Every once in a while there is an internet rumor with a kernel of truth that even legitimate news sources pick up and run. This is the case with the rumor that Meghan Markle is Jewish. With yesterday's announcement that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry got engaged, the internet exploded, sending the already crazy Cyber Monday internet traffic into overdrive. People searched online, trying to glean every possible detail about the Markle royal wedding plans, and they also wanted to know if any of the Markle family members are Jewish.
While most people were thrilled for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and celebrated the idea that the British Royal Family would finally have some diversity (Americans have always had a hard time buying the thrill of a "commoner" being a shock), others started using racist code by saying that Markle was "unsuitable" for Prince Harry. Several people on Twitter called Markle "loose."
The undercurrent of racism was such a problem while Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were simply dating that Prince Harry had a statement released by Kensington Palace essentially telling everyone to cut it out and leave the Markle family alone.
"Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments. Some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers."And yet the racism has persisted to such a degree that it was a topic in the first interview that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry gave as a couple. So, when the rumor started making the rounds that not only was Meghan Markle bi-racial, but she was also Jewish, there was a mix of excitement and more racism, tinged with antisemitism. Some wondered whether or not the Church of England would marry the fifth-in-line to the throne to a divorced American Jew.
Just this morning on Today, Savannah Guthrie was talking about Meghan Markle being Jewish, and how it's okay with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the couple can still get married in the church. She then explained that Meghan Markle's father, Thomas Markle, Sr., is Jewish, which it seems is news to him, and according to Meghan Markle herself, her dad is of Irish ancestry.
That's great, but Meghan Markle isn't Jewish. The "proof" that the press is using seems to come from Meghan Markle's first wedding to Trevor Engelson. Engelson is Jewish, and the two had a chuppah (a canopy used in Jewish wedding ceremonies) and danced the Hora, lifting the bride and groom on chairs. But Markle did not convert, according to Haaretz.
And Duncan Jeffery, the Director of Communications for Westminster Abbey, has confirmed that Meghan Markle is not Jewish, and despite quotes in the press, the church had never said that Markle was Jewish. He says that one news agency got it wrong, and the rest spread the rumor.
"[Markle's Jewishness] is merely conjecture on the part of other people."
In an essay that Meghan Markle wrote for Elle in 2015, she said that people ask her all the time about "what" she is.
"'What are you?' A question I get asked every week of my life, often every day."For the record, she answered that she was African-American on her mother's side and Irish on her father's. But Meghan Markle isn't the first person marrying into the British Royal Family who got scrutinized for Jewish lineage. There was side-by-side ethic pride and antisemitism when the press started shaking the Middleton family tree trying to find some concrete proof that Kate Middleton was Jewish, said the Times of Israel.
The search for the Middleton Jewish rumor started with Kate's mother, Carole Middleton, whose maiden name is Goldsmith. Yes, there are British Jews named Goldsmith, but Carole Middleton isn't one of them. But that didn't stop Iran's Mehr News Agency from running an article that said that the British Royal Family would be "tainted" by Jewish blood.
"This lady's family roots show that she is considered a Sephardic Jew from her mother's side. Moreover, the timing of the wedding and the way it was held which was based on Jewish culture verify the evidences…. William's marriage as the inheritor of the crown to a Jewish girl will leave the future of Britain to the hands of the couple's Jewish children."Others with less fire and brimstone said that Kate Middleton's mother, Carole, was obviously a Jew because she was a successful businesswoman. Michael Cole, the BBC Royal Correspondent, thought he was paying Carole Middleton a compliment.
"Mrs. Middleton, born Goldsmith, is a talented businesswoman… You don't have to live in a monastery to know that Jewish people are good in business."But Cole added that it was only circumstantial evidence of Kate's Jewish heritage.
But the search into the background of the future Queen of England showed that on both sides of Kate Middleton's family, there are church records of weddings going back five generations in the U.K. So, Kate Middleton, just like Meghan Markle, is not Jewish.
While Meghan Markle and Prince Harry should have a lovely wedding this spring, there will be no chuppah, and likely, no Hora.
[Featured Image by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]