The world expected much too much of Meghan Markle.

The Queen's gift to Meghan Markle

Remember that glorious Saturday night in May?

The one where an ancient institution was dragged – benign as a corgi puppy with its legs in the air – into 2018?

Bathed in photogenic sunlight and blessed with the genuine, beaming smiles of two young and beautiful people, May 19 was a day that left us all reporting joyfully that the most famous family on earth had finally, finally been updated.

Then – backed by the soundtrack of an otherworldly gospel choir and a sublimely righteous preacher – a feminist, divorced woman of colour joined the ranks of the most traditional Anglo institution in the world, and looked set to blow it all up. The royal family, post-Meghan Markle, was never going to be the same.

Her groom, Prince Harry, looked delighted to be ushering his true love, the one he had waited for, into the only world he had ever known. A world of extreme privilege and power but also of awesome pressure and responsibility. He knew she could handle it. His bride, after all, was a self-made millionaire, a World Vision ambassador, an advocate for women at the UN and an acclaimed actress.

The faces of the royals at the wedding said it all. This wasn’t what they were used to – a Duchess who walked herself down the aisle, whose single mum sat notably alone at the front of the church and who forwent frill and froufrou for a gown of stark simplicity.

Nope. Everything was going to be different now.

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And then… it wasn’t.

Let’s relive that wondrous day. Post continues. 

Since that wedding day, we’ve seen a lot of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. They haven’t been taking it easy on an extended honeymoon, languorously lying in and lunching. Nope, they’ve been hard at work.

Opening stuff. Representing the Queen. Touring places. Turning up at the 25th society wedding of the season. Little Prince Louis’ christening. The races. The tennis.

Work, work, work.

And it’s been a stark reminder that the revolutionary, feminist “princess” we were all dying to see was simply a projection from us, a thirsty public.

Actually, what the Duchess of Sussex has to do is wear nice clothes, smile and wave. Wear nice clothes, smile and wave. Repeat.

We haven’t heard Meghan Markle’s famous voice since that wedding ring went on. Not on social media, not IRL, not in interviews. Because royals – especially female consort royals – are seen and not heard.

It’s like, in our rabid enthusiasm for this sexy young couple, we all fell into a collective amnesia about what the royal family actually does.

They do a lot of good work, there’s no questioning it, shining a light on charities and organisations who need their causes elevated. They make people feel good by turning up and shaking hands. They redirect the glamour from their shiny lives into hospital beds and hospices and refuges. They raise awareness of things we’d rather look away from.

But what they don’t do is rock boats. Question the status quo. Threaten the way things are.

The royal family, with all their tax-payers’ pounds, birth-bestowed privilege and palaces full of servants – they are the way things are.

So it doesn’t matter that their newest member is a new breed – a woman with something to say.

What matters – and oh, how it matters – is how she looks, not what she says. Every time the Duke and Duchess walk in front of a camera, Meghan’s beautiful, immaculate and carefully-chosen clothes are minutely dissected for messages.

She changed three times on a trip to Ireland! What does that mean? She wore designer to a high-street opportunity! What does that mean? She carried a hat in her hand but not on her head! What does that mean?

And so on, and so on. Because, for now at least, our royal feminist hero is doomed to speak through her clothes.

And her clothes aren’t giving much away. Her clothes say: I’m classy, I’m strong, I’m graceful. Her clothes say: I’m working, but I have to wear heels. Her clothes say: It’s lucky I look good in hats. I have had to buy a LOT of hats.

Meghan Markle Ireland
The Duchess in Ireland. Image: Getty.
Meghan Markle yellow dress
At a Commonwealth youth event in London earlier this month. Image: Getty.
Meghan Markle's Royal Ascot
The Duchess at Royal Ascot. Image: Getty.

Hopefully, as Meghan finds her feet in this new job - a role she was probably much better prepared for than we were - we will hear her. We will hear her speak on the things that we want her to talk about - equality, race, social justice and sending girls to school. We'll hear her once again talk about being a little girl who had to draw her own box in a world that loves to put women in boxes.

But first she'll have to break out of the one she climbed into when she fell in love and joined The Firm.

Until then, we just have to watch on as our great feminist pop-culture hope plays the role of a silent clothes-horse.

Because we all fell dreamily into the lazy trap we always set for women in the public eye - thinking that she can rewrite the rules, represent us all, be MORE than herself.

The world expected too much of Meghan Markle.

And much too much of the mob she married into.

Are you dying for Meghan to speak? 

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