Friday 6 December 2019

Let's all give Meghan Markle a big group hug

Harry's bride-to-be isn't going to change for the palace, the palace will have to change for her, writes Sarah Caden

Loved up: Harry and Meghan in Wales last week, where she paired a £1,350 Stella McCartney coat with £175 black skinny jeans by Welsh brand Hiut Denim
Loved up: Harry and Meghan in Wales last week, where she paired a £1,350 Stella McCartney coat with £175 black skinny jeans by Welsh brand Hiut Denim

Sarah Caden

Last week, following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's official visit to Wales, an etiquette expert wrote in a UK newspaper that the bride-to-be hadn't quite got to grips with her new role.

He took issue with her taste for black coats and strenuously objected to her wearing jeans in Cardiff, then lamented that her appearance is just not befitting a future princess. "Perhaps," he wrote, "she will learn once she marries."

Someone needs to tell the poor man that there's not a hope of that. In fact, someone needs to sit everyone down who thinks we're heading into Diana Mk II and set them straight.

To some extent, the Windsors are heading into a situation of Diana Mk II with Harry's marriage to Meghan Markle. But times have changed. The world bore witness to the degree to which Diana's life was warped by failed attempts to make her fit a mould.

Those efforts to alter her, and her subsequent death, turned the public against the royals and they would do well to remember that now. The public could turn again if the royals fail to adapt to Meghan.

It's not just the public they have to worry about. Meghan may be the one wearing the jeans for a royal engagement and she may be the one who is different - American, mixed race and an actress - but Harry is the one driving the dramatic change of royal gear.

Harry and Meghan attend a street dance class during their visit to Cardiff. Photo: Getty
Harry and Meghan attend a street dance class during their visit to Cardiff. Photo: Getty

Over the past year the prince has made no secret of the effect his mother's death had on him. Not only that, but he has spoken, too, about his deep love of her during her life and how protective her boys were of her.

Last year, around the time of her anniversary, William and Harry gave arguably over-revelatory interviews that gave one pause regarding the extent to which they witnessed their mother's distress in her marriage and in her adult life.

Harry in particular with his remarkable assertion that no one really wants to be king - a strange rejection of the system that supports him - gave a clear indication that he plans to live differently to his parents.

His subsequent choice of bride bears testimony to that.

Harry's doing it differently, and everybody better get on board, because to see how he is determinedly pushing his international and public love affair with Meghan is something to behold. She's his choice, she's probably not the choice the powers that be would have made for him, but if they don't like her they will find themselves on their own.

Meghan may be the professional actress, undeniably practised in turning on a beaming smile at will - but it's Harry who seems to be truly recreating the Diana effect. He is placing her front and centre at their public appearances and actively encouraging a public love affair with her.

True, Meghan herself seems to exude a natural, open warmth and enthusiasm (everything in Cardiff seemed to be "amazing", God bless the first flush of love), but Harry is a seasoned hand who knows what he's doing.

If everyone falls in love with Meghan, perhaps the palace will have to hold back from trying to alter her. He couldn't save his mother from that pressure, but he's not going to allow it happen to his future wife.

Meghan is his choice and she's an unorthodox choice, so everyone needs to get on board.

As the prince encouraged kids at a Welsh school last week: "Let's all give Meghan a group hug." The kids bombarded the future princess with decidedly informal hugs and Harry stood back and beamed at the informality.

They'll be getting married on a beach next. And if anyone dares to wade in on the etiquette of that, they'll be too late. Diana Mk II is in full flow, in the best possible way.

In the face of this, poor William's only recourse to claiming a bit of cool status is to get a buzz cut, while wondering how he and Kate ended up the boring ones.

Sunday Independent

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