It may truly shock you to see just how intense the scrutiny is. Every statement, gesture, every piece of clothing is noted, critiqued, and measured against traditions and protocol that can be charming historical artefacts of a near-sacred institution that has sustained through millennia but that can often seem absurdly outdated, arcane and petty. The spotlight on the star of a hit TV series doesn’t hold a candle to the media fishbowl (to mix a metaphor) of a would-be royal.
Prince Harry has long been considered a royal renegade. As a teen, he was caught smoking, drinking underage, and playing strip billiards in a Vegas hotel. But hey, no biggie. Boys will be boys, n’est-ce pas? Meghan, and others royal women, have and will be judged and criticized on profound issues such as whether she wears pantyhose — seriously. The British media has ordained her the perfect match for Harry, his "partner-in-crime," an overdue trigger for modernizing a stuffy old institution. That’s a whole heap of pressure on her slender shoulders, to be an agent of change in a world that values conformity and discretion. The public already loves her freshness. She’s an outsider, an American media celebrity and the first woman to join the Royal family in this new era of female empowerment. Our list shows how she’s handled the rules you will scarce believe are rules and have a little fun at the monarchy’s expense.
15 The Fashion Crisis
Here’s a skill-testing question — what do you see in this photo? A happy, handsome couple in smashing outfits? True, the white coat is nice and did draw a lot of attention on Twitter. Even the most amateur of Royal watchers can see Prince Harry’s soon-to-be royal wife has bare legs. You can almost hear the stern admonition from the palace’s protocol officer — one must take care to conceal the royal knees and knickers! This is an official Royal photograph, not a Lady Gaga video. The Royals value modesty.
14 Signing Autographs
What could be wrong with a generous-spirited princess taking time from a royal walkabout to thrill a little girl with an autograph she will cherish for the rest of her life? A fair bit, apparently. Okay, Meghan means well, but she is not just a minor American TV celebrity anymore, she represents a venerable royal family and the country which they rule, with all the protocol, traditions, conventions, and rules that entails. Not to mention the ever-present security reasons to be more prudent. Sure, little Caitlin Clarke is adorable, but the Queen worries about forged signatures of a prominent member of the Royal family.
13 Crossbody Bag
A shoulder bag from Scotland’s Strathberry may seem innocuous, but fashion magazines saw it another way. Royal expert William Hanson pronounced that “royals always carry a clutch as a means to avoid shaking hands.” Extending one’s hand to a Royal is a huge no-no unless said Royal goes first. They go on to explain that “it’s not what Markle was wearing that broke protocol, per se, it was how she was wearing it.” Does that clear it up for you? Apparently, the proper thing to do is follow Queen Elizabeth’s famous pose holding her purse in the crook of her arm. Rule #1 is: When in doubt, do what the Queen does. Apparently, Meghan is not thinking like a Royal.
12 The Rebellious Wedding Cake
A London pastry chef came up with a cake that reflected both the lightness of Spring and sustainable ingredients. Harry and Meghan loved the elderflower with buttercream and fresh flower decoration idea — a culinary hint of new beginnings. Very idealistic and poetic, don't you think? Wrong again. The traditional "special occasion" cake for the British upper classes has long been fruitcake. As Vogue explained, it's rife with sacred British symbolism, with exotic ingredients from the once-vast expanse of the mighty British Empire. It is a homage to the greatness of Britain and its people at the peak of their power in the nineteenth century. Worse still for Meghan, Royal weddings from Victorian times to Kate Middleton have served it. Vogue assures us, its a big deal.
11 Royal Hair Protocol
There is a Royal policy on hairdos? Where do they find the time? There was a marked difference of opinion on the crucial issue of "don’ts" for "dos." People reported favourably on “another unconventional hairstyle: the side-bun” as perfect for windy weather on an official visit. They made it sound like a revolutionary declaration on women’s rights,.Meghan has been setting her own fashion rules, “going her own way” with a “hairstyle that almost every woman can relate to.” Is that what she was thinking of getting out of the shower that morning? British-based observers were more severe. The Insider sneered that “Royal Protocol applies from head to toe” and called for “sleek” hairstyles. The Queen, it pointedly reminded, wears hats as per tradition. California casual meets British stodgy.
10 May Wedding
Didn't Lord Tennyson himself say Spring is the season when man’s thoughts turn to love? So May is a great time to tie the knot, right? Nope. Queen Victoria may be long dead but she casts a long shadow. She apparently subscribed to the old superstition that holds May weddings are bad, as in the old rhyme, "Marry in May, Rue the Day." One of the reasons why Meghan and Harry are waiting until May is because Kate's due date is in April. They're following in the Royal's footsteps and marrying pretty quickly after announcing their engagement. Prince Charles and Lady Diana and Prince William and Kate waited 5 months, and the Queen and Prince Philip waited only 4 months. So it's not that surprising that Meghan and Harry are tying the knot pretty quickly.
9 Nix PDA
While not specifically banned, PDA comes under the category of things "just not done by British Royalty." One clue to the palace’s position on this is the readily apparent refraining from PDA that Kate Middleton and Prince William exhibit while in public as opposed to Harry and Meghan being "all over each other" in public as one British magazine described their conduct. The rules aren’t all drawn up by grumpy old prudes. They just look that way. Some come from practical realities. As Royal etiquette expert Myka Meier put it, they are working as representatives of the British monarchy and should act professionally on official business. It became an issue when Woman’s Day magazine claimed the Queen herself has told them to tone down the lovebird stuff. If true, that is very serious indeed.
8 Hug-Free Zone
On a related issue. According to no less an authority than People, Prince Harry met an engaging 10-year-old girl at an event for International Women’s Day. Little Sophia was quite the charmer, telling the Prince her ambition was to be an actress just like his fiancée. Th Prince took her over to meet Meghan who gave her a big hug. Nice guy, lovely gesture, great PR, happy ending, right? Not so much. There was a time when trying to hug a Royal got you a good flogging at the very least. Commoners have their place and it’s decidedly not in the arms of a member of the Royal Family. How often have you seen the Queen embracing a person in the crowd? To use the British dialect — not bloody likely. Of course, long-held elitist traits are enhanced by modern security considerations. But getting in trouble for hugging the little people would make Meghan very popular, and the Royal rebel in her seems to know that.
7 Christmas With The Queen
Even the much-adored Kate Middleton wasn’t allowed to spend Christmas at the Queen's fabulous estate at Sandringham until she was officially married to a Royal. Unmarried couples shall not sleep together under the Royal roofs was the rule. Not only did the Royal rebel get special permission, the media loved every unconventional thing she did. They said her low-cut $268 dress by Club Monaco proved she is a "trendsetter" changing Palace fashion rules. Bustle said her present of a singing toy hamster that cracked up the Queen was "brilliantly bonkers." Her outfits didn’t exactly break the rules, but they id "push" them a bit, as in bending the pantyhose rule by wearing suede boots. They are calling it the "Markle effect"— how people have "gone crazy" over things she wears. A sign that perhaps her media savvy and instincts may be underestimated.
6 Wedding Speech
Royal protocol can sometimes appear to have been written by old men over brandy and cigars, with input from grumpy grannies. This from the school of thought which allows for the best man and father of the bride to drone on but where a woman offering her own toast is a departure. You may have noticed that the promotion of gender equality has never been the hallmark of the British Royal Family. But then there has never been a Royal bride who is a professional communicator, who expects to be heard, demands her share of the spotlight, and knows how to use it to her advantage. Meghan will thank the Queen and pay "affectionate tribute to her new husband," who after all, is lending her castle for the evening.
5 She’s Divorced
It’s been a non-negotiable rule that British Royals cannot marry a divorcee and retain a claim to the throne — period. Meghan split with her ex in 2013, but it is the freakin’ 21st century after all. And Harry’s dad Charles divorced the angelic Lady Di to marry another divorcee, Camilla, but in a civil ceremony. The divorcee taboo may come from the general upper-class disdain for the divorced. Back in the day, just a mention that a woman “has a past” with all it implies would destroy a reputation in a heartbeat. In any case, Harry is only fifth in line to the throne, so no imminent crisis would be well down the line. Speaking of history, he will be the first Royal, ever, marry a person of color.
4 Meghan Got Baptized And Confirmed
The issue of religion is far more serious. You get the feeling that Meghan crosses so many touchy Royal boundaries, it’s a minor miracle the relationship not only sustains but thrives. And religion is one of the touchiest. This is no time for a lengthy dissertation of England’s relationship with the Catholic Church. So, a seemingly minor thing like Meghan attending a Catholic convent school placed a huge question mark over everything, even if she wasn’t a religious person. Even though Meghan has been quite a rebel, she did agree to get baptized and confirmed in the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury who has also been helping them with wedding plans.
3 She’s American
Aren’t Brits and Americans close allies who have fought wars together to save the free world? Yes but, the British have a sense of history and tradition to an extent far beyond North Americans might understand. Edward VIII gave up the throne to marry Wallis Simpson of Baltimore who was also twice-divorced for good measure and who remains to his day referred to contemptuously as That Simpson Woman. It became such a social, political, and constitutional disaster, the trauma resonates to this day. It was a dark episode in the Monarchy’s history. The great American writer William Faulkner once said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” He was referring to the American South, but it applies perfectly here.
2 First Ever
There is a paramount aspect to her unconventionality, perhaps more serious than all the rest combined. For those of you who have been trekking in Nepal. Meghan’s mother is African-American and her father is Dutch-Irish. The Guardian wrote, “When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change forever.” Though Meghan won't be a Princess, she will be a duchess when Harry gets the dukedom rumoured to be his wedding present from the Queen. But make no mistake, a biracial royal is a huge step for a monarchy. To regard this as Britain’s Obama moment is unfair. She’s a young woman engaged to a Royal, not a democratically-elected head of state. Harry didn’t ask her to transform and uplift British society.
1 Political Statements
No matter how noble the cause, the Royal Family is a politics-free zone. Even when everyone identifying as female wore black dresses to film awards in solidarity with the Times Up Movement, even a more senior Royal member, Kate Middleton wore green. Meghan’s seemingly innocuous remarks at the Royal Foundation meeting may have broken this protocol by sharing her opinions on the subject of female empowerment. Meghan said, "I hear a lot of people speaking about girls' empowerment and women's empowerment; you will hear people saying they are helping women find their voices. I fundamentally disagree with that because women don't need to find their voices, they need to be empowerment to use it and people need to be urged to listen."