In the swirling maelstrom of bad news that is 2017, it’s always nice to read a story that makes your heart melt a little bit. Today, that story comes courtesy of Princess Mako of Japan, who has announced that she’s giving up her royal status in order to marry the man she loves.
The princess – the eldest grandchild of Japan’s Emperor Akihito – confirmed on Sunday that she is engaged to her partner of five years, Kei Komuro. She said that her grandfather had formally given their relationship his blessing, meaning that they can now begin the lengthy marriage process.
Speaking at a press conference, Princess Mako said that she and Komuro first met aged 20 at a campus meeting at Tokyo’s International Christian University, where they both studied.
“First I was attracted by his bright smiles like the sun,” said Princess Mako, in remarks reported by the BBC. Since they got to know one another, she added, she learned that he is “a sincere, strong-minded hard worker, and he has a big heart”.
In marrying Komuro, the princess is not giving up her chance to be Empress of Japan, since a controversial 1947 law means that only men can inherit the Chrysanthemum throne.
However, she will no longer formally be a member of the Japanese imperial family. In Japan, female royals are forced to give up their title if they marry a ‘commoner’: male royals are theoretically allowed to marry whoever they like without it affecting their status or their position in line to the throne.
At the televised press conference, Princess Mako said that she had always known that her time as a royal would be limited – and that she was determined to make the most of her life away from her imperial responsibilities.
“I’ve been aware since my childhood that I would lose royal status once I married,” she said. “While I’ve worked to help the emperor and fulfil duties as a royal family member as much as I can, I’ve been cherishing my own life.”
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When Komuro was asked about his relationship with Princess Mako, he said that she quietly watched over him “like the moon”. The law firm employee, who enjoys playing jazz piano, said that he hoped they will have “a relaxed and peaceful” home together.
In an ideal world, of course, Japanese royals would be able to marry whoever they wanted without having to give their her royal titles – and women would also be able to ascend to the Japanese throne.
But despite that, there’s something genuinely heart-warming about Princess Mako taking her life into her own hands and deciding that love is more important than status, and her family supporting her in that decision. We think congratulations are in order...
Images: Rex Features