Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are already changing the face of the royal family.
Royal fans are feverishly anticipating the couple's May 19 wedding date, and ET recently spoke to royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams about why the couple's upcoming nuptials are so significant.
"This is a marriage, it’s based on love," Fitzwilliams says. "It’s not based on what one would call ‘vetting.’ ... [Harry] needed the queen’s permission and that was given with delight."
He also points out how Harry's relationship with Meghan is so different from his father, Prince Charles', marriage to his mother, Princess Diana. Charles and Diana eventually divorced, and Charles remarried his previous girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles.
"Prince Charles so hatefully found that he could only marry someone who had no past and also had to be either royal or aristocratic," Fitzwilliams says. "The entire situation has altered. We saw William marry Kate who is middle class, but also has ancestors who are coal miners, marry for love. This represented a step, a significant change. With Meghan, she’s American, she’s divorced, she’s mixed race, she’s an actress and an activist."
"You’ve got, in fact, in Meghan, the link between two worlds -- monarchy, which is in a sense theater with its ceremonial links to the past and traditions -- and you’ve also got Meghan from a world which, as an actress, she plays various roles, and she’s also experienced in handling press attention, which is absolutely pivotal," he continues. "But, regarding the actual royal, so to speak, attitude, it seems to have been warm, it seems to have been welcoming."
Clearly, Meghan has been embraced by the royal family. In an unprecedented move by the queen, Meghan is the first royal fiancee to be invited to her estate, Sandringham, for Christmas.
"It’s also important to remember that Harry is tremendously popular," Fitzwilliams notes. "And this is an engagement that has been really welcomed by absolutely everybody who’s commented on it. ... And also that Meghan has built her own career. She will be giving up acting and she described that in her wonderful interview."
"You can see how in love they were because the chemistry was perfect," he continues about their first interview together as a couple. "You could also see that she described it as ‘a change,’ and that will mean that she and Harry will make one of the world’s most influential and successful partnerships, using the fact that they’re members of the royal family for charitable purposes."
"In every single case now, we are watching the way Diana’s influence has shaped William and also Harry. And most particularly when they had that photo opportunity, it was in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, that was one which Diana loved," he notes of Harry and Meghan's engagement photos in November. "Meghan’s engagement ring has diamonds from Diana’s collection. And it’s Harry’s personal ambition that Diana would be proud of what he had achieved from a charitable point of view."
"It’s Diana’s influence that both William and Harry have been stressing so frequently," he adds. "And I do think that he sees Meghan as carrying the torch as well, for remembering what she achieved in her short life. It’s very, very significant for Harry."
"She’s been very outspoken about diversity and some of the difficulties that she faced, and I think that that’s one of the issues that we may well hear her speak more on," he muses. "Because obviously, both gender equality and diversity are extremely significant for us today."
During Harry and Meghan's first joint interview with BBC News, Harry said Princess Diana and Meghan would be "thick as thieves" if his mother was still alive today.
"I think she would be over the moon, jumping up and down, so excited for me," he said of their engagement. "But then she probably would have been best friends with Meghan. So, it is days like today when I really miss having her around. I miss being able to share the happy news. But the ring and with everything else going on, I'm sure she's with us, jumping up and down somewhere."