Meghan Markle just became one of the first mixed-race members of the British royal family, and the royal wedding has not been not shy about making that point. Halfway through the ceremony, just before a gospel choir sang “Stand by Me,” Bishop Michael Curry — a black American Episcopal from Chicago — gave an address on the redemptive power of love that quoted liberally from the black spiritual tradition.
Curry began and ended his address by quoting Martin Luther King Jr., and spent time on the legacy of slavery in between. And his speaking style was notably looser and freer than the rest of the speeches in the ceremony: He was speaking in the rhythm of black American preachers.
His address was a break with royal wedding tradition. As Tara Isabella Burton wrote for Vox, traditionally British priests from the Church of England preside over royal events. Curry, however, is the head of the American Episcopal Church, a sister to the Church of England but not a part of it. He is also the first black leader of the Episcopal Church.
“I’ll never forget my daddy told me when I was fairly new as a priest,” Curry remarked before the ceremony began, “he said just always be who you really are. Don’t pretend to be someone else.” Curry followed his father’s advice at the royal wedding — and in the process, he let Markle remind everyone else who she is.
Markle may be the new English Duchess of Sussex, but her black American heritage was central to the royal wedding.