From bride to bump to baby: The twelve months of Meghan...
The drama-filled year preceding the arrival of Baby Sussex cemented his mum's standing as one of the most fascinating and powerful women in the world, writes Hannah Betts
All hail, Baby Sussex! At long last, 2019 has brought some unquestionably, humdingingly fantastic news for the UK: a little boy weighing in at 7lb 3oz for Harry and the woman he so patently adores. Most of all, of course, there must be a collective high five to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex - the woman who has carried this little bundle for nine months of fevered anticipation tinged with impertinent speculation.
As all too many women discover, pregnancy allows people to imagine they have a right to an opinion over what they do with their bodies; a situation magnified when this woman is being scrutinised by a watching world. After the love-in that surrounded the engagement and honeymoon, everyone seemed to have an opinion on Meghan's pregnancy from her habit of bump cradling, via her baby shower, to plans for a home birth with yoga and chanting.
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What is certain is the duchess is a very different type of woman to her sister-in-law. Kate met her prince at the age of 19, allowing for a 10-year courtship in which she could transform herself into a queen-in-waiting.
Meghan met her beau at the age of 35, one marriage already under her belt, with a successful career, and established political and humanitarian interests. This is not a woman used to being told how to run her life, or her body. She comes from a different culture (American), a different mindset (Californian), and a different world view (that of globe-trotting celebrity/"lifestyle guru").
Genuinely exciting as all this is, it has made for an interesting ride from marriage to motherhood. Meghan's passage from bride to bump to birth started in undisputed triumph.
The couple's wedding was a masterstroke. Behold: a super Saturday of royalty and Hollywood A-listers, hymns and Ben E King pop, Church of England reserve and Episcopalian razzamatazz, coming to a head in our love for dear Doria, her doughty and dignified mother.
The dress was all elegant simplicity, the mood infectiously warm, the happy couple so very happy that one expected them to burst into song.
Meghan's initial public engagements went swimmingly, as did the news she had been making "secret" visits to a Grenfell Tower soup kitchen. All was newly-wed excitement, with merely the odd eyebrow raised over sundry fashion faux-pas: an exposed shoulder here, a rogue fascinator there.
The couple announced the pregnancy in Sydney in October ahead of an autumn tour taking in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. Baby mania ensued, during which the pair were immediately showered with gifts including a toy kangaroo with a joey in its pouch and a minuscule pair of sheepskin boots.
Post-announcement, she continued to pursue her duties as if pregnancy were the most easy and glamorous state in the world. Indeed, within hours of her condition being announced, she appeared wearing a simple white shift dress - sleeveless, and cut close to the body - bijou bump elegantly in evidence. This fitted formula continue to serve her well from the high-waisted midnight blue Givenchy number she wore for Remembrance Sunday to the sensational, one-shoulder jet Givenchy goddess gown she donned for December's British Fashion Awards.
Here was a woman who did not let pregnancy cramp her style - her penchant for skinny jeans included. Beaming, shiny-haired and satin-skinned, Meghan was the poster girl for glowing chic.
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing and as she entered her second trimester, the duchess had to contend with unseemly sniping over her supposed bump-signalling. By November, a degree of froideur was being read into the royals formerly nicknamed the "Fab Four". As Diana and Fergie had been cast as rivals before them so Kate and Meghan were obliged to become adversaries. In fact, the decision to separate their households was mere business as usual. Witness the separate set-ups maintained by the princes' father, uncles and aunt.
As Meghan went into her third trimester, rumours circulated of a difficult woman backed by a frustrated husband constantly springing to her defence.
The five-day New York baby shower did not play well on top of these rumblings, even if its estimated €380,000 bill and flights via private jet were footed by other people. Still, becoming part of a historic institution in another country, on another continent, in a 12-month Manolo-ed sprint, was never going to be the easiest task, even without being pregnant.
Moreover, now the seventh-in-line to the British throne is with us, all of this already feels like a distant memory set to be chalked up to teething problems.
"I'm so incredibly proud of my wife," enthused Harry. Proud that she's through this first hurdle, a beautiful new baby to focus on, loving husband to hand.
So, what vision of motherhood can we expect? Identity politics are close to Meghan's heart, and one can expect the new arrival to be aware of both his heritages, slave as sovereign.
With his parents' Commonwealth roles, rumoured Californian bolt-hole, and "woke" "rock star" royal status, he can be expected to be a global citizen: yoga first, huntin', shootin' and fishin'-type second; snails and puppy dogs tails clad in Lycra, baseball cap and tweed.
Most importantly, however, here is a baby that will be loved: born of big softie Harry and emotionally-articulate Meghan, created when its parents were in that first flush of love.
It will be impossible to watch this spectacle without a smile. (© Daily Telegraph, London)