When we were little girls we dreamt big dreams. We dreamt about becoming icons in our own right. We dreamt about what we could and would become. Many of those dreams were based on the fairy tales we read or that were read to us. We were encouraged to dream about becoming a princess or a queen. Our parents indulged this dream by buying us costumes, dresses, and tiaras. They called us little princesses and told us one day our prince will come to whisk us away to the castle where we will live happily ever after. We went to bed at night dreaming about the prince, the palace, and the beautiful life we would live together. We believed in fairy tales never thinking about what would happen if the fairy tale actually became true.
When I was a child I was no different than any other child growing up in the late 60s and 70s. The world was changing for little girls and boys like me. While the world was changing so were our dreams and aspirations. The fairy tales of our childhoods still very fresh in our minds. We indulged ourselves in the fantasy of being a princess and wearing crown jewels and tiaras. But the reality was we never saw ourselves as actually being able to attain such a stature. While it was now possible to become a doctor, lawyer, or businesswoman the dream of becoming a princess remained to be that silly childhood fairy tale the could never come to be. It could happen for Cinderella. It could happen for Snow White. It could even happen for a beauty named Belle that fell in love with a Beast. But could it actually happen for an average everyday girl? Could it happen for a girl that doesn't look like Belle or Cinderella?
Now grant you, the idea of becoming a real-life princess will always be a fairy tale for the majority of us. Regardless of your ethnicity or nationality none of us really believe we will one day actually meet a real prince, get swept away off to the castle, and get to play with diamonds and tiaras. But it wasn't until 2009 some of us even saw a representation of ourselves being portrayed in a fairy tale as a princess. Princess Tiana was the first time a princess of color was presented in a fairy tale. Imagine that!? Fairy tales have been around since the bronze ages but not until 2009 could a little girl of color see herself represented as a princess living in a fairy tale. That's almost 6000 years of never once being represented in one of the many fairy tales about finding a prince and living in a castle. Imagine not believing real princesses of color even existed.
In our homes, we learned and were told about African royalty. The Queen of Sheba. The King Shaka of the Zulus. Warrior Queen Yaa Asantewaa. And the most famous, Cleopatra. Cleopatra technically was a Ruler and always inaccurately represented in movies. But the education and images we were mostly presented and inundated with were mostly from European and English Aristocracies. In those images, we never saw or learned the history of the inclusion of women of color in the monarchy. We never learned about Philippa of Hainault the first Black Queen of England. We also did not know of the second Black Queen of England, Princess Sophie Charlotte. Unless you were a historian, or avid studier of the monarchy more than likely the existence of these two Black Queens was unknown to you.
Many of us grew up never knowing a Black Queen outside of African Royalty even existed. Let alone two! Until recent years I never knew Philippa of Hainault, a woman of Moorish descent married King Edward on January 24, 1328, and was crowned Queen March 4, 1330, making her the first Black Queen of England. There were very few teachings about Queen Sophia Charlotte, her ethnicity, or her contributions to Britain. She was an amateur botanist and participated in the establishment of Kew Gardens which stands today as a popular site for both locals and tourists of London. Black royalty and their stories remained brief and/or nonexistent in our history books as did our belief in their existence.
Several years ago I was fascinated to learn about several women of color that exist in the British and European Aristocracy. My first discovery of a real-life European princess of color was Princess Angela of Liechtenstein. I first heard about Princess Angela reading an article about her marriage to Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein on January 21, 2000. Not only was this a real-life fairy tale because she was the first woman of African descent (born in Bocas del Toro, Panama) to marry into a reigning European dynasty but she was also a commoner. For me, this was my first real-life Black Princess. Not to mention, something many of us can appreciate some 21 years later, she found her prince and married at the ripe age of 42. At least by my math. Just goes to show you you're never too old for fairy tales.
Then we have Countess Mary Von Habsburg of Austria, Baroness Cecile de Massy, and the woman that is touted as the first to begin to change the idea of modern English Aristocracy Emma Thynn. Emma Thynn married Ceawlin, Viscount of Weymouth in 2013 making her Britain’s first Black Marchioness. But even though these women of color are living the fairy tale you do not hear much about them. Maybe if you are in those circles you know who they are but the average person probably still doesn't even know they exist. I know a little about Princess Angela of Liechtenstein because of a few articles written after her marriage to Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein which came with a little controversy of course. I know more about Emma Thynn, Marchioness of Bath only because she and her husband did a sort of reality document of their life. Needless to say, I found her fascinating as well. The only way I can describe, it's like seeing a unicorn in the middle of your living room. You see but you have to rub your eyes a few times before you begin to believe it's real.
But now we know it is real. The existence of a Black Princess is no longer in the shadows or solely something we only see on a movie screen. We now have the most famous of them all. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Meghan has the most fairy tale story of them all and that fairy tale has very little to do with the title she acquired. We have watched and learned with all the fanfare and celebration during the courtship and wedding, becoming a Duchess wasn't the fairy tale we all envisioned. We watched as she was admired. We watched while she was devoured. All while we were watching there was real pain being felt. The fairy tale didn't seem like a fairy tale anymore. Seeing what was happening many of us began to question the fairy tales we read as little girls. It all somehow felt like some of us aren't supposed to live the fairy tale, only read about it. But if you do somehow find yourself a prince, the most desired in the land, you better hold on because the ride is going to be very bumpy.
But what happens after all the bumps? Once upon a time...The real love story begins to unfold and told. The fairy tale is no longer made of fantasy but reality. A new fairy tale begins with the prince whisking us away from the castle to live a life of happily ever after. In watching Meghan's fairy tale she has shown us that fairy tales do exist and are attainable for all of us. But the fairy tale isn't what we've read in a book. The fairy tale isn't about gowns, jewels, or tiaras. In fact, the fairy tale we imagined could turn out not to be a fairy tale at all but a nightmare. Turns out the fairy tale is what we feel in our hearts and following our hearts. The way we experience true love. Our prince, titled or not, is the prince that serves to protect us and we protect them. The fairy tale is the dedication two lovers have for each other. The castle is the home we share no matter how many rooms or if it's built with stone. And love!!! Love will always be the perfect ending to living happily ever after.
In the end, she really did end up with a real-life fairy tale! Castle and jewels not required