It is well known in Britain that the prospect of a royal wedding invariably raises the spirits of the nation.
Most recently, the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 was an immensely happy occasion which attracted enormous interest and was watched by millions worldwide. It gave the majority of people a real lift and produced what became termed the “Wills and Kate effect”. According to the polls, this induced feelings of patriotism and a surge of pride among so many even though some were not royalists at heart.
Judging from the public reaction to the recent announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress Meghan Markle, their wedding next spring will have the same effect – if not more so. Despite some sniping in parts of Britain’s famously critical press about her racial background, the overwhelming response from nearly all quarters has been positive and welcoming; and, for its small part, The Tribune is delighted to offer the happy couple hearty congratulations and all best wishes for the future.
Some commentators are already speculating that interest in this wedding could exceed that of 2011 because of the bride’s heritage and consequent greater curiosity among Americans. This is likely to result in increased numbers visiting Britain from across the Atlantic, who will also benefit from the continuing weaker pound sterling against the US dollar. Tourists are anyway fascinated by Britain’s history, its heritage and its pageantry: royalty is part of the key to that, but a royal wedding is the icing on the cake.
Moreover, as the leading members of a new generation of “royals”, both Prince William and Prince Harry enjoy tremendous public popularity and are seen as refreshingly unstuffy and prepared to become involved in myriad good causes. Prince Harry himself has acquired a measure of global fame for his charity work both at home - for example, his creation of the Invictus Games for wounded armed services personnel – and overseas in countries like Lesotho in southern Africa. He is also respected for pursuing a career in the Army and earning praise from both his superiors and his colleagues.
With his increasing experience and maturity, it seems Harry has been asked to take on more and more royal duties and these included a successful visit to The Bahamas in 2012 in connection with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. But, most poignantly, many people deeply sympathised with him and William after the death of their mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash in Paris in 1997 and the ordeal he faced at the age of 12 in being forced, together with his brother, to walk behind her coffin carried on a gun carriage during her funeral.
Here in The Bahamas, we have an abiding interest and curiosity in the activities of the Royal Family - not only in view of the shared history of our colonial past but because, in common with other Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Barbados, constitutionally our country is a Realm rather than a Republic. This means that, even though we are a sovereign nation, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II remains our Head of State with the Governor General as her representative.
So we follow the fortunes of royalty closely; and, in particular, the lives of the next generation since the Queen herself at the age of 91 has reigned for seven decades, and two years ago she became Britain’s longest-serving monarch after overtaking her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
The Queen’s most recent visit to The Bahamas was as long ago as 1994, but as a nation we keep in touch with members of the Royal Family through their many visits here over the years, in particular those of her son Prince Edward who comes to Nassau regularly in connection with the Governor General’s Youth Award.
Having been at the centre of Britain’s national life during a period of sustained relative peace and prosperity, the Queen as head of state has been a beacon of decency and decorum in serving the country with unerring grace and dignity, and she has been a reassuring presence for all in providing the stability, continuity and calming face of unity which underpins the nation’s democracy while transient politicians are forever changing. Her longevity also makes her a most experienced and knowledgeable leader – one of the most accomplished and long-standing in history - for during her reign she has been seeing state papers and has met successive world leaders continuously since 1952, not least as Head of the Commonwealth.
From the outpouring of thanksgiving, praise and affection at the time the Queen became Britain’s longest-serving monarch - and also this year on the occasion of the celebration of her and Prince Philip’s seventieth wedding anniversary - there is little or no public support in Britain for republicanism. The only doubt appears to be whether the younger generation will be able to emulate her and the Duke of Edinburgh’s fine example of an unsurpassed record of so many years of dutiful and distinguished public service.
While wishing Prince Harry and his fiancee well, we believe we can also speak for Bahamians from all walks of life in taking this opportunity to offer our very best wishes for the future to her and other members of the Royal Family.
Meanwhile, we look forward to next year’s wedding with keen and happy anticipation.