I never even considered being “given away” by my father. Not even for a split second. It just seemed so old-fashioned and anachronistic, a relic from an era when women were chattel. I know some people are able to separate their wedding day from their politics, but I was and am a grumpy feminist. At the same time, though, I also knew people who had told their dads that they didn’t want to do the whole giving away fandango, and their dads were hurt and upset. So I thought I should at least have a conversation with my dad about it.
“I don’t want to be given away,” I said. “I hope you don’t mind.”
And my dad said, simply: “I never felt like I owned you.”
I welled up, because it was so like him. Kind and affable, and not at all bothered at by the dictates of tradition. However, of the many women I spoke to who were getting married last year (I was part of a Facebook support group) I would say that 99.9 per cent of them were being either walked down the aisle with their fathers or another male relative. Only the daughters of single mums were being walked by their mothers.
Meghan Markle’s mother Doria brought her up as a single mother. I, too, had a single mum, so there was a part of me that would have liked to have seen a royal wedding celebrate that. I also share the sentiments of novelist and journalist Linda Grant, who tweeted about the symbolism of seeing a dreadlocked descendent of slaves walking her daughter down the aisle to marry a British prince. What a moment that would have been. But I didn’t for a moment think that that would happen. It’s one departure from tradition too far for the royals, I think.
I can’t imagine being the person who finds the idea of a dreadlocked descendent of slaves walking her daughter down the aisle to marry a British prince uninteresting. My mind isn’t wired that way.
— Linda Grant (@lindasgrant) May 18, 2018
I’m not in the game of blaming women for their choices, though to what extent this decision is Meghan Markle’s choice we shall never know. We do know that she is entering a stuffy world of protocol and tradition, in which Kate Middleton must curtsey to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, unless she is with her husband, in which case they must curtsey to her. The whole thing is properly bizarre, but then again I think the whole institution is nuts. Objectively, the notion that these people were somehow chosen by God to rule over us and own so much property when there is genuine poverty in Britain makes me feel embarrassed of my country. But whenever you criticise the monarchy you’re accused of sour grapes or indulging in the politics of envy (I actually think envy is a pretty useful political recruitment tool. Why SHOULD these people have more palaces than you or me?)
I like Meghan Markle, though. And I think, however republican you are, the symbolism of having a feminist woman of colour joining the monarchy is incredibly meaningful. The racism she has had to endure is sadly not surprising. The comments in any article about her online are a cesspit. The coverage was so bad that Prince Harry actually made a statement. The way her father has been attacked by the press makes my heart hurt, because I can’t help but think about my own dad and how much I love him, how important it was to me to have him there on my wedding day, aisle procession or not.
But the fascination with who walks Meghan Markle down the aisle just shows how mired society remains in tradition. You are not supposed to criticise other people’s weddings in any way, shape or form, because it’s “their day” and it makes you look nasty. But people do it all the time. It has happened at every wedding I have attended. Another guest will walk up to you on the dance floor, shitfaced, and literally bellow “DIDN’T THINK THE QUICHE WAS UP TO MUCH”. It’s part of the deal. Plus, we are paying for a part of these celebrations. So I think it’s fair for me to say that Prince Charles walking Meghan Markle down the aisle is disappointing. Prince Charles is disappointing. The title of the Prince of Wales is disappointing. The whole thing is just so disappointing.
Having pissed on all your chips, I shall retreat now to my republican burrow. But I will leave you with this: it’s okay to think it’s all bollocks. As many newly-married couples know too well, it is not “their day”, not really. I think we all instinctively know that they would rather get married on a beach in Ibiza, with Doria walking her daughter down to the shore to marry the man she loves.