Farewell Meghan Markle. You’re finally free of The Firm
She’ll no longer have access to the royal jewellery, but can also unstiffen her upper lip
Meghan Markel and Prince Harry on their last royal engagement on Monday. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images
It’s the smile that said, “I’m finally free of The Firm”. On Monday, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made their final official appearance as senior royals at Westminster Abbey’s Commonwealth Day service. Harry cut an uneasy and somewhat emotional figure as he bade a public farewell to the only life he’s ever known. Meghan, meanwhile, looked like she didn’t have a care in the world.
Only days previously, the couple were photographed entering the Endeavour Fund Awards. Raindrops glistened in the background, and the glare of cameras provided a romantic backlight. Social media are unanimous: leaving the royal family is doing absolute wonders for Meghan Markle’s complexion. Thriving not surviving, indeed.
Monday night marked the final time that Meghan had to wear her “royal” garb: demure necklines, modest skirt lengths, and the sort of sensible shift dress that would more readily befit a middle-aged mother of the bride. Still, the British press were at pains to observe that she “dazzled” in her emerald Emilia Wickstead ensemble, and that she and Harry were given a standing ovation at the Royal Albert Hall. Talk about too little, too late.
Even before Meghan Markle spontaneously hugged and kissed a demonstrably chuffed schoolboy at the Robert Clack school in Essex last Friday, we knew that she was a cut apart from the bluebloods.
Come to think of it, Markle was unlike any royal bride we have seen in recent memory. She wasn’t a jolly-hockey-sticks upper-class bachelorette like Fergie, nor a virginal naïf like Diana. Similarly, she wasn’t a blank canvas in the way that Kate Middleton, who met Prince William as teenage university student, was.
Markle, who married Prince Harry at the age of 37, had made her money, formed her opinions, married and divorced her first husband, and lived her fair share of the Hollywood high life before she crossed paths with a royal.
The tabloid media have previous form in – let’s say this nicely – paying close attention to the peccadilloes of royal wives.
In the 1980s, Diana’s reported penchant for colonic irrigation, astrologers, and numerologists was fairly unprecedented. Tabloids went pure Pavlov’s Dogs over it.
Originally dubbed a breath of fresh air, Fergie was soon dismissed as irrepressible, indiscreet, way too much. Even “Waity Katie” got it in the neck from the press for having an erstwhile airline crew-member for a mother.
But when it came to their disdain of Meghan Markle, the media crossed the Rubicon from “doors to manual” to a weapons-grade sneering session.
In what was a first for the modern royals, there had been calls for Markle to rein in her reportedly profligate, Wallis Simpson-style spending. There had also been calls about hypocrisy, given that Meghan and Harry travelled by private jet regularly while espousing measures to tackle climate change.
After dropping a reported €2.6 million of taxpayers’ money on renovating Frogmore Estate cottage, Meghan also came under fire for holding a €180,000 baby shower in a €67,000 a night Manhattan hotel.
Bless her; Meghan tried very hard to get into the swing of things as a royal. She looked regal and implacable on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. She shook hands with every cat, dog and divil put in her path and looked thrilled to do so. She visited charity after charity, and sat through dozens of stuffy, centuries-old ceremonies.
“I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a ‘stiff upper lip’,” she told an ITV interviewer last year. “I really tried, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging. I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair.”
Now that Meghan is returning to a fairer, simpler life, there is a considerable task ahead: waving off a slew of blue-blood perks and privileges now that she is returning to a ‘simpler’ life.
As members of the Royal Family, Harry and Meghan enjoyed being catered by a large household staff (rumours abound that Harry’s dad, Prince Charles, allegedly has a courtier put toothpaste on his evening toothbrush). Meghan will also no longer have access to the royal jewellery collection. At her majesty’s invitation, royal women can wear the queen’s beautiful tiaras for diplomatic receptions. Access to top healthcare professionals – among them the queen’s surgeon gynaecologist and the royal household physician –- will also be a thing of the past. Somehow, I think that Harry and Meghan are happy enough to fork out for private health insurance as a payoff.
For now, we bid them adieu, as they doubtless ponder their post-royal existence.
Are Meghan and Harry destined for a life not unlike that of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, living in a sort of exotic exile? Will they become Canadian A-listers, royalty in all but name? Will we see much the same of them, but with fewer tiaras involved? Will Meghan ever get that Lion King gig that Harry seemingly pitched director Jon Favreau for? Time will tell.
To say that the future will be interesting is an understatement.