The real Game of Thrones: Meghan Markle's guide to meeting the family
All the signs are that Prince Harry's girlfriend could be well on her way to marrying into royalty. But how would she fit in with the new in-laws? Matthew Bell has some ideas
Meghan Markle does not shy away from a challenge.
We know this because the 36-year-old actress has accepted roles in b-movies and game shows that would make a diva shudder. She is not the type to say no, preferring to roll up her sleeves and get stuck into whatever drama - real or fictional - comes her way. Like going out with Prince Harry (33), the free-spirit who previous girlfriends all failed to pin down.
Now, Markle could be about to take on her biggest challenge yet - marrying into the royal family. Only a year and two months since Harry met Meghan, the whispers at St James's suggest an engagement is imminent. On Saturday night, she made a public appearance at the Invictus Games, joining Harry in Toronto (where she lives) at the Paralympic competition he founded three years ago.
It was the biggest public milestone of their relationship so far, and although she sat several rows away from him at the opening ceremony, Meghan was watched over by one the prince's protection officers, a sure sign of her newfound status.
She's already well acquainted with his circle of friends and is said to have met the Queen. The prince even released a statement, confirming they were a couple and asking the press to back off, a highly unusual step that suggested Meghan is no flash in the pan.
Other factors hint that the Los Angeles native is soon to have official status. She has stopped promotional work and she has also turned down a contract to appear in the next series of Suits - the surprise hit legal drama which has made her acting career.
But perhaps the most significant clue lies in the fact that Meghan has given up the lease on her car in Canada, a mundane yet concrete piece of evidence supporting rumours she is planning to spend more time in Britain as of November.
So what can she expect of life as a royal other half? Here's our advice on how to survive a new life at the heart of The Firm...
Keep it simple. Nobody likes a show-off, and as the newest member of the family, it's important not to upstage anyone further up the pecking order - like when Pippa's bottom became the talking point of William and Kate's wedding. You don't want to become famous for your assets. Much better to establish a reputation as a fun and fabulous embellishment to royal life - like Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall - than as a pouting clothes horse (think Fergie circa 1985), or 'gap yah' type (think Chelsy Davy's fondness for dangly earrings and heavy beaded necklaces).
And beware the curse of Jigsaw. Dress too drab and you'll be branded boring (Kate, circa 2008). Stick to a mix of designer British brands - Mulberry, Erdem, Preen and Hunter - and you should have all bases covered.
How to behave
Nothing diffuses tension so well as a big flash of teeth - one thing the wistful-looking Cressida Bonas never mastered. Chatting is also important: study the Queen's use of prosaic opening lines, and borrow some banter from William and Harry - though not Prince Philip.
Self-deprecation also goes down well, as does gentle teasing, and a thorough knowledge of a surprise niche subject, such as the B-roads of Gloucestershire, can be useful for small talk.
Always keep your knees close together when getting in and out of anything (cars, helicopters, nightclubs). Past royal girlfriends, like Chelsy, have struggled to adjust to the attention that goes with being in a relationship with Prince Harry, but as a professional actress, you will cope. It's like being on the red carpet every day, without the bother of having to make a film.
Meeting the family
You will already have been taught how to curtsey - one foot in front of the other, a gentle bend of the knees. Other useful tips would include not volunteering an opinion unless you're asked; feigning a love of corgis and dogs in general - which should be no problem, since you have two of your own; avoiding passing comment on other members of the family, at least until after you're married; and pretending you love very cold places like Scotland and Norfolk, which, having spent seven years in Canada, you will have no problem in doing.
To get on the right side of Prince Charles, it would be wise to express an interest in architecture, botany, painting and Aston Martins. A healthy appetite and thirst for heavy liquor will also stand you in good stead.
This is a delicate line to tread - do too many and the other royals will hate you for showing them up; too few and you will be labelled workshy. The trick is to take up patronage of as many charities as possible, that do something in which you're genuinely interested. That way it won't seem quite so boring when you're faced with a dozen cold salmon lunches in one week. Keep careful tabs on your wardrobe to make sure you don't wear the same outfit too often, though it's important to show signs of thrift by reusing certain pieces in different combinations. Choose your haircut wisely, as it will be closely scrutinised.
Where to shop
You may think Harrods. This is wrong. As a rule, stick to solid British brands, like John Lewis, Barbour, Land Rover, Dyson, as nobody will complain if you spend thousands there. Keep tabs on your wardrobe to make sure you don't wear the same outfit too often, though it's important to show signs of thrift by reusing certain pieces. Beware of going too high or low end. Strike a balance between Scrooge and Marie Antoinette.
Where to live
This will be decided for you - Harry's current home is Nottingham Cottage, a detached two-bedroom house behind Kensington Palace. You may find it quite poky compared to the Californian-style bungalow you currently call home, but it's very private and handy for Kensington shops, plus there's a new Mahiki nightclub opening at the end of your drive any minute.
There's also talk of Harry taking over Clarence House once Charles accedes to the throne, since he will be moving into Buckingham Palace, and William and Kate (above) don't want to leave Kensington Palace. That really would be a coup. Who knows, a four-storey John Nash mansion in the centre of London could make it all worth it.