Charades, sardines and curtseying - welcome to the Firm, Meghan
Meghan Markle's engagement to Prince Harry has made her the hottest commodity on the front pages.
But amid all the hype, does she know what's in store? Sinead Ryan breaks the grim news…
Meghan is marrying into 1,000 years of dynasty. From the 14th-century Plantagenets, through the head-chopping Tudors, flamboyant Elizabethans, nutty King George and the crusty Victorians, her place in history is already assured.
The Crown Estate owns 1.9 million acres of land (think all of Co Cork), dozens of castles and stately homes, half of Mayfair, Royal Ascot, tons of Old Masters, and of course, the Crown jewels.
Meghan can take her beady eye off it all though. The queen considers herself custodian rather than proprietor. Jewels can be loaned, carriages ordered and houses leased but she won't be selling Rembrandts on eBay if things don't work out.
Titles are divvied out like party poppers at the upper echelons of British aristocracy. Meghan will be bestowed a personal title on marriage. However, despite the inevitability of being called 'Princess Meghan', this isn't one of them. Only princesses born into the royal family are styled this way and Meghan is consort to Harry.
She will be entitled to HRH, and can either be styled Princess Henry of Wales (his chattel, by extension) or, more likely, the Duchess of Something, probably Sussex. There are a limited number of dukedoms and of those not currently in use, Connaught is also available, but may be considered politically dodgy. Meghan's title could change again when Charles or William accede to the throne, but she shouldn't be getting any ideas about that just yet.
The queen is a stickler for the "Order of Precedence", which dictates who bows/curtseys to whom. Meghan, when not accompanied by Harry, must curtsey to blood princesses like Beatrice and Eugenie. But when Harry's with her, she doesn't have to, but woe betide her if she doesn't bend at the knee when Charles comes into the room.
Meghan herself will receive a curtsey from her aunt-in-law (the Countess of Wessex) but definitely not from Princess Anne. Got it? Good. There are countless books on the subject in the Royal Library.
Meghan will become a British citizen. There is a test, so she needs to crack open the books. She's exempt from the English language exam, but will have to answer questions like, "Which stories are associated with Geoffrey Chaucer?", "What was Emmeline Pankhurst famous for?" (as a feminist she'll have no problem with that one), "What is the currency of the UK?" and "Who appoints peers to the House of Lords?" (Spoiler alert: it's granny-in-law!).
Events There's a strict pecking order at state banquets and garden parties. Meghan will be expected to know her place from day one. To use an Americanism, this is the Brit version of "Shock and Awe". The state dining room seats 170 comfortably.
Meghan won't be expected to pitch in with some extra plates or a dessert. The grand delph service contains 5,500 pieces, not to mention the 2,500 glasses and 118 salt cellars used at an average banquet. She'll need to learn who the Yeoman of the Glass and the Footman of the Silver Pantry are lest she mistake them for party guests. A butler uses a measuring stick to set places precisely 18 inches apart. Five wines are served with dinner, but Meghan better not get trollied.
The queen frowns on family drinking at 'work' events and only ever sips water herself (and only ever Malvern). Safe to say, if Meghan gets an invite, she had better turn up. They are considered royal commands.
Members of the royal family enter the room according to strict protocol. Events start and end promptly. There's no hanging about for a last drink and a fag out the back.
Meghan's acting work may give her the false sense of security that she can handle the paparazzi. She has no idea what's coming. It will have been alarmingly evident to her this week (her first royal walkabout with Harry) that there will never be a camera lens, magazine editor or journalist who doesn't want to get up close and personal.
Meghan's megawatt smile and perfect body will have them salivating. Every hair on her head, every freckle, every earring will be dissected, analysed and photographed. Every item of clothing she wears will sell out in minutes (even the posh stuff), and she will never, ever be able to keep up. Harry's income as a former solider isn't up to much. So just as well dad Charles supports his kids by his Duchy of Cornwall fund. Harry also has his share of the €17m left by his mother, Diana, so Meghan won't be schlepping around charity shops any time soon.
She will, however, have to draw an exceedingly fine line between designer bling and bargain basement recycling. Kate gives masterclasses on this: one day Zara, the next Dior.
Dear me. The new duchess may have been top of the pile in Hollywood, but she's firmly in the middle of the Windsor's 'Who's Who' list. While Kate will be relieved at the heat being taken off her temporarily as Meghan becomes the new ... well, Kate, expect rivalries - imagined or real - to surface eventually, just as they did between Diana and Fergie.
In the latter's case, the accident prone red-head could never hope to compete with the beautiful blonde queen of people's hearts, but Kate and Meghan are both sensational, smart and savvy. Expect "Who Wore it Best?" and "Are They At War?" features almost every day.
The royals are as odd as a box of frogs, and never more so than at Christmas. If Meghan's expecting fun and games on a lavish scale, she's in for a shock. The day is timed to precision, requiring several changes of costume, a bewildering set of rules and inexplicable traditions such as buying jokey cheap gifts (a white leather toilet seat featured last year).
Extended family arrive at the 20,000-acre Sandringham estate in order of precedence (Meghan will be toward the end as Harry has 'senior' royal status).
At 8pm there's a formal black-tie dinner and on Christmas morning a full English breakfast is served (No Meghan, one cannot have organic muesli and chia seeds), before church and lunch, for which an exact 50 minutes is given so the family can sit and watch the queen's speech.
The queen, having already heard it, will presumably do some knitting instead. Shooting parties, long country walks and parlour games like charades and sardines are mandatory. Nobody will be updating their lifestyle blog or status on Facebook. Ahem.