LONDON — She was married to the spirited strains of a gospel choir, her veil embroidered with the flowers of Britain’s former colonies, a rare image among rows of white princes and princesses of the post-racial, immigrant society that some imagined Britain to be.
And then that vision came apart at the seams.
Meghan’s account of racism in the royal family, delivered last week from a wicker chair outside a California mansion, did more than open new wounds at Buckingham Palace. It also called into question whether the family or, indeed, the country were as embracing of Black people as her 2018 wedding had signaled they could be.
The revelations have rippled across the so-called Commonwealth family, a group of largely nonwhite ex-colonies headed by Queen Elizabeth II, prompting calls for a re-evaluation of royal ties and, in Australia, for casting off the British crown entirely.
At home, among Britons who identified with Meghan and her son, Archie, biracial newcomers in a very white family, the interview has had a different resonance, spotlighting the hard limits of the country’s racial progress.
novelist from London, recalled his white mother being disowned by her family for marrying his father, a Black man.
the largely white, royal-obsessed British tabloid press, and for its potential to undo much of the monarchy’s work of rebuilding from the fallout of Princess Diana’s death in 1997.
But among other things, the controversy over the interview has been a particularly trans-Atlantic tug of war — between an American habit of talking bluntly about race and a British one of papering over it, historians said.
Held in an American backyard, with one of the country’s most powerful Black celebrities, the interview exposed British dealings with race to an American glare — one that historians say has been honed by decades of segregation and racial violence to detect the less overt racist acts that Britons sometimes pretend are not there.
“There is, in Britain, a very big silence around race that, in fact, there isn’t in the United States,” said Priyamvada Gopal, a professor of postcolonial studies at the University of Cambridge. “You could not have had a comparable conversation on prime-time U.K. television. There is no one with Oprah’s profile. And the idea that a talk-show host would sit down with a royal couple or anyone and discuss race at length — that’s not actually imaginable in the U.K.”
When Meghan married Harry, some Black and biracial Britons saw versions of themselves, outsiders climbing the country’s most elite institution.