Royal biographer says Hollywood has prime Meghan Markle for star part in firm
When Lady Diana Spencer felt claustrophobic about her life she would get into her Mini Metro, put some favourite classical music on the cassette player and drive off at full speed.
She once told me that the moment she realised she was a prisoner of her circumstances was when she was staying at Buckingham Palace prior to her marriage and was desperate to get out into the real world.
She took the lift from the old nursery floor to the Privy Purse entrance and got into her car parked in the courtyard.
Just as she put the key in the ignition a burly detective got in beside her. “I am quite fine,” she told him. “I am just going for a drive.”
“M’Lady,” he said, “You are about to be part of the Royal Family and I have been assigned to protect you.”
The realisation that never again would she be able to be a free person was a shock to the young Diana. It was a wake-up call to the life she was about to enter.
“It’s too late, Dutch,” her sisters told her, using their favourite childhood name for their sister.
“Your face is on the tea towels.”
But that was almost 40 years ago.
Today Meghan Markle, an independent, strong American woman of 36, is about to enter the ivory tower of royalty.
She can have no real idea of what it entails and if she did she might have some serious doubts.
But her love for new husband Haz, as she calls him, has almost certainly blinded her to the reality of the life ahead of her.
The late Prince William of Gloucester, a cousin of the Queen who would have been a great uncle to Prince Harry, once remarked: “It is almost impossible to describe what it is like being a member of the Royal Family. I suppose in essence it comes down to this: you can never be your real self. Just to know you are royal inhibits you. You are automatically separated from the rest of the world.”
The Queen herself admitted: “I think the younger members of the family find the regimented side difficult.
“You can’t imagine what it’s like to have your whole life mapped out for you a year in advance.”
Prince Charles once complained. “It’s awful to be programmed… at times I get fed up with the whole idea.”
And his father Prince Philip has observed: “A small indiscretion can lead to all sorts of difficulties.
“We soon discover that it is much safer to unburden yourself to a member of the family than just a friend. You see you are never quite sure.”
The attention that any kind of failure or small indiscretion attracts is a relatively recent phenomenon. But it is one that Meghan, in the age of social media, has had to deal with.
Her dysfunctional family has been dissected in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. But that is the climate in which she and they, however little she has to do with them, will have to live.
That makes it tough being married to the sixth in line to the throne. It is no longer Haz her man but Prince Harry her husband. And, as his wife, she will have to be part of the royal firm. It’s no longer about Meghan, the stunning actress who came from a broken home and relative poverty to television stardom.
It’s about the institution of the monarchy. It’s a business and she is just a cog in the wheel.
The protocol is archaic but it can be managed. She will learn that she must go through a door after the Queen and who she has to curtsy to.
She will manage it perfectly, like a script from Suits. But it is real life, and life without freedom. She will find that hard.
The qualities she learnt in Hollywood will stand her in good stead. Turning to just the right side for a picture and saying just the right thing to someone you will never meet again will be her forte.
Harry is so in love he will do everything to protect her and try to take her away from the front line of royalty as much as he can. The Queen’s idea that together they can reconquer the Commonwealth is a good one.
She knows they will face difficulties in readjusting to their new life.
If they manage to get it right they could perhaps conquer the world as Diana and Charles once hoped
they could do.
Meghan is a modern woman. America loves her because she is strong and independent, and I hope she doesn’t get crushed by the royal machine.
She will have to be careful about what she says and does. But with the help of the world’s darling, Prince Harry, I have few doubts she will manage it and take on her greatest role to Oscar-winning success.
- Ingrid Seward is Editor in Chief of Majesty magazine and author of My Husband & I, the story of the Queen’s 70-year marriage.
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