What Meghan and Harry Can Teach William and Kate
From their informality to their first post-marriage appearance, Harry and Meghan—delaying their honeymoon to take on royal duties—are the best models for a new kind of royalty.
What an extraordinary week it has been for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Although the couple were married only on Saturday last week, they have already carried out their first engagement as a married couple, making a public appearance at a garden party, with 6000 invited guests, to celebrate Prince Charles’ 70th birthday (a little early perhaps as it doesn't actually occur until November.)
They were, by all accounts, a sensation. Meghan looked incredible, dressed in a stunning pink and taupe summer dress by Goat and a Philip Treacy hat, and chatted breezily with numerous guests. She opened her conversation, as has become her signature, with a breezy, “Hi, I’m Meghan!”
Although the Palace are unwilling to give any precise or exact commitments, sources are suggesting that we will be seeing much, much more of Meghan and Harry over the coming six months than might have been anticipated.
A trip to Dublin is apparently in the pipeline, and, possibly a mission to Australia, where the two will be representing the queen as part of their special detail as youth ambassadors for the Commonwealth.
It makes an extraordinary contrast to the early years of Kate Middleton’s marriage to Prince William.
Kate was barely seen at all for quite a few years after they married seven years ago.
Indeed, one of her first moves was to insist that they moved to a remote cottage in a remote corner of Wales, on a small peninsula as far as it is possible to get from any attention.
William worked, theoretically, as an air ambulance pilot, although he was hugely criticized for not pulling his weight.
No one had any idea what they were up to tucked away in the country, although Kate would periodically take carefully choreographed trips to the local town in which she would be photographed shopping in the supermarket which helped show what an incredibly normal person she was.
For many months she was incredibly reluctant to appear even by William’s side, and it was a full six months before she had a solo engagement, standing in for Charles at a private dinner for 30 guests at Clarence House in November 2011.
Of course, many observers are suggesting that the reason why Meghan is so much more ready to meet the public in her role as a princess is because she is an actor, most notably in Suits.
Her whole life, according to this argument, was just a warm up for this moment, and so it is little surprise she was interview-ready and supremely well prepared for public scrutiny. Indeed, some say Harry shrewdly married a woman who clearly was not averse to fame.
But the argument that Meghan is a showbiz native and this therefore makes it unfair to compare the eagerness with which she has embraced her public role compared to Kate deliberately misses a very important fact; Kate and William began dating at university. They first met a full ten years before they got married.
It is Meghan who has been thrust dramatically and suddenly into the limelight, not Kate.
Meghan may be better temperamentally suited to the experience and she may have become famous in her career, but that doesn’t take anything away from the smiling enthusiasm she has brought to the job, in comparison to what has sometimes seemed rather sullen resignation on the part of Kate.
Of course, right now, you don’t need an opinion poll to deduce that Harry and Meghan are everyone’s favorite royals. What will be really interesting is how Meghan's popularity holds up over time.
Kate has not done well in this respect—one recent survey found the number of people who say they can relate to the onetime ‘girl next door’ is only 13 percent. It’s perhaps not surprising that her rating is way lower than Meghan at 29 percent.
It will also be interesting to see how much or how little work Harry and Meghan will do over the summer. Traditionally, the royal show comes to a big fat halt in the middle of June, shortly after the “Trooping of the Colour,” which is also the queen’s official birthday.
As The Daily Beast has noted before, the royals have a well honed pattern of engaging in an ever-increasing number of public appearances up until just about the moment that the royal accounts are published, and then disappearing from view for the summer.
Buckingham Palace then opens to the public (arguably the most incredible tourist experience available in London) and the royals more or less disappear until September.
My hunch is that Harry and Meghan will take advantage of the slack season to take an extended honeymoon over the summer, not least because June and July is the best time to go on safari in Africa, as it's much easier to spot animals in the dry season.
But to imagine that Harry and Meghan have structured the next few months solely around the likelihood of spotting the "big five" game (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, black and white species, elephant, and Cape buffalo) in Namibia is to do them down.
The wedding itself seems to have been crafted with great emotional intelligence. Although Thomas Markle created an unwelcome distraction, and it was clearly a huge mistake not to have him in situ several weeks before the wedding, the whole event was a deformalizing experience for the royals—from Bishop Michael Curry’s fire and love sermon to the carriage ride round Windsor Castle.
The very fact of having a wedding on a Saturday was in itself somewhat revolutionary, as the royals have always tended to get married on a Thursday or Friday, and would always expect public holidays to be granted in honor of the wedding.
Harry wisely avoided making a public occasion—or at least an official public occasion—out of the wedding by abandoning such precedents.
Even holding it in Windsor was a departure from tradition but a shrewd one, as life in London continued undisturbed for the millions of citizens who couldn’t care less about the monarchy. The FA cup final was played as normal just hours after Harry and Meghan got married.
Meghan is creating a happy style for herself and her husband; non-paranoid, engaged, warm-hearted and laid back without being dismissive.
William and Kate might just have a bit to learn from the new kid on the block.