Lisa Wilkinson: The Downside To Marrying The World's Most Eligible Bachelor
Prince Harry clearly loves Meghan Markle for her independent spirit, but can such an admirable spirit prosper, or even survive, in the gilded royal cage she has signed up for?
Right now Meghan Markle is the most talked-about woman on the planet. Beautiful, intelligent, successful and giddily in love with the world’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Harry, a man who adores her with an intensity that could warm a world.
Their union on Saturday will be a celebration of pomp and grandeur, complete with horse-drawn carriages, choirs and courtiers -- the sort of fairytale wedding that Hallmark Greeting cards would come up with, if they were in the business. In a world full of bad news, it’s hard not to get caught up in the romance and excitement of such a happy event.
And yet, while it is a delight to see a couple so grateful to have found each other, I can’t help but wonder just how much of Meghan’s happily-ever-after role as royal wife will mean having to say goodbye to the happily-independent woman of her past. Prince Harry clearly loves her for her independent spirit, but can such an admirable spirit prosper, or even survive, in the gilded royal cage she has signed up for?
Unlike Diana Spencer or Kate Middleton before her, this royal bride is a woman who knows her own mind and, to this point, hasn’t been afraid to use it.
It is an attribute Harry has said he deeply admires in his fiancé. And yet, this is a trait not previously embraced nor encouraged in members of the family better known as 'The Firm'. As history shows, when Diana began to speak up and assert her independence, the lips of the palace pursed. (Palaces can be like that.) Which is why Kate Middleton has perhaps, until now, been seen as the perfect royal bride, as she so far has said very little.
A simple Meghan Markle Google search can quickly take you down a fascinating YouTube rabbit hole, to a time not so very long ago when Meghan was a regular on the US talk show circuit, known for her opinions on everything from Donald Trump (not a fan), to feminism (proud proponent since the age of 12), to race relations (America has much work to do).
Along with the raw honesty she displayed during those appearances, there were short skirts, bare legs and plunging necklines. Those days are gone. Royal attire dictates that necklines are high and hemlines are low. And, according to the Queen herself, stockings for female royals on all occasions are a non-negotiable.
Like that other actress-turned-royal before her, Grace Kelly, Meghan’s successful on-screen career is no more, nor is her popular lifestyle website that was once her passion, The Tig. Two million followers on social media? Shut down.
Meghan has also moved, not just houses but countries. Her Catholic origins have been shed to join the royal Church of England, which the matriarch of her new family heads. She has even had to give up one of her beloved rescue dogs who she felt was too old to be up to the change.
An intense security detail will now follow her every move, because, as the anti-terror training she undertook within days of the happy news of their engagement informed her, Meghan is now a prominent terror target. And then there’s those pesky pap photographers, the tabloid media and their desperate desire for click bait, and the endless prying tentacles of press officers and palace officials.
Public displays of affection will need to be toned right down. And shellfish is off the menu (too high a risk of food poisoning). Selfies are a no-no (bye-bye puppy filter) as are autographs, and ripped jeans (she just slipped that one under the wire!), and colourful nail polish (nude or clear only thanks). Meghan can also never vote in an election again -- royals can never be seen as having a political opinion, even when it is private. And one must always walk behind William and Kate at official functions.
So, after 36 years of doing things her way, how will Meghan cope with this new world order? Will Harry’s love be enough to carry her through all the challenges that lie ahead? There is a royal protocol she has signed up to, and though she may try and bend it in places, if she tries to break it, it will more than likely break her – as it did her late mother-in-law.
Like so many others, I look forward to watching Meghan as she begins her new life as a royal and hope that she, like Diana, will be a strong voice when it comes to matters close to her heart. I hope she continues her work for safe and accessible drinking water in all countries. I want to watch her continue to debunk racial stereotypes and be a loud and proud spokesperson for women’s and equal rights in general. (Apart, I guess from the whole notion of monarchy, which has a starting point that not all families are equal, and that one is particularly and perpetually special.)
I hope she continues her passion for travel with the friends she loves and trusts. I hope she will still meditate and practice yoga and will get to do so without the intrusive gym workout paparazzi shots Diana endured. I hope she and Harry remain as in love as they are now and have happy healthy children if they want them.
And I hope one day, Meghan can forge a path now unseen, a way to be herself, and happy, while not breaking royal protocols. At least not any that still count in the 21st Century...