Wednesday 23 October 2019

Sussex Royal: what Meghan Markle is trying to tell us through Instagram

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex during the JLR Drive Day at Cockatoo Island on October 20, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation)
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex during the JLR Drive Day at Cockatoo Island on October 20, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation)
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the unveiling of The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy in Redvale on October 30, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand
Meghan Markle with her dogs Guy and Bogart. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle and Jessica Mulroney. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle and Priyanka Chopra in New York. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle with Misha Nonoo and Marks Anderson. Picture: Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Harry and Meghan have a new Instagram account

Meadhbh McGrath

When the news broke that Prince William and Prince Harry would be splitting their households, there was one question on royal-watchers' minds: what happens to the Instagram?

When the news broke that Prince William and Prince Harry would be splitting their households, there was one question on royal-watchers' minds: what happens to the Instagram?

You might be rolling your eyes, but the shared @kensingtonroyal account, with its attendant 7.3m followers, is far more interesting to fans than the logistical details of where the princes' offices are based.

So it was with much fanfare that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived on Instagram last week with their own official account, while @kensingtonroyal would now be dedicated solely to Prince William and Kate Middleton - the couple changed their profile picture so fast that there was no doubt of that.

The @sussexroyal account, meanwhile, made Instagram history, breaking the Guinness world record for quickest to reach 1m followers. They've now racked up an audience of 4.3m, including Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and David Beckham. Some of the minor British royals, including Princess Eugenie and Prince Andrew, run their own Instagram accounts, on which they share informal snaps and throwback photos, but the key players are more reserved in what they post publicly.

Before her entry into royal life, Meghan was a prolific and popular Instagrammer, and her carefully curated food and travel posts, along with the occasional inspirational quote, drew nearly 2m followers.

Harry and Meghan have a new Instagram account
Harry and Meghan have a new Instagram account

Meghan also seemed to use the account to make cryptic references to their relationship: when rumours began to circulate that she was dating Harry, she posted a picture of two cuddling bananas, apparently confirming the story. Later, following a two-month break during which she and her family faced such intense media scrutiny that Kensington Palace released an unprecedented statement asking to protect her privacy, Meghan shared a photo with the hashtag #NoBadEnergy.

Ahead of her wedding last year, she was forced to delete her social media accounts and lifestyle blog The Tig, to the dismay of her fans. Now she's back, albeit in a more professional capacity - but judging by her past use of the platform, we can expect she'll continue to use Instagram as a way to express herself, however obliquely. Here's what we can parse from her posts so far…

BRAND SUSSEX

 

Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan and Harry had thousands of images they could choose for their profile photo, but unlike William and Kate or Charles and Camilla, they eschewed a shot of themselves and opted for a joint monogram instead. It features their official cypher, an artfully intertwined H and M sitting underneath an illustrated crown and set against a royal blue background - a long way from the traditional coat of arms they were granted by the queen. This isn't just any old profile pic; it's a logo, designed to promote Brand Sussex. As they say in the caption, "We look forward to sharing the work that drives us, the causes we support, important announcements, and the opportunity to shine a light on key issues." Hear that? While fans may be hoping for candid selfies and cute baby shots, they want to make it clear that it's all about the work.

FIRST NAME TERMS

In their introductory post, the couple signed off as "Harry and Meghan" - pointedly not "the Duke and Duchess of Sussex". As with the meticulously stylised H&M monogram, they've done away with stuffy titles for cosy first names, setting a tone of casual familiarity. Meghan is all about hand-holding and hugs: she ruffled feathers early on by greeting palace guards with a hug, to which she apparently said, "I'm American, I hug." Now, she's taken that touchy-feely approach to Instagram, as evidenced in a post thanking her followers for the fan-led "Global Sussex Baby Shower" that raised thousands of funds for charities on Mother's Day. Did you ever think you'd see a royal saying, "Thank you for sharing the love"? Followed by a heart emoji, no less.

MISSION STATEMENT

Each of the Sussexes' posts so far has been a slideshow - or in Instagram parlance, a carousel - of pictures. The first gallery functioned as a statement of purpose, using the maximum number of images allowed on the platform to remind us that these two put in the graft. There's Harry and Meghan on the ground, eagerly reaching out to well-wishers during a walkabout; sporty and smiling in support of the Invictus Games in Sydney; caring for animals; talking to children.

There are also, notably, several images that don't feature Harry or Meghan at all, attempting to shift the spotlight away from them and onto their charitable endeavours. The order of images carries meaning, too: the first shot of either of them alone shows Harry in his combat fatigues, emphasising that he is the one in line to the throne, while a solo shot of Meghan obscures most of her face, buried deep in a hug with members of the Hubb Community Kitchen. The Sussexes, we understand, are here to do business.

A HINT OF GLAMOUR

The last shot in that opening series is a bit of an anomaly: after all of the noble do-goodery, we get a dramatic black-and-white shot of Harry and Meghan waving to the crowds during their tour Down Under. It's sexy, it's cinematic, it's us-against-the-world, reminiscent of their Christmas card featuring a black-and-white shot of the couple after their wedding, backs turned as they watch the fireworks. These intimate shots are very Meghan, but they tend to be more Hollywood than Holyroodhouse. She could be taking cues from Michelle Obama on establishing a middle ground with occasional behind-the-scenes pictures, such as the previously unseen photo of the couple tending to an endangered elephant in Botswana.

ON MESSAGE

 

We are yet to see any yoga shots or avocado toast spreads, but Meghan's impact is visible in the use of thin white borders around each image - an influencer signature that helps to create visual consistency regardless of the orientation of a shot.

On top of that, Meghan is still using Instagram to send subtle messages. One of the earliest photos resurrected a shot of Meghan bending down to shake a woman's hand, in a strappy sundress with a thigh-high slit.

The image, taken in Queensland, spurred a furious backlash, so bringing it up again delivers a neat little dig at her critics. A few days later, Meghan took to Instagram to thank fans for the #GlobalSussexBabyShower, a bid to foster a closer relationship with her followers, and also an opportunity to note that the couple are anticipating their first "child" - singular - dismissing any whispers about twins.

A ROYAL UNVEILING

Kate Middleton famously posed outside the hospital after giving birth to each of her three children, but Meghan is primed to do things her own way. The launch of the account so close to her due date indicates this is where the couple will announce the child's birth. If Meghan chooses to introduce baby Sussex to the world via Instagram, we could be looking at a bonafide 'break-the-internet' moment.

Herald

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