"Million Dollar American Princesses: Meghan Markle"
Premieres Sunday, May 13 at 9 PM ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel
As the world waits for the wedding of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle on May 19, Smithsonian Channel™ takes a unique look at the couple’s relationship through a historical lens to spotlight how this revolutionary royal couple is following in a long tradition of exceptional American women who married into European nobility. This special edition of the hit series MILLION DOLLAR AMERICAN PRINCESSES combines archival material and interviews to explore Meghan Markle’s story in the context of other American “princesses” – from Consuelo Vanderbilt to Rita Hayworth and Grace Kelly – who crossed the Atlantic before her to marry into European aristocracy.
MILLION DOLLAR AMERICAN PRINCESSES: MEGHAN MARKLE chronicles Meghan’s life, from her childhood in California to her blossoming acting career and her romance with Prince Harry. The special features rare footage of an 11-year-old Meghan developing her feminist voice, and later highlights her global humanitarian work, including her advocacy for gender equality in work with the United Nations. Dedication to charitable campaigns is something that strongly unites the couple – and parallels are drawn to Princess Diana, whose legacy is meaningful to both Meghan and Prince Harry.
As Meghan Markle prepares to wed her prince, the experiences of past American princesses illustrate the challenges and potential for her future. Brooklyn-born Rita Hayworth was the first movie star to become a true royal, marrying Muslim Prince Aly Khan. Her short-lived romance ended less than four years later, when she left the prince to return to her film career. Grace Kelly left Hollywood for good when she embraced her new role as princess in her famed marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco. She was adored by her subjects and brought newfound glamour to the Principality. “Princess Grace of Monaco said that she couldn’t have done the job of being Prince Rainier’s wife unless she had been an actress. It gave her an edge,” historian Dr. Piers Brendon says in the special.
This latest royal marriage can also tell us a great deal about how the British Royal Family and society have changed – in terms of attitudes to class, race, style, acceptability and tolerance. Throughout the special, experts including Grant Harrold, former butler to Prince Harry and Prince Charles, and American Julie Montagu, Viscountess Hitchingbrooke – whose marriage to a British aristocrat will one day make her the Countess of Sandwich – offer insights on how the new American princess will affect perceptions of the Royal Family.