On Monday, the British royal family announced that American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are engaged and will marry in the spring. Earlier this year, multiple media outlets reported that Markle is Jewish. As of Monday morning, USA Today was calling Markle a biracial Jewish-American actress. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin quickly invited the couple to spend their honeymoon in the Jewish state.
JTA investigated the matter in May and discovered that the British tabloid behind the rumor was mistaken. Read more about the story below.
Is Meghan Markle, an American actress and the girlfriend of the British royal Prince Harry, a member of the tribe? Stories in publications across the United States and United Kingdom have prompted the question. An article in the British tabloid Daily Express claims that Markle’s father is Jewish; Vanity Fair, Elle UK, Tablet and many others have cited the story.
The story also says that a spokesman for Westminster Abbey, the historic London church where British royals marry, confirmed Markle’s Jewish background.
“The spokesman also confirmed that Meghan’s Jewish background would not prevent her from having an ‘interfaith’ marriage there,” Camilla Tominey writes in the May 14 article.
Unfortunately, for those who would love to see a Jew marry into British royalty, the claim is utterly false.
Duncan Jeffery, Westminster Abbey’s head of communications, told JTA on Wednesday that the church never said that Markle was Jewish. It only confirmed that Markle could be married at the church despite a previous divorce, thanks to a rule that was instituted in 2002.
“[Markle’s Jewishness] is merely conjecture on the part of other people,” Jeffery said.
A source with knowledge of the situation also confirmed that Markle is not Jewish.
Markle, who is best known for her role on the USA Network drama “Suits,” was married to Jewish producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. As Tominey notes, the pair had a Jewish wedding in Jamaica (complete with a “Jewish chair dance,” meaning the hora).
Markle’s father is Irish and her mother is African-American. She wrote an essay for Elle magazine in 2015 about her identity (it was subsequently published in Elle UK, one of the publications that has misstated her Jewish identity). The essay did not mention any Jewish ancestry or hint at a past conversion to Judaism.
“‘What are you?’ A question I get asked every week of my life, often every day,” she wrote.
Tominey’s article is correct in explaining that there is no “legal barrier that keeps a royal from marrying someone from the Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim faith, or even an atheist.” Since 2015, even those formerly despised Catholics can marry into the royal family — however, a Roman Catholic still cannot become the queen of England.