Monday 19 November 2018

If the world thinks that she's Princess Meghan, how can the palace argue?

An impending baby and her wooing of Oz elevates Meghan Markle in the royal ranks

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex walking along Kingfisher bay walk about on October 22, 2018 in Fraser Island, Australia
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex walking along Kingfisher bay walk about on October 22, 2018 in Fraser Island, Australia
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, hold hands while walking through Sydney Olympic Park, Australia October 21, 2018. Chris Jackson/Pool via REUTERS
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex takes a tour of ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park, on October 20, 2018 in Sydney, Australia
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Official opening of ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park, on October 20, 2018 in Sydney, Australia
BREAKING THE MOULD: Harry and Meghan Markle on tour in Oz. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Sarah Caden

There's a Meghan Markle Halloween costume. But of course there is. The costume is from the people who brought us the 'Sexy Handmaid' a few years ago, a questionable cashing-in on The Handmaid's Tale success and somewhat at odds with its themes. And, again, their latest costume has caused some consternation.

The 'American Princess' dress is, from the waist up, a cheap-fabric imitation of the Duchess of Sussex's wedding dress. Like the Givenchy creation Meghan wore up Windsor Castle aisle in May, it is white, with tight sleeves and a just-off-the-shoulder neckline.

The skirt is lacking, though. As in, it's short, and tight and sexy, the last of which seems to be bothering people.

Well, it's disrespectful of the princess, isn't it? Though, in fact, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, is not a princess at all.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Official opening of ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park, on October 20, 2018 in Sydney, Australia
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Official opening of ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park, on October 20, 2018 in Sydney, Australia

Not officially, maybe, but that Halloween costume doesn't just give her the nod as a famous person who needs no introduction. It also gives Meghan the nod as a princess.

Official be damned, when it comes to princess, it's all about perception. And on the Halloween racks and on her Australian tour with Harry last week, Meghan Markle was embraced as a princess.

You could say it's Diana all over again. She will be forever Princess Diana, despite the fact that she never was. Married to Charles, she was Diana, Her Royal Highness, Princess of Wales. Once they divorced, Diana lost the HRH and became simply Diana, Princess of Wales.

No one ever really called her that, though. The official was irrelevant. She was a princess by perception, fat lot of good it did her.

In Australia last week, where Meghan mania was at fever pitch, the like of which the royals haven't experienced since Diana, the Aussies defiantly referred to her as Princes Meghan. They even said explicitly in the papers that this was an act of defiance, and if The Firm has any sense they will leave this spouse of Windsor off to woo the world.

The Diana comparisons come easily, but there is one major difference between Meghan and her late mother-in-law. Meghan isn't trying to fit in. Meghan is blithely breaking the mould and Harry, son of the woman broken by her desire to be accepted, is encouraging his wife every step of the way.

Some ill-intent has been read into Meghan and Harry's pregnancy announcement, made at the wedding of Princess Eugenie two Fridays ago.

Admittedly, as soon as Meghan stepped out of the car at the steps of the church she last ascended as a bride, she looked suspiciously expectant. People weren't really wearing coats.

The fancy dress costume
The fancy dress costume

It was a windy day, but not cold. Other women seemed comfortable in just their dresses. Meghan's coat seemed like a cloak, a covering garment.

The coat was a bit of a giveaway, but given her willowy figure, even the tiniest bit of belly must have been obvious on Meghan at the wedding.

Everyone must have known, she probably felt compelled to tell, and surely she had no intention of upstaging Eugenie on her big day.

That's Eugenie who got married the other week. Eugenie, daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, whom people never referred to as Princess Sarah.

File photo dated 19/05/18 of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leaving St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after their wedding. During their wedding ceremony
File photo dated 19/05/18 of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leaving St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after their wedding. During their wedding ceremony

Eugenie, who stopped being a princess once she married and is now just Mrs Brooksbank. She remains @princesseugenie on Twitter, though, but where's the dignity in that?

And no matter how much her parents push that Eugenie and her husband Jack are more popular than Harry and Meghan - as her father did in suggesting that's why his girl had a bigger wedding - that's not how it's playing out.

Further, Sarah Ferguson's tweeting of Eugenie's wedding pictures last Monday, only minutes after Harry and Meghan's official baby announcement, smacked mostly of indignation and frustration.

You can't force popularity. Which is what makes it so galling when some seem to achieve it effortlessly. Fergie was always the one in Diana's shadow and now Meghan's pulling off a similar popularity coup.

As Zara Tindall was lip-read pointing out to Harry in the Windsor chapel last week, as their mutual cousin Eugenie emerged to the small crowd: "The screaming was much louder for you."

The screaming was loud for Harry and Meghan last May in Windsor, but it was even louder in Oz last week. They arrived in Australia just hours before their baby announcement, beaming and holding hands at the airport and there was a winning confidence about the couple.

Of course, Australia is a good fit for the likes of Harry and Meghan. The rebellious former colony is characterised by its contrary nature. They love the idea of Harry as a ginger underdog, Meghan as his non-establishment bride.

To have her pregnancy announced on the day of their arrival would speak to the Aussies of new beginnings, clean slates. They like that.

And how they liked Harry and Meghan. It wasn't just in the glowing press and TV coverage, but also down with the public. Characteristic Australian lack of regard for convention was in evidence, with more than a few stepping forward for verboten physical contact.

All of which the pair coped with gamely. Harry made jokes about his wife talking too much. They were undeniably warm and at ease with the little boy with Down syndrome who wanted to stroke Harry's beard.

They attended a "no bad vibes" barefoot circle time on Bondi Beach. They held hands a lot and Meghan, a few times, seemed to cradle her barely there belly.

The fact that the two make no bones about their mutual affection of course has an effect on people. That kind of effortless happiness is very easy to be around. A baby is like the icing on the cake, even if naysayers suggested they should have taken time to settle in to married life before having a baby.

It's a further sign of Harry doing it his way, breaking the mould to reshape it. Meghan will be the princess his mother was never allowed to be. The world has already said it's so.

They are winsome as a pair, there is no denying it, and Meghan is the making of the popularity. What it amounts to, really, is that Meghan is making the rules.

There's no man on a white steed saving the day here. There's one worldly wise young American standing The Firm on its head. Officially, you only get the title of princess before your name if you're born into it.

Meghan Markle may not have been born into it, but she certainly seems born to it.

Sunday Independent

Style Newsletter

Stay on top of the latest fashion, beauty and celeb gossip in our Style newsletter.

Also in this section