As Meghan Markle settles into her role as the Duchess of Sussex and newly-minted member of the British royal family, we started thinking about other Americans who have met their very own Prince Charmings. Here are three Southern women who have made the transition from civilian life (albeit Southern civilian life) into royalty. (Curtsy to Town & Country for reminding us of these amazing Southern women.)
Kelly Rondestvedt was born in Pensacola, Florida, in 1975 to a U.S. Navy pilot father and a mother who was a middle school teacher. She went to college in California, earning a bachelor’s degree and later an MBA. She then moved to New York to work as an investment bank. It was at restaurant in New York where she met Hubertus Coburg. They chatted for a bit and she gave him her business card, never knowing that he was the hereditary prince of German’s Saxony-Coburg and Bavaria’s Gotha and the direct descendant of Queen Victoria. A few days later he called and the fairy tale romance began.
The couple dated for a few years later and then, after asking her father’s permission, prince charming got on bended knee in a German castle surrounded by rose petals and proposed. They married in 2009 at a ceremony near his family’s palace, Schloss Callenberg, in Coburg, Germany and the Florida girl became Her Highness Hereditary Princess Kelly of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha. While the title is in name only, as Germany doesn’t recognize a royal family, they do have castles, royal jewels, and a few famous relatives. If you have been watching Netflix’s The Crown, you may recall that Saxe-Coburg and Gotha used to be the name of the British royal family. They made the switch to Windsor in 1917.
Another Southern belle turned real life princess is Sarah Butler, born and raised in Texas. Butler has a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, an MSc in Development Studies from the University of London, and held multiple jobs at the United Nations. In 2000, she added one more title to her impressive resume— Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid, after marrying Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, a member of the Jordanian House of Hashemite, Crown Prince of Iraq, and Jordan's permanent representative to the United Nations.
While some people would think that marrying a prince meant you could loiter around the castle wearing a tiara and eating bon-bons from a sterling silver tray, Princess Sarah is still hard at work. As a mother who almost died giving birth to her third child, she is particularly interested in causes that promote maternal health and safety. She is a well-known maternal rights activist, working with groups like Every Newborn Action Plan, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch.
Ariana Austin had no idea the man she met a Washington, D.C. nightclub was Ethiopian royalty. She just liked him. Eventually Austin learned that Joel Makonnen, known as Prince Yoel, was the great-grandson of Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. The child of Prince David Makonnen and Princess Adey Imru Makonnen, he grew up with his family in Switzerland, where they had settled in exile from Ethiopia when their reign ended in 1974. His family is part of the Solomonic dynasty, who can trace their lineage back to the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
As Austin explained to the New York Times in an article about the couple’s wedding, she was young and busy with school and wasn’t looking for a husband. “I think we both had this feeling that this was our destiny,” Ms. Austin said. “But I felt like I had things that I had to do.”
Fast forward a few globe-trotting years, and the duo tied the knot with a ceremony in an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony in Temple Hills, Md., and a formal reception for 300 people at Foxchase Manor in Manassas, Va., near the groom’s home. The wedding party started on September 5 and carried on through the 10th, Ethiopian New Year’s Eve, including a traditional Ethiopian post-wedding celebration called a melse. The couple now lives in the Washington area.