Royalty! They’re everywhere! I can’t walk past a magazine rack without having this prince or that princess look back at me from one cover or another. The romance of the royal lifestyle has many a regular person entranced. It’s a very specific set of royals who have international attention, however. They’re – how can I put this – white ones.
This is what makes the case of Princess Angela of Liechtenstein so interesting. Along with her son, Prince Alfons, she’s the highest ranking black member of a royal family in Europe. Hey, that’s pretty cool, you might think. So why isn’t she plastered all over the magazines? Well, it’s partly because she’s not a crown princess, she lives out of the country, and the Liechtenstein royal family tend to keep to themselves. That’s fair enough, and thank goodness Princess Angela and Prince Maximilian don’t seen to have been so much subject to the threats and gawking that often follow high profile (or otherwise) interracial couples. However, there’s a bigger picture here, and that’s one of lots of silence around royalty of colour.
Why is that? Racism means that a lot of people have a tough time imagining people of colour in places of power and glamour. Specifically, princesses are figured as beautiful and charming, and racist ideas of black women have traditionally positioned them as ugly and bad mannered. It’s a lot easier for a racist system to prop up the idea of white princesses dispensing good will than it is to draw attention to figures to whom little girls of colour might look up.
The fantasy often promoted to little girls, as in The Princess Diaries, is that they can marry into, or discover that they are already part of, a royal family. That’s exactly what happened to US citizen Sarah Culberson, who discovered that her birth father was a ruling member of the Mende people in Sierra Leone. She has since started the Kposowa Foundation. Now, this princess exactly fits the fairytale narrative, but she’s hardly as well known as the UK’s Kate Middleton. Only white royalty counts in this fantasy.
Clutch Magazine has a list of black female royals if you want to learn about more.