Prince Harry's engagement with Meghan Markle is exciting because it represents a break from tradition for the royal family. Markle, an actress best known for playing Rachel Zane in the television drama Costumes is biracial, American and divorced. However, there is a sense in which the party is very traditional. The British royal family has a long history of romances with stars.
Since the 17th century, royal patronage of the arts has brought together princes and actresses. Until the First World War, royalty usually married other royalty, so these relationships did not end in marriage. Women who combined a successful career on stage with a high-profile relationship with a prince, however, became the celebrities of their time, expanding the role of women in public life.
During the time of Shakespeare, acting was not considered suitable occupation for women. Female roles used to be played by teenage boys. That changed during the reign of King Charles II. When he became king in 1660, he reopened public theaters, closed while Puritan Oliver Cromwell was in power, and encouraged them to present women in their productions.
Through his sponsorship of the theater and his frequent presence at the performances, Carlos II met Nell Gwyn, a pioneering comic actress. They started a relationship in 1668 and became parents of two children together.
While the majority of the lovers of Carlos II came from the aristocracy, Nell had humbler origins and never tried to hide her past. Reportedly, Nell claimed to have been "raised in a secret house" [brothel] serving drinks "to the guests", then found work as a seller of oranges in theaters before receiving the opportunity to take the stage. A theatrical viewer recorded in his diary, "The King and the Duke of York were in the play, but such a good comic performance was never, I believe, in the previous world as Nell." When Nell became the king's mistress , he was expected to retire from the stage, but he returned for a triumphant season in 1670. Charles's last wish on his deathbed in 1685 was, it is said, "That poor Nelly does not starve", and he received a pension.
One of Gwyn's contemporaries, Margaret Hughes (1630-1719), may have been the first woman to play the role of Desdemona in Shakespeare Othello – demonstrating that women could excel in dramatic roles as well of comedy. Margaret became even more famous when she began a relationship with the cousin of King Charles II, Prince Rupert. Charles appointed Rupert Constable of Windsor Castle, and the couple spent time there. Margaret Hughes' brother died in a duel over the question of which actress was most attractive, his sister, "the sweetest now in Windsor," or Nell Gwyn, who was defended by one of the king's courtiers.
In 1779, the future King George IV began a two-year relationship with Mary Robinson (1757-1800), nicknamed Perdita for her role in Shakespeare A Winter & # 39; s Tale . Robinson was not only a famous actress, but also a feminist poet, playwright and thinker, who wrote "A Letter to the Women of England about the injustice of mental subordination," which said: "I will remind my enlightened peasants that they are not the mere appendices of domestic life, but partners, equal partners of man. "
George IV's younger brother, the future William IV, had a long-standing relationship with actress Dorothy Jordan (1761-1816), which resulted in ten children. Dorothy took charge of William's depressing finances and returned to her theatrical career to help pay off her debts, entertaining viewers who observed that the actress was supporting the prince, and not the other way around.
Queen Victoria was eager to make respectable monarchy again after the scandalous reputations of her uncles, George IV and William IV. But his eldest son, the future Edward VII, followed in his footsteps chasing actresses. The most famous was Lillie Langtry (1853-1929), who began auditioning for plays on the advice of her friend Oscar Wilde in 1881. While her relationship with Edward lasted only a few years, her stage career continued for decades. She founded her own theater company, which toured the United States from coast to coast in 1883, earning Langtry "a great profit".
What can we learn from this story? The relations of the royal family with the actresses are usually a sign of social progress. Nell Gwyn and Margaret Hughes were pioneers in acting as a profession for women, convincing the world that women, like men, deserved to be highlighted. Mary Robinson called for gender equality. Dorothy Jordan and Lillie Langtry were smart businesswomen. Today, Meghan Markle has already established a successful career as an actor and humanitarian. With her marriage to Harry, Meghan will contribute to the modernization of the monarchy in the 21st century.
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