Following in her footsteps: all the ways in which Meghan Markle mirrors Princess Diana
As Meghan Markle acclimatises to public life, more comparisons are being drawn between her and Prince Harry's late mother, Princess Diana.
Royal insiders have said that the British royals haven't been shaken up this much since Diana, nor have the public been so enraptured by someone with so much commitment in the last 20 years. But the similarities don't end there...
Nearly 30 years apart, both Princess Diana and Meghan Markle blazed a stylish trail within the British royal family. Diana ruffled feathers in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with her fondness for daring shoulder baring (gasp!) gowns was met with disapproval from high ranking royal family members - not to mention her off-duty wardrobe. She was once pictured running back to her car in London wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and gym shorts. Quelle horreur!
Diana’s former stylist Anna Harvey told the Telegraph that she and the late princess were learning the royal ropes together, trying to curate cutting edge looks befitting the most talked about woman in the world.
“Neither of us really knew that much about royal etiquette and what was expected of her style-wise,” she explained. “We’re going to Balmoral and we have to dress for tea,' Diana would say, and then we'd have to guess about the style of dress she should wear and find lots of options. She very quickly jettisoned gloves.
“The royal family all wore them, but Diana just preferred not to.”
Meghan was met with similar objection for having the audacity to wear ripped jeans in her first event with then-boyfriend Prince Harry in September. She has stayed true to her signature low-key luxe look and keeps residents of her new home happy by mixing British designers with an arsenal of Canadian couturiers for her carefully choreographed public appearances in the run up her May wedding.
And she has been shunning structured skirt suits in favour of more relaxed attire like flared jeans or an Alexander McQueen tuxedo; only wearing a required-by-uniform pillbox hat for Christmas Day celebrations with her future in-laws.
If you re-watch the now infamous interview with Meghan and Harry after their engagement, it’s clear the couple’s mutual attraction for charity work was a catalyst of compatibility between the pair. Harry gazed adoringly as his new fiancée saying, “She can do anything” when asked about their future intentions.
“Both of us have passions for wanting to make change for good. With lots of young people running around the Commonwealth, that’s where we want to spend most of our time,” he said. “There’s a lot to do.”
And Meghan has been living up to her word – it was revealed earlier this month that she made two secret visits to victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, purposely not seeking media attention of her endeavours.
Diana, similarly, would famously sneak out of Kensington Palace to visit sick children in hospitals around London, even bringing Prince William when he was 12 to educate him; in addition to leaving Kensington Palace to visit homeless shelters in the night. During her lifetime, Diana became synonymous with her preferred charity organisations, including AIDS research and most children’s charities, a cause similarly chosen by Kate Middleton.
“If I’m going to talk on behalf of any cause, I want to go and see the problem for myself and learn about it,” she told the Washington Post’s Katharine Graham about wanting to be more than just a figurehead.
Dealing with the public
Diana was, and Meghan is, acutely aware of her impact on the public. Today, there are an endless array of photos of Meghan standing back and genuinely fawning with gratitude as she greets well-wishers around the UK. Last week, she surprised everyone by speaking Filipino to visitors from the Philippines in Scotland.
The coverage of Markle has been overwhelmingly positive, save for some questionable commentary in the early days of her relationship with Harry and a recent piece by the Daily Mail denouncing her as too “huggy wuggy” for, well…hugging people when she meets them.
In her sit-down engagement interview, she addressed the coverage of her race, which had prompted her then-boyfriend to issue a statement denouncing the British media’s portrayal of her, which she described as “'disheartening”.
"You know it's a shame that that is the climate in this world to focus that much on that or that that would be discriminatory in that sense, but I think...at the end of the day I'm really just proud of who I am and where I come from, and we have never put any focus on that. We've just focused on who we are as a couple,” she said.
Diana was just as welcoming when dealing with visitors who would take time out of their lives to catch a glimpse of her, or a handshake is they were extraordinarily lucky. It was this seemingly effortless affability why she was dubbed the ‘People’s Princess’. While Kate Middleton has to adhere to stricter guidelines in public for myriad reasons, largely because her husband will ascend the throne eventually, Meghan doesn’t have the same restrictions: because she’s 36, because she’s American, because Harry is bumped further down the line, she has a lot more freedom.
Diana was just 20 when she wed Prince Charles and when dealing with the public, she had the self-assuredness of a woman twice her age.
Ms Harvey spoke fondly of her dealings with Diana, saying: “Everyone was always so nervous, but Diana put them at ease. She started off so shy and ended up so confident. It just shows what we can still all learn from her."
Prior to her engagement, Meghan rather shrewdly gave an interview with Vanity Fair discussing her new chapter as a royal girlfriend, a move which would have been choreographed and approved by the royal communications office, and one which divided critics. The decision to choose a prestige publication, a respected journalist and give enough tidbits to satisfy the public’s appetite proved just how adept she is at portraying herself in a positive light, a handy quality to possess when you’ve become internationally recognised overnight.
During her relationship with Harry, some publications began to lose the run of themselves, the couple had only been together a year and public for six months, but we knew everything there was to know about her.
Diana, on the other hand, Diana was incomparable in her dealings with the press, and appeared on the cover of British Vogue on three occasions during the course of her lifetime. The late Liz Tilberis, who was editor of Vogue at the time, orchestrated two covers with the princess, and Alexandra Shulman approved her third cover, which was to commemorate her tragic death in 1997.