Divorced Catholic to Marry Prince Harry and Her Surprising and Somewhat Mysterious Religious Background

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Originally Published at Aleteia.org

The interwebs are abuzz with news about the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle. TIME magazine notes some significant details:

Not too long ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Prince Harry becoming engaged to marry Meghan Markle. Given that she is a mixed-race Catholic divorcee from the United States, royal protocol would have forbidden the match.

But these are changed times — and Markle, who was born to an African-American mother and white father, captured the world’s imagination in late 2016 when it was revealed that the successful actress and philanthropist had won Prince Harry’s heart.

Among the most interesting points:

…Far more serious from a historical perspective would have been Markle’s faith. Until 2015, Prince Harry would have been forbidden from marrying a Catholic under royal succession rules, as his grandmother is head of the Protestant Church of England. The regulations were eased as part of a broader shift to remove male bias and religious discrimination in the royal order.

Markle is a divorcee too, having ended her marriage to music producer Trevor Engelson in 2014, but it is not likely to cause a repeat of the scandal almost 80 years ago. Harry’s father, Prince Charles, was divorced from Princess Diana before marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005. And with this marriage “the stakes are much lower,” Whitelock says. “Harry won’t be king and will become sixth in line to the throne when [Prince William and Kate Middleton] have their third child … It’s less of a constitutional significance. Of course, if this was William it would have much different implications.”

While Markle’s religion has been somewhat murky—Wikipedia notes that she was educated at Catholic schools, but I haven’t seen any account stating that she’s a baptized Catholic—she has some interesting branches in her family tree:

His grandmother is the head of the Church of England with a global congregation estimated at 25 million.

But Prince Harry could soon be welcoming another religious figurehead into the Royal fold if he ties the knot with actress girlfriend Meghan Markle.

DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal that Meghan’s 75-year-old uncle Frederick Markle is the leader of the ‘Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church In America’.

It boasts just a single tumbledown chapel in Sanford, Florida, and the reclusive Markle, who goes by the title Bishop Dismas, is the sole clergyman.

And while the church had around 40 members in its 1980s heyday, one former worshiper told DailyMail.com he’s not sure if a single person attends services there anymore.