Once we found out for sure that Meghan Markle’s father would not attend her wedding due to his ongoing health issues and need for heart surgery, we had high hopes that her mother, Doria Ragland, would do the honors of walking her down the aisle instead. While we sympathized with Meghan after what was a stressful few weeks for her — news of her father’s health problems came just after he admitted that he’d staged a series of paparazzi photos — we couldn’t help but feel a bit happy about the news that her mom would get to play such an important role in her big day.
Unfortunately, our excitement was short lived: Kensington Palace announced the day before the wedding that Prince Charles would walk Meghan down the aisle instead. “Ms. Markle has asked his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle of the Quire of St. George’s Chapel on her Wedding Day. The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way,” said the statement. Sure, it’s sweet that Meghan’s future father-in-law has stepped up to the plate for her in such an important way. But it also means the rightful person for the honor — Meghan’s mother, the woman who raised her — will remain sidelined as a man fulfills what’s traditionally a male role (and if you’re rolling your eyes at this, we’re right there with you).
Like so many of us, Meghan Markle has a complicated family tree. Born in Los Angeles to Ragland and Thomas Markle Sr., Meghan was only six years old when her parents divorced. (She has two half-siblings from her father’s first marriage, though they’re currently estranged.) She’s close to her mom, a yoga instructor and social worker who has by all accounts been a devoted parent and a supportive, loving force in Meghan’s life from the very beginning. While Meghan is said to also have had a good relationship with her father, a former television lighting director in Hollywood. However, he worked long hours when she was growing up, and it was the women in her family who ultimately raised her.
“Meghan was raised by her mother and grandmother, two beautiful, strong black women who instilled in her a sense of self-belief,” her uncle, Joseph Johnson, once told the Daily Mail.
In addition to raising her, Meghan’s mother is her close confidant. The bride-to-be has been very public about her love, respect, and admiration for her mom over the years — even penning an essay in Glamour where she praised Ragland’s “life-long sensitivity to nurturing and caregiving,” as well as her “free spirit” quality. “We can just have so much fun together, and yet, I’ll still find so much solace in her support,” wrote Meghan. Both Meghan and Harry have also made it clear how important Ragland’s blessing was for their engagement.
So then, who better to walk Meghan down the aisle on her wedding day? Sure, it was always in the plans for Ragland to have a role in the wedding, but earlier reports mentioned that she would merely travel by car with Meghan on her way to Windsor Castle. (As nearly any bride will tell you, the ride to the church is a stressful one, so it made sense she’d want her mom with her in the car for those final few moments of singlehood.) But it was her dad who was supposed to do the very big, very traditional walk down the aisle to “give her away” to Harry (though it was never clear what Ragland would do during that time — take a seat across from Kate Middleton and her new baby, maybe?). Now, since he can’t be there, another man, one whom Meghan has presumably only met a handful of times, will replace him. Why?
We weren’t the only ones expecting Meghan’s mom to have this crucial role at the ceremony. “It has to be her mother, because it is symbolic; you are passing the bride over to her new family,” a top etiquette expert, William Hanson, told the NY Post. We agree: Why should Ragland take a back seat at this emotional event? She bore the brunt of the work in rearing Meghan, so she should be the one to bask in this very public “moment in the sun” instead of a man who had no hand in any of it. Sure, Meghan (and possibly her mother) probably signed off on this last-minute plan before it was made official, but we can’t imagine that she didn’t feel pressured by Harry’s family to go along with their wishes. For the “royal rule-breaker” who was supposedly going to shake things up in her new family and help usher the royals into modern times, we can’t help but feel disappointed.
Weddings are by their nature steeped in tradition, and royal weddings more so than others. By allowing Doria Ragland that special moment — a mother lovingly leading her only daughter down the church aisle — Harry and Meghan would have been making an important and timely statement: Single mothers count. Now, the hard-working, selfless, caring single mother who raised Meghan will sit on the sidelines as a man who hardly knows her does the honor instead — and that’s a shame.