After the Royal Wedding

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On Saturday, Meghan Markle will marry Prince Harry, and her life as she once knew it will have—officially—changed forever. As of 2016, Markle was a relatively unknown American working actress; as of this weekend, she will be a part of the British royal family (on her way to becoming a citizen of the country) and known by name world-over. That this has all happened in less than two years’ time is easy to forget given how familiar Markle seems to all of us now, and given how much it feels we know about her.

Markle already has had to make a number of extremely significant shifts in her life. She has moved to a new country and converted to a new religion. She has shut down her lifestyle blog and her (popular) social-media accounts. She has quit her job acting on Suits, and had to leave behind one of her dogs (in Toronto). A social adult with many friends, she has had to suddenly adjust to maintaining friendships when she can’t easily venture out in public.

All of this to marry Prince Harry—currently sixth in line to the throne—and take on a new role entirely, in which she will have to make a slew of appearances alongside her new husband and his family. That’s the entire job description for a royal: public engagements and serving as a “representative” of the Queen.

How she will adjust to the dramatically different way of life and day-to-day existence is of course impossible for us to fully predict, though many royal-watchers have noted that, in the public appearances she has made with Harry since the engagement was announced, she seems to already be exceedingly comfortable. As Hello!’s London-based Emily Nash put it, in an interview conducted for a story about Markle’s social circle, “Having seen her in action on engagements across the U.K., she’s already doing a great job. She’s articulate, smart, elegant, and warm; and she’s already hugely popular over here.”

Elaine “Lainey” Lui, a popular Toronto-based gossip columnist who has been covering Markle for a number of years, said Markle has basically been earning “extra credit” in how she has handled the public-facing part of the job so far. “She has handled herself beautifully on all the occasions,” Lui said. “Even in how she’s interacting with the meet-and-greet crowds. There was a cute little anecdote, where one of the bystanders was shaking her hand and she talked about being from the Philippines, and Meghan Markle actually knows a pleasantry in the language that is spoken in the Philippines, and she said it to that person. It’s like a publicist’s dream to have somebody like that. In such a candid environment, [for her] to just drop a little foreign language in there.”

Markle’s acting background is likely only to help her as she makes this transition. Heather Cocks, royal analyst and one half of the “Fug Girls,” noted, “I think it helps that she is an actress. Lots of people say that like it’s an insult. I actually think it’s great because it means she is used to being on the spot. She’s used to extemporaneous speaking. She’s used to having that public and private persona in a way that I think someone like Kate Middleton probably wasn’t [initially].”

Markle will be sent out to exhibit these skills almost immediately after the wedding, as Harry and Markle are set to make their first public appearance as a married couple on Tuesday, when they attend Prince Charles’s 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration at Buckingham Palace. There will no doubt be a slew of appearances for Markle upon her return from her honeymoon, with Harry and Markle’s first overseas tour (chock-full of appearances and photo ops) likely to take place later this year. Before she started dating the prince, Markle was notably very passionate about her charity and philanthropic work, something she will be able to advocate on an even greater scale as a duchess.

Eventually, Markle will pinpoint specific causes to make her own. It is very probable, Nash points out, she will use her platform to speak out in support of gender equality, an issue Harry has advocated for in the past. (Others told me they thought her acting background might lead to her supporting arts or performing-related organizations.)

Even though it may all look seamless for Markle, it will not necessarily be without struggle. Patricia Treble, a Toronto-based royal observer, notes how tiring the schedule can be at first. “Diana mentioned this, and I think Sarah Ferguson also mentioned this, which is that in the beginning, it’s actually exhausting. You’re constantly in the spotlight, and you come out of the engagements [that] seem like [they’re] only a few hours, but you’re completely drained. And I think that’s why they’re easing [Meghan] into it sort of thing. I think she’s genuinely interested, genuinely curious, and that comes from her background. She’s done so much charitable work over the years . . . So, it’s gonna be interesting.”

Nash points out that, in the simplest sense, Markle’s entire role will be, as it is for any member of “The Firm,” to do, well, whatever the Queen needs her to: “Meghan’s key concern as a member of the royal family is to support the Queen.” In a way, the royal family is like a theater troupe, different repertory players who are called on for different “performances” on different days. And there is a chance, of course, that however skilled an “actress” Markle might be, she could eventually become frustrated.

Shinan Govani, a Toronto reporter who has met Markle before, detailed this specific possibility: “I think it is important that she realize that she’s part of an ensemble in the Royal family,” he said. “She’s not the star, and she’s never going to be the star, at least, in terms of the actual hierarchy of the royal family. She’s in the supporting role. Even though the media is lavishing all the attention to her, that can create the inner conflict between the star she keeps being told she is versus the inherent supporting role that she’s actually there to play.”

At 36, Markle is 16 years older than Princess Diana was when she married into the family; Kate was 29 when she married William, though she had been dating him for eight years prior. “It’s a lot different when you already know who you are,” Liu said. “Certainly, loneliness can come on at any age, but that kind of loneliness where you feel lost and you don’t have a purpose, I think it’s less likely when you already have a formed personality and when you’ve already established what you want out of life. I don’t necessarily worry about that for Meghan Markle.”

The fact that Markle immediately started making appearances, right after the engagement announcement, seemed to suggest she was very much ready for the demanding schedule, too: “The fact that they threw her there already speaks to the fact that she wanted to send a message that, ‘I’m here to get some shit done,’” Liu said. (As Govani put it, “Unlike Diana, who entered into this world and into this marriage when she was still becoming herself . . . Meghan is already a fully formed person.”)

Another aspect working to Markle’s potential advantage: unlike Diana and Kate, she will not be marrying someone in direct line to the throne. Cocks thinks this positioning might help to free her up a bit: “Maybe once they’re married, and they come back [from their honeymoon], I would think that all the ingredients are there for her to be able to carve out a bit of her own space, especially if she has Harry’s backing . . . Harry seems to be the sort of the impish, favored, grandson. And I think because he’s not the heir, there’s not really that direct path to the throne, they might have a little more room to challenge some things. And I could see that happening.”

Cocks continued, “I think [Harry] has matured into somebody who is not afraid to stand up and say, ‘This is my cause; I’m going to do this.’ He created the Invictus Games. He’s doing all this stuff, the things that are really important to him; and I think if the two of them team up on that and continue to kind of start their own stuff and fuel their own initiatives, you could start to see them broadening the reach of the monarchy a little bit beyond these sort of antiseptic in-a-building, out-of-building, shake-some-hands kind of experiences.”

Perhaps in a year’s time, we will look back and decide the question should not have been, “How will Meghan Markle adjust to her new role?” but rather “How will the role adjust to Meghan Markle?”

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