She has gone “viral.” The Internet, they say, adores her. She radiates poise and pride. She more than held her own in the presence of the Queen of England. She, of course, is Doria Hagland, the mother of the first ever, newly minted Duchess of Sussex, née Meghan Markle.
Her image is etched in history: the single, stoic black mom of an unlikely princess, an older divorcee who had tamed a rebel prince’s heart, reducing him to a hapless lover cooing that he had “missed” her though they had been together just the day before!
But back to Doria.
In a glowing article, The New Yorker, declared that she, in her aloneness in that pew, had done what black (read: single black) mothers had always done, “straighten the mess up” of people around them. In her case, an ex-husband both morally and physically too weak for the regal affair, while she personified “self-effacing altruism.”
That analysis, for the all the world to see, is true.
In the cascade of praises, one is tempted to forget that Doria was, in what must have been the most surreal moment of her life, forced to bow her head inward, towards her chin, towards the floor, instead of a gentle outward tilt, onto a waiting, familiar, comforting shoulder. There was no human echoing, even in a whisper or a wink or a caress, “yes, I know; I got you; it’s all perfectly wonderful and always will be; well done.” No one there to say to her, “you look amazing.”
Shall we all agree that, truly, truly, nothing on earth feels quite as … flattering as romantic attention?
Prince Harry and Meghan basked in that mutual adulation. I half expected them to start crooning, “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
But Doria was alone. Looking at her daughter or at the floor. I don’t believe she looked at anything else that day. Not the magnificent art or architecture that surrounded her. Not the guests who were surely analyzing her. She just sat there, a bit like Rosa Parks must have done in that Alabama bus.
The New Yorker described it as a “profound presence.” Of course. But she also reflected a profound absence. There she was, a wad of emotions, rolls of history, contradictions, fears, gratitude, memories, worries, pride, love. And no one was there, at that precise moment, to help unpack and sort and share them.
Am I the only to think that picture--and the reality behind it--tragic?