A right royal review - ‘Meghan will have to tone down the rhetoric and up the smiling and nodding’
Two months into the gig, how is the new Duchess of Sussex holding up? As Meghan Markle arrives in Dublin, Sinead Ryan charts the highs and lows
There was absolutely no chance Meghan Markle was going to be able to ease her way into royal life slowly and without fuss. Since her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19, there's been a whirlwind of engagements, a family wedding and a whole host of charities and causes to get to grips with before she decides what patronages to adopt.
Then there's the not-inconsiderable upheaval of living with the in-laws, as she adjusts to the fishbowl that is Kensington Palace, full of aged aunts, dotty cousins and the beloved future monarchs, Prince William and Kate Middleton, as next-door neighbours.
Aided and abetted by designers queuing up to dress her perfect figure, and money being no object, Meghan has certainly looked the part while she's threading a careful path into the steep learning curve of her new job. After two months in the gig, we ask how has she been getting on?
Decorum and etiquette
A cornerstone of royalty, protocol is all-important. Apart from a slight faux pas involving crossing her legs at a palace function (always the ankle, dear, never the knee), Meghan hasn't put a foot wrong. She stands respectfully, clutching a clutch, listens to the meeters and greeters, and her smile needs no practising. She's even developed a faint British accent, according to recent video footage.
When she was obliged to play wing-woman to the Queen on a train trip to cut ribbons, she coped flawlessly, standing a few steps behind Gran-in-law, as custom dictates, politely shaking hands and managing even to have a laugh on occasion.
How terrifying though must the journey down have been on the royal train with Her Maj, which is kitted out not so much like the Orient Express as the Holiday Inn Express, moving to a siding while everyone got some kip (what were the chances of any shut eye?).Aping the royals is half the battle; they are world beaters at decorum, and Meghan, with her actress background, is getting a masterclass in how to behave.
Result so far: 9/10.
Still to learn? The words to 'God Save the Queen' and practising that curtsey.
'Safety first' has been the rather disappointing message thus far. Meghan has worn an array of inexplicably dull dresses, covering the spectrum from white to er, cream; nude to... horror, beige and blush pink. Fine for mother of the bride, but she can do better. It's not as if a colour pop wouldn't light her up and with the average frock costing thousands of pounds, a little bit of daring shouldn't be out of the question.
At Harry's cousin's wedding, she was so intent on not showing up the bride, she draped herself in a blue flowery duvet cover - well, that's what it looked like to many, swamping her tiny frame.
Shoes have been nude, nude, nude (how many types are there?), all evidently a half size too big (it's to fend off blisters, apparently), while hemlines are strictly below the knee and all the trendy stacking rings and fun accessories have disappeared in favour of jewellery straight from the Kate Middleton playbook.
Hair has more often than not arrived trussed in a sleek bun, rather than her signature messy bun or the flowing tresses we love.
In the last few weeks, there has been a glimmer of hope though: a fabulous Audrey Hepburn style outfit to the races and a popping banana yellow Brandon Maxwell pencil dress at a guards' presentation show suggest that the old Meghan is hiding in there.
Result so far: 6/10.
Still to learn? Meghan has fantastic dress sense. Embrace it with a little less caution.
What we love about Harry and Meghan is their touchy-feely approach around each other and with people they meet. On her pre-wedding engagements, she would launch herself into crowds, hands reaching out to hug. Since then, it's been polite handshakes and no selfies.
The couple themselves have largely eschewed the hand-holding, perhaps in an effort to up the 'professional working couple' message, but we miss it. They are loved up newlyweds - how about flaunting it!
Result so far: 8/10.
Still to learn? Harry is the most relaxed member of the royal family. It's okay to chill a bit.
Meghan's family have continued to provide tabloid fodder, with dad Thomas unable to find a camera he doesn't like and at least one half-sister already proposed for a reality TV show.
Meghan has sensibly left them to it and immersed herself in her new family instead. Even if everyone else thinks the royals are all slightly bonkers, they are at least giving Meghan a firm foothold in the meaning of loyalty.
Charles, Camilla and especially the Queen seem to be genuinely fond of her, and if so, then woe betide anyone else who says otherwise.
Result so far: 2/10 for her own family, but a 9/10 for fitting in with the royals.
Still to learn? The Markles aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Brace yourself.
Meghan's new role will be to take on a selection of carefully chosen patronages and charities to whom she can provide support. It's a huge cachet for an organisation to have a senior royal on board as it guarantees column inches.
Female royals usually stick with animals and children, but that all changed when Diana started supporting deeply unfashionable causes such as land mines and Aids.
Meghan is currently undertaking a listening exercise with lots of groups and she'll make her choices in due course. She is the type of woman who wants to delve in and make a difference, rather than just showing up at openings.
The royal family widely supports the arts, so perhaps ballet, dance or theatre for deprived kids could be a great start, given her background.
She has form, too, in the area of human rights, visiting Africa long before she met Harry to aid causes there. She is a vocal advocate for the One Young World charity, and attended its summit in Dublin in 2014.
Meghan has also spoken out on gender equality, poverty and women's issues, as well as addressing the UN on occasion. Her official royal biography even highlights her belief that she is "proud to be a woman and a feminist".
No shrinking violet then, but anything that smacks of politics will have to be put aside as the royals are considered to be 'above' it, so Meghan will have to tone down the rhetoric and up the smiling and nodding.
She shouldn't fret, however - simply turning up, making a statement in a particular colour or oblique references to what she wants to say will only enhance her message.
With the royals, a whisper is the equivalent of a placard.
Result so far: To be determined.
Still to learn? Loads of opportunity here, we have no doubt this is where Meghan will truly make her mark.