their special bond
The speed of the evolution of actress Meghan Markle into royal Duchess of Sussex is dazzling to watch, and in many ways it is thanks to the Queen – her joyful supporter. Juliet Rieden reports.
The Queen giggling is not something we see very often. In public the Monarch is intense and solemn, as you would expect from the engagements she is called on to attend, and when photographed with her family she looks proud and patrician with rare knowing smiles spotted by the keenest royal watchers; that is until the Duchess of Sussex joined the fold. To those who know her, the Queen is famous for her dry sense of humour, a brilliant mimic with a fine nose for the ridiculous. So, it is rather special that Prince Harry’s new wife, the incredibly likeable 36-year-old Hollywood-raised actress, has tickled the Queen’s funny bone.
Last month Meghan joined her 92-year-old grandmotherin-law for her first solo engagement with the Sovereign and The Australian Women’s Weekly was there to witness the landmark day. It was just weeks after the wedding and no doubt a nerve-wracking initiation for the newest addition to the Royal Firm. In a House of Windsor first, the Duchess spent the night before with Her Majesty on the royal train. This is an honour that has never been bestowed on Princes William and Harry, nor the Duchess of Cambridge, and underlines how keenly the Queen is embracing her granddaughter-in-law.
What happened on the train has most definitely stayed on the train and we don’t even know in which siding the royal duo pulled up to spend the night. But if the Queen’s smile as they disembarked on Runcorn station the next day is anything to go by, it’s clear
Her Majesty has become a huge fan of Harry’s Duchess.
It’s clear Her Majesty has become a huge fan of Harry’s Duchess.
It was Meghan’s first ever visit to the north of England and the engagement offered the Queen the chance to show the newbie royal the ropes; in many ways this was a day of training for Meghan, a rare chance to learn from the very best. Royal duties are unique and often a little bizarre. There are endless lines of hand-shaking and meeting and greeting, but it is staying involved that is key. There is always a lot of preparation work, poring through reading and research on the event and then on the ground there’s connecting with the people, the absolute lifeblood of royal work.
In a stunning fitted Givenchy dress with an elegant cape detail, sky-high stilettos and exquisite pearl and diamond earrings gifted by Her Majesty, Meghan drew gasps and then cheers from the hundreds who turned out to meet the train. Her Majesty wore her trademark bold colours with an eye-catching lime green Stewart Parvin dress with matching hat. Meghan stuck to protocol, keeping a few steps behind the Monarch, but whenever the pair paused together, they couldn’t help but laugh and chat. It was a delight to watch.
Next stop was Storyhouse, a
$65 million conversion of the old cinema into a community theatre and library. “It is hugely significant for [the town of] Chester to have the royal seal of approval on our work here,” a very proud Councillor Sam Dixon told The Australian Women’s Weekly. For the centre’s Artistic Director, Alex Clifton, preparing for the royal visit was “extra scary”, and when he heard that the actress Duchess would be watching his production, the pressure was on.
Thousands were gathered and they weren’t disappointed. The Queen and Duchess paused on the steps of the centre to join the British people in a 72-second silence to remember the 72 victims of the Grenfell Fire, who died a year earlier when a blaze fatally engulfed a residential tower block in the London borough where Meghan now resides with Prince Harry.
Inside, the royals met a group of Syrian refugees and watched some impressive set pieces from the theatre’s current production of A Little Night Music. On their way through the library they talked to those involved in a digital buddies scheme which teams young volunteers with silver surfers. “We had no idea the Queen and Meghan would actually talk to us,” an excited Frank Samuel told me.
There was a final performance from a choir of schoolchildren and as she left, the Duchess turned and whispered, “Good job, you guys!”
Outside, the royals met the crowds before lunch in the Town Hall. Throughout, Meghan watched on intently and at times a little nervously, looking to Her Majesty for guidance, which was whispered. No doubt in the future she will look back on this day as the start of a steep learning curve, but also with affection as the day her new grandmother-in-law showed her the royal ropes.