ENCHANTÉ – A ROYAL MIX


 

 

Our story.

And so Meghan and Harry are married, like “we did.” “Royally.” Meghan, a mixed-race American woman and Harry a royal British prince. A fascinating story many are calling a ‘Cinderella’ story. Well, Meghan was not exactly washing dishes and cleaning house, nor was Joy. Meghan is an accomplished actress and a gifted person, and Joy was a clever and adored World Bank front office staff-assistant. Both are extremely charming. But it does sound a bit like a Cinderella story: Meghan is a mixture of a Caucasian father and an African mother.  The gripping marriage scenes under clear skies (what a gift from Heaven to the UK!) beautified this ultimate contemporary event, which would have been impossible some forty-five years ago, when we married.

What a difference! I remember watching just-crowned Queen Elizabeth visiting Amsterdam with her Prince Philip in 1958. (The story goes she met him, a second cousin, in Greece when she was 13 and fell in love with him at that time already, writing letters to each other). The state visit to the Dutch Royal family was all stiff pomp, though cordial. Then followed the problems with growing-up children: Charles and Diana’s disastrous divorce, followed by Diana’s tragic death, Andrew and Fergy’s divorce, and daughter Anne’s divorce from Captain Mark Philips. Her third son, Prince Edward, is the only one remaining married to his first wife (Sophie Rhys-Jones). Queen Elizabeth reportedly acquiesced in Harry’s marriage for love to a US commoner of mixed race because she was tired of facing her children’s unhappy marriages. Harry and Meghan’s wedding pictures show that the royal protocol has fundamentally changed.

I can feel that difference probably more acutely than others: Joy Jaundoo – a Guyanese of East-Indian descent – and I, a Dutchman from Amsterdam, married in Washington, D.C. in 1974.

The only person reacting positively was my mother seeing her picture: “Wat beautiful children will you have.” The majority in stiff Holland was upset and against. “He better stay in America,” one noble uncle said. “Why doesn’t he marry one of our own,” one prominent American uttered (many Dutch said the same). An American friend walked out of the elevator when he saw the two of us together. “Don’t do that! You break your family’s bloodstream forever,” another friend offered. “Why don’t you marry a French girl,” a boss said. In Georgetown Guyana, the reception proved a lot warmer. It was mostly more accepting in the World Bank, an eminent multicultural institution where we worked. “In fifty years the whole world will be brown,” a supportive French girlfriend said.  Working in a multi-cultural institution made adjustments to each other’s cultures surely a lot easier!

Guyana beach: Drinking coconut water is an art you have to learn before messing up.

Well, perhaps we had the foresight and were ahead of our time: what would that Dutch uncle say now? However, Meghan and Harry will find that mixing cultures and race does have its consequences. Their children will grow up in privileged circumstances but will still be faced with the fact that they are different from their peers born out of same-race families. As parents, they will have to compromise perhaps more than others. The mixture of different bloodstreams causes unmistakably unintended fallouts:  how do the children feel internally towards others, to whom do they ‘belong?’ Do they resent the cards that they were dealt with by their parents’ decision? How do they adjust in their childhood and puberty, can they find a partner in their split world, how do they think about being put on this world still full of bigotry? All children and young adults have growing problems but biracial children perhaps more, requiring close parental attention.

Visiting home in Holland in 1979

We are blessed with two good-looking and successful children, with each showing the ‘remnants’ of our individual backgrounds. At my and my sister’s eightieth birthday anniversary last year in Holland at the Maarten Maartens House in Doorn, they were a tribute to today’s changing world. The pictures below of Joy, our children, family and friends clearly show that we and they are no ”exception” anymore. That has been royally confirmed.

 

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