Sunday 22 July 2018

Did Meghan Markle dazzle us like Grace Kelly, the last American princess to visit Ireland?

Did the Duchess of Sussex dazzle us like the Princess of Monaco? Tanya Sweeney contrasts the royal tours to find out if Meghan Markle could be a modern Grace Kelly

Grace us with your presence: Princess Grace of Monaco with a priest and entourage climbing a hill to the Shrine of Our Lady at Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo, in 1961. (Photo by Ray Bellisario/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Grace us with your presence: Princess Grace of Monaco with a priest and entourage climbing a hill to the Shrine of Our Lady at Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo, in 1961. (Photo by Ray Bellisario/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Tanya Sweeney

From the beautifully understated wedding dress to the glamorous Hollywood career, it’s pretty easy to join the dots between Meghan Markle and that other star of royalty, Grace Kelly.

And given that Meghan has clearly looked to the Monaco princess for inspiration, it’s safe to say Meghan could well have used Grace’s 1961, 1976 and 1979 trips to Ireland to pick up a pointer or two.

When Princess Grace and Prince Rainier touched down in Ireland 57 years ago, the public turned out in their thousands to watch the couple land in Dublin Airport for a quick official visit. The 1961 trip was a resounding success, made all the more impressive and memorable when Grace made mention of her own Irish roots.

Will the Duchess of Sussex’s sense of style and elegance be remembered as fondly as the Princess of Monaco’s? Looking at some of the similarities and contrasts between both trips, it certainly seems that way…

The itinerary

It was straight to O’Connell Street from the airport for Grace and Prince Rainier, and the public lined the streets to watch them enter the Gresham Hotel. President Eamon de Valera invited the royal couple to the International Festival of Music and Arts that June, and during the trip they travelled to Mayo, visiting Drimurla, the family home place of Grace’s grandfather John Peter Kelly, who left Ireland in 1887 for America.

Meghan’s mini-moon, meanwhile, is an action-packed one. There have been visits to the Book of Kells exhibition at Trinity College, Croke Park and the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum. There was time to let the hair down — quite literally — at a garden party at Glencairn House, the official residence for Britain’s ambassador to Ireland. The royal couple learned more about the bright future of Ireland during their time in Dublin, with a visit to DogPatch Labs, a co-working space for technology start-ups. There was just about enough time to gather and refuel on Dublin’s Camden Street, and where better to go for lunch than Delahunt?

Mindful of the fact that hundreds had waited hours to see her, Meghan spent plenty of time talking to as many people on the streets of Dublin as possible. Photo: Julien Behal
Mindful of the fact that hundreds had waited hours to see her, Meghan spent plenty of time talking to as many people on the streets of Dublin as possible. Photo: Julien Behal

Verdict: Meghan and Harry get extra points for packing plenty of activities into a two-day visit, but next time they should head outside of the capital.

The wardrobe

Whether by accident or design, both Meghan and Grace wore green Givenchy to touch down in Ireland. Grace’s dress was teamed with a classic hat, pearls and matching bolero, with a fur stole worn later to stave off the weather.

At a state banquet in Dublin, Grace was every inch the royal superstar in a white fur stole and baby pink floor-length ballgown (right). Down in Mayo, Grace dazzled in a classic ivory two-piece dress suit, sunglasses and glamorous headscarf, and must have been one of the most elegant people to ever visit Croagh Patrick.

Back in the present day, Meghan also opted for simple, clean lines, although didn’t take Grace’s lead with the glamorous accoutrements. Her bottle green Givenchy dress was worn simply; later in the day, she wore an Emilia Wickstead back shift dress with a plain pair of black heels and a simple clutch bag. On her second day in Dublin, things were similarly clean and classic, with a grey Roland Mouret shift dress and black velvet court shoes. At the Irish Famine Memorial and Croke Park, Meghan opted for a no-nonsense, sharp trouser suit and T-shirt.

Meet and greet: Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly with Eamon de
Valera and his wife Sinead in 1961. Photo: Popperfoto/Getty Images
Meet and greet: Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly with Eamon de Valera and his wife Sinead in 1961. Photo: Popperfoto/Getty Images

Verdict: While Grace didn’t hold back with the regal glamour, perhaps Meghan, who was evidently shooting for elegant minimalism, has played things a little too safe and sober on this trip.

The official meet and greets

Back in 1961, Grace and Prince Rainier dined during their visit with Taoiseach Sean Lemass and his wife Kathleen. A very smitten Eamon de Valera also received Grace and Prince Rainier at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Meghan and Harry, meanwhile, were welcomed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to Government Buildings before they made haste to the garden party on their first night in the city. Yesterday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister Brendan Griffin explained the rules of GAA to the Duke and Duchess.

Earlier in the day, the newlywed couple met President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina and their much-loved Bernese mountain dogs, Bród and Síoda. Evidently, the Wednesday morning was a resounding success, with Kensington Palace tweeting thanks to the President of Ireland, his wife and their dogs for the “warm welcome”.

Verdict: Harry and Meghan appear to have won the powers that be over with plenty of informal charm: a contrast to the officious etiquette favoured by Princess Grace and Prince Rainier.

The public interactions

When Grace visited her ancestral home, she came up against the Widow Mulchrone, then living at the Kelly homestead. According to lore, Grace was regaled with stories and at one point, the widow ordered a guard to “wet another cup of tae, the prince could murder another drop”. Things were a little more heady back in the capital: during a banquet at the Gresham Hotel, 50 people had to be treated by ambulance crews after thousands swarmed around the couple as they arrived.

Grace did, however, melt the nation’s hearts when she received a bouquet of flowers from De Valera’s young granddaughter as she arrived in Ireland. And later, during her visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, she wowed staff and waiting crowds, who again festooned her with flowers.

This week, however, both Harry and Meghan showed a sense of playfulness when they met young GAA and hurling fans at Croke Park. Dylan Mahon (4) and Walter Cullen (3) did away with protocol entirely when they tugged at Meghan’s hair and Harry’s beard. And mindful of the fact that hundreds had waited hours to see her, Meghan spent plenty of time talking to as many people on the streets of Dublin as possible.

At the garden party in Glencairn House on Tuesday, Tammy Darcy (38, from Waterford) was one of the 300 leading lights of sport, showbiz and social enterprise invited to meet the royal couple.

Even better, Tammy — founder of The Shona Project, a non-profit that supports girls aged 12-18 — was first in the queue to meet Meghan.

“They’d been briefed on the various people they’d be meeting, so they were already aware of the work I did,” explains Tammy.

“We knew that Meghan already had a huge interest in the empowerment of girls and young women, and she knows a lot about it and told us of her own experiences.”

Tammy was allowed to bring one guest and invited one of The Shona Project’s Youth Ambassadors, Katie McGloin (17).

“Both Meghan and Harry were very kind and welcoming to her,” recalls Tammy. “She talked about the pressure that girls are under, and certainly we’ve all seen the scrutiny she is under herself. But they were kind and funny and engaging, and it was a lovely, relaxed conversation. She still has her American accent, and is still very much herself.

“I told Meghan that my daughter was annoyed for not getting an invite herself to the garden party and when we were finished, Meghan came back to us and said, ‘what’s your daughter’s name?’. I told her it was Freya, and she then said, ‘well, tell Freya I said hello’.”

And, as one might suspect, the Markle Sparkle was very much present and correct.

“I’m not easily intimidated by people but she was genuinely dazzling,” says Tammy. “They were on another level. I’ve never seen hair so shiny, and she’s so elegant that it makes you do an intake of breath.”

Verdict: In the 1960s, the gulf between the Irish people and royalty was so vast that all most people could do was enjoy the Princess Grace spectacle. This week, things were a lot more informal and hands-on with Meghan, a relatable royal you might prefer to get a pint with. She’s proven she has more than enough charm and people skills for the job at hand.

Online Editors

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