The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, whose marriage last year brought historic change to Britain’s royal family, on Monday welcomed a son, the first interracial baby in the monarchy’s recent history.
The newborn is seventh in line to the British throne, behind his father, Prince Harry. It is not clear whether the child will receive a royal title, like those bestowed on the three children of Prince William, Harry’s older brother, and William’s wife, Catherine.
The baby is sure to be the object of uncommon fascination, adored and criticized as a symbol of the modernization of Britain’s royal family.
The duke and duchess — better known as Prince Harry, 34, and Meghan Markle, 37 — have shaken up the royal family in a number of ways: Their wedding last May featured a gospel choir, a freestyling African-American preacher and a gaggle of Hollywood celebrities.
They continued to set aside convention after the wedding, opening their own Instagram account and offering little access to the royal-obsessed British news media. In April, they announced they were canceling the traditional photo opportunity outside the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital in the heart of London, curtailing the ritual hullabaloo that usually surrounds royal births.
The Sussexes, in short, have become another front in the British culture wars, like the vegan sausage roll, or Brexit. The tabloids have pounced: Prince Harry is making a television series on mental health with (gasp) Oprah Winfrey! The duchess keeps hugging members of the public! They may choose an American nanny! Baby Sussex may not attend Eton!
For many, the new baby’s importance will be indelibly linked with race.
Britain is 87 percent white, but interracial children make up its fastest-growing ethnic category, and will soon be the country’s largest minority group. The entry of Meghan Markle, the descendant of plantation slaves, into the royal family resonated deeply with many people of African descent, who almost immediately began to anticipate the birth of the couple’s first child.
“It’s hopeful for people of my kids’ generation to see a princess of mixed race,” said Lise Ragbir, who is black and has written of her own experience raising a lighter-skinned child.