When you marry a British prince, you can expect a few changes to your life. And for Meghan Markle, there have been many. Already having starred in hit TV show Suits, she leapt to even more fame in 2018 by marrying Prince Harry. In fact, she became the first royal from the U.S. since the 1930s. But recently there’s been something a whole lot different to Meghan which has sparked a media frenzy.
Now, Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry created several firsts for the royal family. Not only is she a woman of color, a rarity for the British monarchy, she’s also an actress. And although she’s not the first divorcee to have graced British royalty, that being Wallis Simpson, it’s certainly unusual. Before the wedding there was speculation about the Queen not attending over her role as the head of the Church of England. While the Church doesn’t turn its back on divorcees, it certainly preaches that marriage should be for life.
In any case, Meghan wed Harry on May 19, 2018, and the ceremony was beamed live on television. Furthermore, it was watched by almost 28 million people in the U.K. and a further 29 million in the USA. That’s more viewers than even the highest rated episodes of the actress’s hit TV show Suits. So it’s fair to say things are very different for her now.
Before Meghan became the Duchess of Sussex, Harry worried about how she would be treated by the British tabloids. And that’s not difficult to understand considering his deceased mother, Princess Diana, had a tumultuous relationship with the press. Eventually, though, Harry made a move which was extremely rare for a royal to do.
Yes, Harry released a statement, via his communications secretary, denouncing the press’ treatment of Meghan. It read, “Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
And the statement went on, “Some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.”
So it seemed that Meghan’s journey towards becoming a royal would not be an easy one. At one point, tabloid The Sun published the front page story “Harry girl’s on Pornhub”, even though there were just sex scenes from Suits on the website. And clearly, the video was not posted by Meghan herself.
When Meghan and Harry announced their engagement, Meghan also revealed she would be quitting her career as an actress. In her 2017 post-engagement interview with the BBC, Meghan said she was “transitioning” out of it. And even though Suits was still ongoing, she wouldn’t be reprising her role.
However, Meghan had no regrets about leaving her old job. She told the BBC, “I’m excited to really get to know more about the different communities here and smaller organizations that are working on the same causes that I’ve always been passionate about. I don’t see it as giving anything up. I see it as a change. It’s a new chapter.”
Before she wed Harry, Meghan also had to remove some of her digital footprint from the internet. For example, she closed down her blog and abandoned social media, where she was a popular and much-followed figure. In fact, she actually made around $80,000 each year from her blog, The Tig thanks to various endorsements.
Now, royals aren’t really supposed to do social media, or at least not in the same way regular people do. And although there are official accounts for the leading members of the royal family, they won’t be taking selfies or posting their innermost thoughts. Indeed, the accounts are simply there to keep people informed about what the royals are up to, whilst maintaining their impartiality.
Anyway, some have said Meghan is bringing a breath of fresh air to a previous stuffy-seeming royal institution. For example, she often breaches protocol – the set of rules that royals are expected to obey. From altering public speeches to not wearing nude stockings, she is perhaps slowly setting a new course for the family.
Now, the fashion rules the royal family follow might seem quite restrictive to a lot of people. For women, their legs should always be covered, whether by nude pantyhose or something else. But Meghan broke that rule for her and Harry’s engagement photoshoot, while Kate Middleton has done the same.
However, the Queen personally disapproves of at least two things, reportedly: wedge shoes and bright nail polish. Though Kate has been spotted in wedges, she hasn’t worn them while the Queen’s been anywhere nearby. And Meghan followed protocol at her wedding by wearing the Queen’s favorite neutral nail varnish, Ballet Slippers.
Then there’s the little things like bags. It might seem silly that Meghan was criticized for once carrying a tote bag instead of a clutch, but that’s generally how the royals operate. Reportedly, members of the family carry clutches so that they don’t have to shake hands with anyone unless they want to.
What’s more, Meghan’s also seemingly broken the rules by showing affection to Harry in public. Now, that may sound odd, considering they’re married, but the royals simply aren’t big on public displays of affection. Even William and Kate are barely photographed holding hands, let alone anything else. Yet Meghan and Harry go so far as to kiss while people are watching.
Furthermore, Meghan’s done another shocking thing for a royal in recent years – she’s dared to have a political opinion. Now, royals aren’t supposed to express a view on what’s going on around them, even if it’s something they’ve strong feelings about. But thanks to some now-deleted tweets, we know what Meghan’s opinion on abortion is.
For you see, when visiting Dublin in 2018, Meghan spoke to some people about the abortion referendum in Ireland. Now, that ended some months before with the procedure being legalized. Then politician Catherine Noone tweeted out, “The Duchess and I had a chat about the recent referendum result — she watched with interest and was pleased to see the result.”
However, Noone quickly backtracked, realizing she had revealed too much. She added a second tweet, saying “I should say she seemed pleased — she was interested and very measured, not political at all.” Both tweets are now gone, but it would’ve been easy to guess Meghan’s thoughts on the referendum, based on her previous activism.
Moving on though, many commentators think that Meghan’s changed the royal institution, especially since she became a mother. Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, who was born on May 6, 2019, is the first biracial child born into the royal family. And later that year an anonymous source told CNN that Meghan and Harry had “single-handedly modernized the monarchy.”
But Meghan has reportedly changed the family in other ways, too. According to Robert Jobson, author of the biography Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes And Dreams, Harry and his father had had a strained relationship before Meghan came into the family. And as we’ll find out, sometimes all it takes is a woman’s touch to help put things right.
Talking to Grazia in 2018, Jobson said, “The sons have had difficulties with Charles, which the public may be surprised to know. In particular, I know that he was upset and wounded when he wasn’t mentioned as someone who had raised his children in a documentary, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy last year.”
Yet apparently, Meghan had managed to patch things up between father and son. Consequently, Harry even gave a touching speech when Charles celebrated his 70th birthday in 2018. According to Jobson, “Meghan has certainly helped. She is someone who has been divorced, and who has had family issues herself.”
As Jobson continued to explain, “[Meghan] has made Harry look at things from a different perspective, and has shown him that relationships aren’t always black and white with parents or family. Plus, she gets on very well with the Prince of Wales. She has improved the relationship and built bridges between them. In a way, she has been a peacemaker.”
Asecond source anonymously spoke to Grazia, and they said, “Meghan has really changed Harry. In the short time that they’ve been together, she’s made him far more emotional and open about his feelings. She actively indulges in the idea that he’s a boy who grew up without a mother and that attitude helps.”
Funnily enough, there are even claims that Meghan may have reinforced Harry’s sense of fashion. For instance, he now sports a beard consistently, which could very well have been her influence. And although he certainly didn’t dress badly before, these days his outfits are more stylish and snappier. Furthermore, they sometimes happen to match Meghan’s.
Plus, apparently Meghan has helped Harry embark on a much healthier lifestyle. According to reports, she’s gotten him to stop eating so much junk food and try a vegan diet instead. Also, she may have gotten him to stop smoking and take up yoga. So it seems Meghan’s had an impact on the royal family – but what about the impact they’ve had on her?
Well, one particular way that Meghan seems to have reacted to the change in her life has drawn some interest. And that’s the change in the way that she talks. Yes, some experts have made the case that she gives a different pronunciation to some words, making them sound more British.
As University of Toronto linguistics professor Marisa Brook told news broadcaster the BBC in February 2019, “She’s developed a style to be used when directly talking with the British public.” Furthermore, the professor believed that she might have adopted a U.K. lilt to deflect judgment from the people she meets.
But this doesn’t mean Meghan is faking it, just that she wishes to do her royal duties effectively. Prof. Brook went on, “These are situations where people might be judging her in public instantly, where it really benefits her to sound British and aristocratic. If it’s conscious, I don’t think it makes her manipulative or a poser.”
Off the back of that, a couple of linguistic experts spoke to the Mirror in February 2019 about the matter. University of Essex sociolinguist Dr. Ella Jones said, “Someone with lots at stake in trying to ‘fit in’ or sound like they belong to a new in-group – British royalty, in the case of Meghan – might find accommodation happens quite naturally and quite quickly.”
And phonetics professor Jane Setter told the same newspaper, “In a social role like the one Meghan is now in, where she has to meet lots of people and basically make a good impression on them in a short space of time, the ability to do this is very useful. But it would be weird to take this too far. I don’t think British people would accept her if she suddenly started sounding like she was in the cast of EastEnders – or spoke like the Queen.”
Since Meghan was once an actress, it makes sense that she would quickly be able to adapt to new accents. But not all royal family fans seem to approve of the change. While some on Twitter labelled it “cute” that Meghan now has a slightly different accent, others said they were left confused.
Interestingly, scholars from the University of Reading and Lancaster University did a scientific study on the Duchess’ change in voice. The aforementioned Prof. Jane Setter, plus Dr. Adrian Leemann and Dr. Sam Kirkham, analyzed some of Meghan’s speeches from both before she got together with Harry, and after.
And in their study the three linguists told the Daily Express newspaper, “We compared three vowels: the vowels in words like ‘thought’ and ‘talk’ and in words like ‘lot’ and ‘sock’ – which are often merged together in California English – and the vowel in words like ‘price’ and ‘bite’, using three to four examples of each vowel for each of the videos at different points in time.”
And in the end the researchers concluded, “Our preliminary analysis shows that Meghan Markle’s articulation of the word ‘thought’ remained virtually identical between 2015 and 2019, while her production of ‘lot’ actually became more similar to ‘thought’ over this period – which is closer to the pattern we might expect in California English. This is arguably the opposite of what we’d expect if Markle was sounding more British.”
There’s also the case of whether or not Meghan actually wants her accent to change. In 2018, royal journalist Duncan Larcombe told Elle magazine that Meghan was “very keen to preserve her American accent, and has no desire to start talking and sounding like she was born and bred in upper crust English circles.”
So much of Meghan’s behaviour as a duchess therefore, seems to be her trying to keep a balance between Meghan the royal, and Meghan the person. Obviously, it doesn’t help that she is often prey to an unrelenting press in the U.K. and abroad. In fact, this has now led to the unusual step of suing the Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter.
Indeed, this was such an unusual course of action for a member of the royal family to take. At the time, Harry released a statement speaking of his anger. And he claimed certain tabloids had released “relentless propaganda” some of which was “knowingly false and malicious.” What’s more, he added that Meghan was “the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day.”
So far, Meghan’s only been a royal for a couple of years. But before she married Harry, her Suits co-star Wendell Pierce warned her that her world would be changed forever. And of course, he was right. Hopefully, any more changes will be ones that Meghan can embrace and accept, whether good or bad.