Britain Royal Engagement

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for a media event in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP) ORG XMIT: LON826

Dominic Lipinski

If New Orleans was all atwitter over Serena Williams' wedding last month, it would have been at fever pitch had Meghan Markle showed up with her beau Prince Harry.

The media on both sides of the Atlantic reported that Williams had invited her pal Markle to bring His Royal Highness along to watch her get spliced to Alexis Ohanian at the Contemporary Arts Center.

In fact, the big day found Markle on set in Canada wrapping up her stint on in the TV drama “Suits,” while Harry performed eleemosynary duties in London. But a mere week later they confirmed their own love match, and Williams will presumably now score an invitation to their wedding at Windsor Castle next May.

Harry's failure to appear in New Orleans will have occasioned a disappointment hard to reconcile with the disdain for foreign potentates that is supposed to inform republican principles. Still, princes are pretty much just for show these days; royalty and show biz were already natural bedfellows when movie star Grace Kelly wed Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956. That fairy tale romance had a strong New Orleans connection, but it was a far from recent one and the city's dealings with royalty have been few and far between.

When a member of the British royal family did make it here in 1950 it was in the person of the former king, Edward VIII, who had been created the Duke of Windsor after abdicating in 1936 because the British establishment would not allow him to remain on the throne and marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.

Times have changed, for Harry's plan to marry an American divorcee have precipitated no constitutional crisis and has, indeed, been warmly welcomed on all sides. It is true that Harry will probably never be king – he will only be sixth in line to the throne after his brother William's third child is born in a few months – but the rule against previously owned brides used to extend to all royals. Thus was the current queen's sister, Princess Margaret, forced to dump the alleged love of her life, Group Captain Peter Townsend.

The Duke of Windsor, with his American duchess, took up the Nazi cause before adopting the life of peripatetic idleness and self-indulgence that brought them to New Orleans, where they famously bowed and curtsied at the Comus ball.

Markle, on the other hand, would not be such an easy fit with Carnival royalty. She is not Jewish, as some early reports had suggested, but she does have a black mother..

When Harry weds Meghan the queen is expected to add duke to his title so that Markle can become a duchess rather going through life with the odd monicker, Princess Henry of Wales. The queen has several vacant dukedoms to choose from, including the one that was invented for her lovelorn uncle. It is highly unlikely that Markle will wind up as the Duchess of Windsor, however, for that title is clearly tarnished.The smart money says the happy couple will become the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Although Harry didn't make it here, his father Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, both divorced themselves, did show up just after Katrina. They demonstrated a common touch that then-President George W. Bush must have envied when their plane actually landed and they took a stroll.

Since Prince Charles, royalty has spurned New Orleans but there was a time when we could produce our own. Alice Heine, born, appropriately enough, at 900 Royal Street, in 1858, was the daughter of a Jewish banker whose cousin was the German poet Heinrich Heine.

Alice moved to Paris, marrying the Duc de Richelieu in 1874, and so adorned the intellectual scene that she became the model for the Princess of Luxembourg in Marcel Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Widowed, she married Prince Albert of Monaco, Rainier's great grandfather, but had an affair with the English composer Isidore de Lara. For this she received a very public slap in the face from Albert and they separated for good.

Evidently there are no hard feelings. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu reports he was most cordially received, and regaled with tales of Heine's exploits, when, during his tricentennial trip to France, he visited Monaco last week.

Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.