rogue

'I waited 6 hours to meet Meghan Markle in Sydney. Now I feel like an idiot.'

Three and a half years ago, I met Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at Sydney's Opera House. I shook both their hands and yelled 'CONGRATULATIONS' about their pregnancy. I often bring it up casually in conversation, and explain that yes, Meghan is even more beautiful in real life, and Harry is hot and tall and has kind eyes.

Whenever people slag off the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, I sigh and offer that when I met them, personally, for all of four seconds, they were lovely. They looked into my soul and we had an understanding. They appreciated me and my inexplicable enthusiasm, and they felt a powerful affinity with the people of Australia. 

But a new book says that was all a lie. 

In The Palace Papers by Tina Brown (understood to be fairly reputable, with Brown consulting 120 insiders), the former Vanity Fair editor writes that when Meghan and Harry toured Australia in 2018, the duchess "hated every second of it". 

Oh. 

"She didn’t understand why things were set up in that way. Instead of being excited when thousands of people showed up at the Opera House, it was very much like, 'What’s the purpose? I don’t understand this,'" a Palace staffer told Brown. 

This is consistent with a report published by the Times, that claimed when Meghan saw the crowd waiting for her at the Opera House, she said, "What are they all doing here? It’s silly."

Omg I'm so embarrassed because that was me. I am silly. 

It's impossible to know how true these accounts are, or all the context around them, but here's my memory of what happened when I met my good friend, Meghan Markle. 

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******

It's October 2018 and I'm in the car with my sister. I've forced her to go for a 'drive', which is not something we've ever done before, except if it's specifically to get McDonalds. 

When we cross the Harbour Bridge, she knows

'No no no no you're so weird,' she says. 'Are you making me come to do a drive-by of where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are staying?' 

Quiet now, I insist. 

HUSH. 

We're simply in a car that may or may not be driving past the rumoured accommodation of an undisclosed royal couple. For research purposes. 

When we get there, I notice lots of police and nod to myself that yes, it must be important to protect the lovely couple from weird members of the public. There's precisely nothing else to see, in that Meghan and Harry are inside, like normal people, while I'm hovering in the car outside, like a psychopath. 

On the way home, I have an epiphany. If I really want to get close to the royals (since when do I want to get close to the royals), I'm free to go to one of their many public engagements. You know how people wait for hours in the rain and wind just to get a glimpse of a famous face? I could be one of those people. 

I decide that tomorrow morning I'll get up bright and early to go to the Opera House, where Meghan and Harry are meant to be visiting. My sister asks why I'm suddenly so obsessed with the royals, after having previously shown very little interest, and I can only think of the following reasoning:

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- Meghan's face.

- Harry's face.

The royal wedding.

- Suits (no one acknowledged enough how weird it was to watch a wedding where the guests were either royalty, the world's best-known celebrities, or actors from the three-star Netflix show, Suits).

- Meghan's hair.

Nah, it's honestly wild that someone has that face. Image: Getty. It's Tuesday morning and I get an Uber to the Opera House, as though I'm heading there for a legitimate purpose and not just to stare at two strangers I know from the TV. 

My Uber driver mentions in passing that he heard "Meghan and William are meant to be visiting the Opera House today" and a) I know and b) you mean Harry, not William. William is at home with his three beautiful children, George, Charlotte and Louis???

I arrive and immediately notice that other people made signs. I did not make a sign. Should I have a sign? 

Everyone else has also brought water and snacks and breakfast, none of which I remembered to bring. I'll have to be more organised next time (Clare, pls. There better not be a next time). 

One hour turns into two, and a few random men start handing out signs. They say 'Sparkle like Markle,' or 'Couple Goals,' or some sh*t and I'm embarrassed for myself but I abandoned all my dignity when I decided to spend one of the finite days of my life waiting in the wind to see the royals. 

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Watch the moment I met Meghan and Harry. Post continues after video.


Video via @clare.stephenss.

An hour later someone else comes along and confiscates the signs. It's unclear why. 

I start to eavesdrop on people's conversations. They're discussing how lovely it was that Meghan waited to announce her pregnancy until after Princess Eugenie's wedding, how proud Diana would be of Harry, and what they'll say to Meghan and Harry when they meet them. The most popular choice is 'hi' followed by 'congratulations'. 

It's now been over three hours and according to Twitter, Meghan and Harry are still at Taronga Zoo. That's very wholesome but I need them to hurry the f*ck up because some of us don't have all day?? We only have roughly until lunch time?? When work will start to ask questions about why I haven't turned up??

Come on. Chop chop. 

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Random people keep walking where Meghan and Harry will be walking and I don't mean to be rude but if you're not a member of the royal family, then kindly step out of the way we don't want the pavement to be dirty for the bottom of their shoes. 

There's so much security and I spot this man on the roof. I feel like he's looking at me... judgementally. Like wtf are you doing. With your life. You weird lady.

YOU FEEL JUDGY. Image: Supplied. Finally, they arrive. And everyone loses it. This part can only be conveyed through images. 

I need that coat ASAP. Image: Supplied. 

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HI GET EXCITED TO MEET ME MEGHAN I'M RIGHT HERE. Image: Supplied. 

Candid photos of me do not look like this. Image: Supplied. 

You beautiful man. Image: Supplied. When it's my turn to meet Meghan and Harry, I shake their hands, yell CONGRATULATIONS a little too loudly and listen closely to what they say to the people around me. Meghan tells another woman her necklace is pretty and okay I didn't get a compliment but I'm sure she had one she just didn't have time to say it. 

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I don't wash my hand and I come back to the office insisting that everyone kiss it. 

Lick it. Image: Supplied. 

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******

And now, three and a half years later, I feel... silly. Mostly because Meghan Markle apparently said I was silly.

Of course, the awkward thing is, she's absolutely right. I DON'T KNOW WHY I WAITED AT THE OPERA HOUSE. 

I DON'T KNOW WHY ANY OF US WERE THERE. 

I THINK IT'S BECAUSE FAME IS EXCITING AND SO ARE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE AND I THOUGHT I MIGHT TELL MY KIDS ONE DAY ABOUT THE TIME I MET THE DUCHESS AND SHE SHOOK MY UGLY HAND.

The entire spectacle of the royals is bizarre, and she must've been so confused about why these people from Australia were losing their sh*t. We didn't even know ourselves. 

At the same time, sometimes people just want to be a part of something. Even if that 'thing' makes no logical sense. 

I like a fuss. I like seeing people happy in a pure, uncomplicated way. I like news stories like the one about Australia's number one royal fan, the late Daphne Dunne, spending time with Meghan and Harry.

No, she really likes it. Image: Getty.

But it's incredibly understandable if Meghan Markle didn't entirely 'get' it. If anything, it makes her more human. 

It's just slightly embarrassing for me. Thank f*ck I didn't bring a sign. 

You can follow Clare Stephens on Instagram to see a play by play of the time she met Harry and Meghan. You can also follow her on TikTok

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