WOMAN ON TOP

Meghan’s mom stole the show

Doria Ragland is perhaps the most unlikely of heroines to emerge from the polished, PR fairytale of the royal wedding

Doria Ragland at the royal wedding
Doria Ragland at the royal wedding
Image: Reuters

After the last scone is gone, Meghan’s mom is good enough.

Five years ago, I wrote about a British royal birth. This week, I expected to be discoursing about Prince Harry and his new bride, Meghan Markle, because there wasn’t any way to escape news of the nuptials.

But the woman who stole the show was, in my view, Doria Ragland, the bride’s mom – the most unlikely of heroines to emerge from the polished, PR fairytale that keeps blue blood clean and relevant.

For people whose wealth could generate three square meals a day for probably millions of impoverished commoners, the British royals have been pretty lucky in terms of public popularity.

At one point, anti-royalists were cheering and champing at the bit as we saw a near fall from grace, when we, the proletariat, began rumbling against the centuries-old monarchy machine, finally deciding that there were far too few “haves” versus “have-nots” in the world; and enough of that fox-hunting malarkey, too.

But as any old journalist will tell you, nothing beats a good human interest story.

And the writers who’ve polished up the fantasy narrative that keeps these aristocrats in the pound seats have created a perennial best-seller; no matter your position, you can’t – even if you badly want to – ignore it.

We have our own royal families in South Africa. But they can’t beat the Windsors for international press success. Where social media networks might breed a wide variety of different topics on any given day, it fell to its knees and bowed as Harry’s brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, married, and then gave birth to children.

So too, did the global audience become enraptured last weekend by the wedding of Harry and his beautiful American actress.

As a reporter on local, royalty-related events for several years, I became a bit jaded about the whole thing. But whatever the reason for it, people love a good fairytale – and won’t be swayed otherwise.

I have a healthy mix of young, old, black and white friends on Facebook. A few Chinese acquaintances, a handful of atheists and agnostics, plenty of mainstream religious types; plenty of pensioners and a group of school pupils; people with kids and without, guys who drive motorbikes and men who wear lipstick.

All, bar one, were talking about the British royal baby five years ago – and again, years later, when his uncle wed.

You’d think that most people equate archaic royal bloodlines with corruption and unfairly chopped-off heads. But they don’t.

Writer Zuzanna Grzeskiewicz wonders why the British royal family receives such an “unprecedented and globally unequalled amount of attention” compared to other royals. And, I suppose, the rest of us?

Close to 25 million people tuned in to watch Kate and William’s wedding in 2011. I don’t even have to type out their full titles. Most everybody with a television aerial knows who they are.

In short, it boils down to good public relations. And as any savvy PR person will tell you, image is everything.

As much as I hate bursting bubbles, the truth is that what you’re seeing is a carefully stage-managed affair.

Royalists – and even lukewarm fans who just love celebrity babies and expensive wedding dresses – are being fed healthy doses of love potion to keep the game alive.

The British royals, says Grzeskiewicz, could themselves be the masterminds “behind the obsession behind them, as they actively promote interest in the daily events of the family, similar to celebrities and businesses”.

That they have dozens of advisers, assistants and media experts working with them is no lie: they have taken up residence in our hearts as part of a modern-day fixation with celebrity culture.

Then again, once the last scone has been eaten, and the dust has settled, does it really matter?

I’m not sure that even the most sophisticated PR plan could have pulled off what seemed so natural and unrehearsed: a single mother, an American woman with a challenging past, sitting by herself in a stuffy church, looking both nervous and delighted as her daughter walked down the aisle.

We’ll never really know how much of the fluff to believe. But in Doria Ragland, there’s the shimmer of hope that no matter how much money, fame or fortune one has, being a good enough mom is good enough.

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