In less than 24 hours, Meghan Markle will officially make the transition from commoner to royalty, becoming Duchess of Sussex as she ties the knot with Britain’s Prince Harry.
If you think the Suits alum, whose mother is Black and father is White, is the first bi-racial woman to infiltrate the British Aristocracy, think again. This fascinating distinction is believed to date back to the 14th century!
Here’s a brief history of the other rarely discussed women of color who are the pre-cursor to Markle’s royal reign.
Philippa of Hainault
Philippa of Hainault (June 24, 1314 – August 15, 1369) was a 14th century Queen of England — the Queen-Consort of Edward III to be exact and is rumored to have African ancestry. She was the daughter of the Count of Hainault in the Low Countries (now in Belgium), an area that had once been ruled by Moorish tribes. No contemporary images of Philippa exist; those that we have show a very standard, narrow featured, Caucasoid woman, which is probably not what she actually looked like, but altering images in this way was standard practice in those times.
Philippa was reportedly an avid patron of the arts, a capable regent when her husband was away at war and a caring mother. She was known for her kindness and restraint, frequently interceding with her husband and successfully pleading for the lives of those who had been sentenced to die. Philippa also is known to be the “most royal” Queen-Consort of England due to four of her great-great-grandfathers all having been kings (of France, Aragon, Naples and Hungary).