What royal fem­i­nist Meghan, Duchess of Sus­sex will do next

Meghan Markle, the new Duchess of Sus­sex, has taken to her role with ease and style. Ahead of her New Zealand tour, we look at her first months in the spot­light and what to ex­pect from the royal fem­i­nist

NEXT (New Zealand) - - At A Glance | Contents - BY HAN­NAH FURNESS

IIf the young Duchess of Cam­bridge once faced the cruel jibe of ‘waity Katie’, ap­pear­ing to fill her days be­fore her even­tual be­trothal with a job as a part-time ac­ces­sory buyer, Meghan Markle could be ac­cused of noth­ing of the sort – she has worked nearly ev­ery day of her adult life: as a cal­lig­ra­pher, wait­ress, soup-kitchen server, blog­ger and ac­tress. Three days af­ter her wed­ding to Prince Harry, she made her de­but as Meghan, Duchess of Sus­sex at a Buck­ing­ham Palace gar­den party, cel­e­brat­ing her fa­ther-in-law’s 70th birth­day. Af­ter a se­cret hon­ey­moon – the des­ti­na­tion has not yet been made public – the new­ly­weds re­turned for Troop­ing the Colour 17 days later. Just a hand­ful of en­gage­ments have been un­der­taken since then, in­clud­ing a trip to Dublin and a visit to an ex­hi­bi­tion about Nel­son Man­dela’s life, with aides keen to calm the fever­ish in­ter­est in Meghan by spac­ing out her public ap­pear­ances.


The duchess’ work in public has, in other words, been rel­a­tively quiet so far. While crit­ics waited for her to put a foot wrong, she has opted for cau­tion and get­ting to know her newly adopted coun­try. “Be­fore start­ing big projects it’s about tak­ing time to lis­ten and learn and get out and see peo­ple,” an in­sider says. “It’s clear that she’s go­ing to take her time and get things right.”

In pri­vate, Meghan has been thrust into the bus­tle of the roy­als’ sum­mer cal­en­dar, in­clud­ing a low-key trip to Bal­moral Cas­tle, at­tend­ing the Duke of Sus­sex’s child­hood friend Char­lie van Strauben­zee’s wed­ding, and a pri­vate cel­e­bra­tion to mark her 37th birth­day on Au­gust 4. Run­ning along­side these, a sched­ule of meet­ings is hap­pen­ing, with un­der-the-radar trips around the coun­try to visit char­i­ties and to make ar­range­ments for 2019. Al­though she has an­nounced no star turns yet, there is talk of a solo project to be re­vealed soon and hints about where her fu­ture cam­paign­ing may lie. Her pre­vi­ous life saw her cham­pion women’s rights, pe­riod poverty, clean wa­ter and global chil­dren’s char­ity World Vi­sion. Her of­fi­cial royal pro­file, which went live on the royal fam­ily’s web­site the day af­ter the wed­ding, em­pha­sises her iden­tity as a fem­i­nist.

‘It’s clear that she’s go­ing to take her time

and get things right’

Speak­ing as a bira­cial Amer­i­can, Meghan has al­ready be­come a role model for young­sters who see more of them­selves in her than they have in any other royal. For young women too, her is­sues could not be more of the mo­ment. She used her first Q&A with Prince Harry in Fe­bru­ary to ref­er­ence the #MeToo and Time’s Up move­ments, declar­ing, “Women don’t need to find a voice: they have a voice. Peo­ple need to be en­cour­aged to lis­ten.”


When Prince Harry told the world his fi­ancée had loved spend­ing Christ­mas with the “fam­ily she never had” live on Ra­dio 4 on De­cem­ber 27, most put it down to a slip of the tongue. But by the time the wed­ding came around, and her fa­ther Thomas Markle had pulled out of at­tend­ing due to heart surgery, af­ter a series of mis­guided at­tempts to work the press in his favour, the mut­ter­ings could be heard loud and clear.

Mr Markle has set about em­bar­rass­ing his daugh­ter at ev­ery turn, by open­ing a hot­line to the tabloids and the US tabloid-news web­site TMZ. Meghan ini­tially held out an olive branch to her fa­ther, but has since been silent in public. In re­turn, his com­ments have been in­creas­ingly provoca­tive. “I’m en­joy­ing the fact that I can make the en­tire royal fam­ily not speak,” Thomas has said in an in­ter­view. He has also crit­i­cised his daugh­ter’s “sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity”, say­ing she would be “noth­ing with­out me” and rail­ing, “Per­haps it would be eas­ier for Meghan if I died.” In an­other in­ter­view with a Sunday pa­per, he claimed that he’d hung up on a phone call to Harry af­ter the prince be­rated him for sell­ing pic­tures to the press.

Meghan’s mother Do­ria, on the other hand, has re­mained a pil­lar of sup­port, go­ing back to her so­cial-worker job in LA and pre­par­ing for her daugh­ter’s next clan­des­tine visit. No photos have emerged of her daugh­ter vis­it­ing her since the wed­ding, but ac­cord­ing to in­sid­ers, the duchess is very good at get­ting over there with­out be­ing seen.


Meghan has taken pains to praise sis­ter-in-law Kate as “won­der­ful”, clev­erly pre-empt­ing any me­dia nar­ra­tive of the women locked in jeal­ous ri­valry. The two were seen chat­ting hap­pily at Wim­ble­don. The Prince of Wales has also found much in com­mon with his daugh­ter-in-law, bond­ing over their shared love of the arts, and the Queen her­self could not have given a clearer in­di­ca­tion of her sup­port than invit­ing the duchess to ac­com­pany her for a day out in Cheshire in June. Meghan was even of­fered a treat no other young royal is known to have so far en­joyed: a sleep­over on the royal train en route to the event.


A for­mer red-car­pet reg­u­lar, Meghan has al­ready carved out a newly for­mal style to suit her du­ties. With her stylist friend Jes­sica Mul­roney at the end of the phone, she has shopped for her own wardrobe with­out the help of an as­sis­tant, re­ly­ing on el­e­gant dresses and sharp tai­lor­ing. Un­like her sis­ter-in-law, who prefers to pa­tro­n­ise Bri­tish brands, Meghan’s ap­proach has been more in­ter­na­tional, wear­ing de­signs from French house Dior and Ital­ian la­bel Prada. She has bought Bri­tish too, specif­i­cally Lon­don Fash­ion Week de­sign­ers Roland Mouret and New Zealand-born Emilia Wick­stead – de­spite con­tro­ver­sial com­ments made on the lat­ter’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts about Meghan’s choice of wed­ding dress.


As she grows in con­fi­dence, there’s no doubt the duchess will find a way to shine in words and ac­tions. In ad­di­tion to her soon-to-bean­nounced solo project, there’s the tour with Prince Harry in Oc­to­ber, where the cou­ple will at­tend the Syd­ney In­vic­tus Games, fol­lowed by vis­its to Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand.

A tour wardrobe needs to be planned – no mean feat across four coun­tries, a part-trop­i­cal cli­mate and mil­lions of judg­men­tal eyes on ev­ery out­fit. And, as any 30-some­thing cou­ple will know, no sooner have the wed­ding bells stopped ring­ing than the in­evitable ques­tions about chil­dren be­gin. So far they have been gra­ciously de­flected, with the prince say­ing only that they hoped it would be “very soon”. With the Zika virus still present in ar­eas of their South Pa­cific tour, the Sus­sex fam­ily plans are bound to come un­der scru­tiny.

They have both made it clear, how­ever, that there is much to do. First, there is the hope that Thomas keeps his prom­ise not to give any more in­ter­views, al­though if re­cent ru­mours are to be be­lieved, he’s launch­ing his own fash­ion la­bel. Then, af­ter the tour, it’s back to Bri­tain for Re­mem­brance Sunday and the Prince of Wales’ real birth­day, as well as trans­lat­ing all those un­seen meet­ings into public work. Judg­ing by her first fault­less months, the duchess will no doubt take it all in her stride. As she said when her en­gage­ment was an­nounced, “Very early out of the gate, I think you re­alise you have ac­cess or a voice that peo­ple are will­ing to lis­ten to and with that comes a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity, which I take se­ri­ously.”

As one long-time ob­server says, “They’ll be do­ing cart­wheels around Buck­ing­ham Palace. Meghan just gets it.”

‘You have a voice that peo­ple are will­ing to lis­ten to and with that comes re­spon­si­bil­ity’

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