Ever since word got out that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were dating in 2016, the world became enthralled with the new couple and their every move – especially when it concerned Markle.
Her down-to-earth attire, messy hair buns and relatable personality made Markle a favourite among the public, with many hoping that she – a commoner – would one day marry Prince Harry and become a member of the Royal Family.
And while Diana was not considered a commoner, she was still very relatable as a princess and set a certain tone that really resonated with the public, and according to Sharron Molcak of RoyalTeaWithJam, it’s that relatability that the public still longs for.
But Markle isn’t the first “commoner” to wed a British royal. In fact, there are several examples within the Queen’s immediate family that Molcak can name.
First, there is Camilla Parker Bowles, who’s married to Prince Charles. Bowles’ father was a wine merchant and a vice-lord lieutenant of East Sussex. Charles and Camilla met in 1972 and would continue romantic relationships while married to other people – most notably when Prince Charles was married to Diana. The two then officially married in 2005, Biography reports.
Then there’s the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne who married two commoners: first was Captain Mark Phillips (an Olympic gold medalist, whom she was married to for 15 years, according to People) and Sir Tim Laurence (a vice-admiral she wed 25 years ago, the Telegraph reports).
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Let’s not forget about Prince Andrew, the Queen’s third child, who married Sarah Ferguson in 1986, Britannica says. The couple had two daughters – Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. The couple divorced in 1996.
Another commoner to marry into the Royal Family was Sophie Rhys-Jones, who said “I do” to the Queen’s youngest child, Prince Edward, in 1999. Rhys-Jones’s father was the owner of an import-export business that sold car tires to Hungary, Britannica details, while her mother was a part-time secretary.
And let’s not forget about the latest example, Kate Middleton who married Prince William in 2011. The two met in 2001 while attending the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, Biography reports. They now have three children together: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
But the fascination with Prince William’s and Prince Harry’s marriages in particular among the public stems from our continued love and fascination with their mother, Molcak says. Not only do we see Diana in her children, but who they choose to marry is very reflective of their mother and how she raised them.
“I think they lead a much more normal life than what we think or what we fanaticize them having,” Molcak says. “Diana used to sneak the boys out of the palace often, and I think she did it more often than we believe.”
And it’s because of Diana’s effort to give her boys as much of a normal life as possible, that both Prince William and Prince Harry really try to continue leading the lives their mother set out before them, she adds.
When it comes to other commoners marrying into royal families in general, that fascination comes from our ability to put ourselves in their shoes, Molcak says. Not only do they seem like genuine people, but we’re able to imagine ourselves (or daughters or sons) as royals one day in the future, and suddenly that dream seems like much more of an attainable reality or at the very least, a possibility.
Below: explore an interactive royal family tree to learn more about Meghan Markle’s new relatives: