When the newly married Duchess of Sussex stepped out at her very first garden party at Buckingham Palace last month, royal watchers noted a marked change in the former actress.
Gone was her signature messy bun and in its place was a more polished up-do with no wispy strands out of place. And then there were the glossy nude tights which for so long Californian-born Meghan, 36, has resisted but finally succumbed to after being told Her Majesty prefers female royals to wear hosiery on engagements. Throw in the Goat frock – a favourite designer of the Duchess of Cambridge who Grazia understands has been quietly helping Meghan behind the scenes with her working wardrobe – and the result was more regal than ever.
But it’s not just Meghan’s wardrobe that is undergoing a makeover. As the newest member of the royal family, the hard work is just beginning for the Duchess of Sussex and she has a squad of advisors on hand to ensure she is well equipped for her new role. From a crash course in world affairs and British politics (courtesy of one of the Queen’s most trusted advisors), to knowing how to behave at a state dinner and who to curtsey to within her new family, Meghan is having to get to grips with the royal protocol and etiquette that will stand her in great stead for the rest of her new life.
Last week, it was reported that she will be assisted by one of the Queen’s most trusted members of staff, private secretary Samantha Cohen who has worked at Buckingham Palace for 17 years and is better equipped than most to make sure that Meghan is brought up to speed.
Australian-born Samantha, who is nicknamed ‘Samantha the Panther’ because of her no-nonsense attitude, had been planning to leave the royal household but she was persuaded to stay by Prince Harry, who handpicked her to help his wife.
‘Meghan was keen to have a woman help show her the ropes, and Samantha fitted the bill. They got to know each other in the run-up to the wedding and got along very well. Samantha has been very helpful to Meghan,’ a source told Grazia. Samantha is due to start as interim private secretary later this summer when Harry’s private secretary Ed Lane Fox gives up the post.
Until now Meghan has been assisted by Clara Madden, a long-standing aide in charge of project management for all of the principals, and former senior press officer Amy Pickerill, who has been speed-tracked through the Palace ranks and has been earmarked as a possible future private secretary.
Meghan has also had the counsel of Sir David Manning, one of the Cambridges’ and Prince Harry’s most senior aides and speech writers, whose advice on matters relating to the Commonwealth (an area Meghan is learning more about) and how to interact with foreign leaders has been invaluable.
‘David has been amazing and so has Samantha, but the search is on for two new private secretaries, one for Harry and one for Meghan and the sooner the better,’ says a source who works closely with the newlyweds. ‘They want to get to work as quickly as possible and they will need private secretaries to help them with their charity work and their diaries.’
Meghan has also been working closely with Lorraine Heggessey at the Royal Foundation of which she is now a patron. Together they are identifying which areas of charity work Meghan wants to take on. As well as female empowerment and helping young and vulnerable women, Meghan also has an interest in mental health awareness and the prevention of gang crime.
‘These are areas she is looking into and wants to develop alongside getting involved with the Commonwealth. There will be some announcements in the near future about some of the patronages she’ll be taking on, the first of which will be a role within the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust which she will be very involved with,’ says a source.
As well as carving out her own charitable affiliations, Meghan has been getting help with her royal wardrobe from her new sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Kate’s secret weapon in the style department, Natasha Archer.
‘Kate has recommended a couple of designers to Meghan and has also made Natasha available to help with Meghan’s working wardrobe,’ reveals the source. Meghan, who has been using her friend Jessica Mulroney to help with her fashion, will likely appoint her own stylist in time. In the meantime, Natasha, who mostly shops online for Kate, knows the royal budget and how to dress for royal engagements better than most.
Adds a royal aide: ‘It’s very much a team effort at Kensington Palace with everyone helping Meghan out but she will eventually have her own private secretary, her own stylist and someone to oversee her diary.’
How did Prince Harry's wedding compare to Prince William's? Look back at both royal celebrations in the gallery below...
William and Kate
THE FIRST GLIMPSE
Kate headed to Westminster Abbey with her father, Michael Middleton, giving royal-watchers a glimpse at the long sleeves and lace detailing of her wedding gown.