Can Meghan real ly be a fem­i­nist princess?

She’s vowed to use her plat­form to em­power women but, Han­nah Betts asks, can the new duchess’s fem­i­nism flour­ish in The Firm?

Grazia (UK) - - The Take -

OH, THE HEADY days of May’s royal wed­ding: a cor­us­cat­ing cou­ple, bril­liant blue skies, plus a Great Bri­tish fash­ion pa­rade. Best of all, we had Ms Markle her­self, our own fire­brand princess, whose of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­phy de­clares that she is ‘proud to be…a fem­i­nist’. All hail the Duchess of Sus­sex, champion of women’s rights.

But then came last week’s news that any daugh­ters born to Meghan will not in­herit a ti­tle. Should we really be sur­prised? Is it pos­si­ble to be a fem­i­nist princess, princess­dom com­ing with the trap­pings not only of rock, frock and glass slip­per, but the con­sti­tu­tion, med­dling courtiers, and hun­dreds of years of dead­en­ing pro­to­col? Can one marry into one of the world’s most pa­tri­ar­chal in­sti­tu­tions and ex­pect to re­main in­de­pen­dent of its bag­gage?

Al­ready, per­haps, there have been signs of com­pro­mise. Pre­vi­ously, the ac­tor re­fused to at­tend an event at the Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel be­cause it’s owned by the Sul­tan of Brunei, whose laws per­se­cute gay men and women. Fast-for­ward to her wed­ding eve, when her groom stayed at Coworth Park, also a Sul­tan of Brunei prop­erty, the man him­self be­ing old mates with Harry.

Meghan was im­me­di­ately as­signed one of the Queen’s most trusted mem­bers of staff – Sa­man­tha Co­hen – as an ad­vi­sor, whose role is to sub­ject her to six months’ ‘lis­ten­ing’ and ‘hu­mil­ity’, ac­cord­ing to The Times. Mean­while, be­fore any of this, there was tights-gate. The for­merly bare-legged duchess’s de­ci­sion to sport flesh-coloured tights at her first of­fi­cial out­ing shocked many. How stal­wartly will Meghan be able to up­hold her fem­i­nist cre­den­tials if her very hosiery is be­ing dic­tated? I ask Dickie Ar­biter, for­mer Buck­ing­ham House spokesman and au­thor of On Duty With The Queen: ‘Is the Queen a fem­i­nist?’ ‘Of course she is. Look at Princess Anne, she’s a fem­i­nist by mere dint of the work she does, as was Diana. If you’re ask­ing whether Meghan will be go­ing about wear­ing a plac­ard say­ing: “I’m a fem­i­nist”, then no. But that’s not go­ing to stop her pur­su­ing her goals.’

How­ever much girl power the Queen em­bod­ies, though, a fe­male-led institution is not the same as a fem­i­nist one. More­over, Meghan her­self is sev­eral ranks down the peck­ing or­der. What causes is she likely to be al­lowed? Ac­cord­ing to Katie Ni­choll, au­thor of Harry: Life, Loss, And Love: ‘Meghan will want to focus on women’s em­pow­er­ment. One of the char­i­ties that ben­e­fit­ted from the wed­ding was the Myna Mahila foun­da­tion to help young women in Mumbai’s slums. I can see her pro­mot­ing projects to help vul­ner­a­ble women in the Commonwealth and UK. Camilla is very in­volved with help­ing vic­tims of do­mes­tic abuse, and last year hosted a re­cep­tion for International Women’s Day, so there is prece­dent. I can see Meghan find­ing a great ally in her.’

Even so, the neu­tral­ity de­manded by her po­si­tion looks set to cause prob­lems. Dickie, who tweets as @Royaldickie, says: ‘Meghan won’t be able to be as vo­cal, given the con­sti­tu­tional con­straints that mean roy­als aren’t al­lowed to get in­volved in cam­paigns of a po­lit­i­cal na­ture. As with Diana and her work with AIDS and land­mines, it be­comes a case of ac­tions rather than words.’

For a cam­paigner who once said ‘women don’t need to find a voice: they have a voice’, be­ing con­fined to the lan­guage of ges­ture could be a chal­lenge. Meghan shut down her web­site, The Tig, a few months be­fore her en­gage­ment, her so­cial me­dia ac­counts shortly af­ter it. It seems win­ning her prince means she must lose her voice.

So can modernity really sit with anachro­nism, fem­i­nism with the feu­dal? Dickie be­lieves so: ‘Meghan will de­velop her own way. And she’ll do it well be­cause she’s a pretty savvy woman, a grown-up who’s made her way in the world.’ It’s cer­tainly true that those of us too old to be­lieve in fairy tales – and yet who long to see what a royal fem­i­nist could look like – will be is­su­ing a hearty ‘Best of Brit’.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.