the Invictus Games, a multi-sport competition for athletes with disabilities, is the patron of several other organizations, and served over 30 weeks in Afghanistan in the British Army before leaving in 2015. In the early days of their courtship, Prince Harry even released a public statement from the Palace, disparaging the racist remarks against Markle and confirming their relationship.

Because of Markle and Prince Harry, there are feminists in Buckingham Palace. That feminism may still be evolving—but it’s far more than we can say about the White House.