Speaking to The Cut, the Duchess of Sussex recalled her appearance at the 2019 premiere of Disney’s photorealistic remake of “The Lion King.” It was there, she said, that one of the film’s South African actors pulled her aside to congratulate her on her wedding to Prince Harry, which had taken place a year earlier.
“He looked at me, and he’s just like light,” Markle explained. “He said, ‘I just need you to know: When you married into this family, we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison.’ ”
Mandela, who died in 2013 at age 95, became South Africa’s first Black head of state in 1994. Just four years before that, he was released from jail after serving 27 years of a life sentence for his anti-apartheid political ideals.
“I felt as though the crowd might very well kill us with their love,” he later wrote of the wild fanfare that greeted his release in Cape Town.
In an interview with the Daily Mail published Tuesday, however, Mandela’s grandson expressed dismay at Markle’s words.
Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, a member of parliament for the African National Congress, told the publication that the celebration of his grandfather’s release was “based on overcoming 350 years of colonialism with 60 years of a brutal apartheid regime in South Africa” that had no present-day equivalent.
“Nelson Mandela’s release from jail was the culmination of nearly 350 years of struggle in which generations of our people paid with their lives,” the younger Mandela said. “It can never be compared to the celebration of someone’s wedding.”
“Every day there are people who want to be Nelson Mandela, either comparing themselves with him or wanting to emulate him,” he continued. “But before people can regard themselves as Nelson Mandelas, they should be looking into the work that he did and be able to be champions and advocates of the work that he himself championed.”
Describing Mandela as a man who “endured the very worst of humanity, vicious racism, and state-sponsored brutality,” the Duke of Sussex recalled a meeting between his mother, Princess Diana, and Mandela that had taken place in 1997, months before Diana’s death that same year.
“In our own time, a time of global uncertainty and division, when it’s all too easy to look around and feel anger or despair, I’ve been inspired to go back to Mandela’s writings and for insight into how this could be,” he said. “How he could experience so much darkness, and always manage to find the light.”