It’s safe to say Meghan Markle is no ordinary royal girlfriend. She’s an American divorcée and the daughter of a yoga teacher. She’s also a UN Advocate for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and an ardent philanthropist. She’s friends with Serena Williams (‘Her personality just shines,’ says the tennis player) and has refused to give up her day job on US show Suits. Until last year, she ran a lifestyle blog, the Tig, in her spare time. She is, in short, the type of woman who makes you like Harry more, just for being with her.
She’s also the sort of woman who seems not to care how a royal girlfriend should behave. Last month, when she posed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine to finally break her silence on her relationship with the prince, she proclaimed, ‘We’re two people who are really happy and in love. Personally, I love a good love story.’
WATCH: Prince William and Kate Middleton's Relationship Timeline
Compare that to Kate Middleton, who most of the British public hadn’t heard speak until her engagement interview on ITV with Prince William in 2010. Or Harry’s ex Cressida Bonas, who split with the prince a after two years, amid rumours she was struggling to cope with the pressures of being girlfriend to the spare heir.
Then, last week, Harry and Meghan finally made their public debut at the Invictus Games in Toronto, almost a year after news broke that they were quietly dating. Her choice of outfit? Ripped jeans and a white shirt nicknamed ‘The Husband’ by its designer – her good friend Misha Nonoo – a marked departure from the knee-length dress coats and hats favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge.
Feathers were ruffled (one person tweeted, ‘I’m thinking you shouldn’t be wearing ripped jeans while out walking in public with a prince’). But what did
we expect from a woman who has changed everything since she began dating Prince Harry (who can forget
his unprecedented statement to the press confirming their relationship last year, which read, ‘The past week has seen a line crossed. [Harry’s] girlfriend Meghan Markle has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment’?).
‘Meghan doesn’t seem to be intimidated by the royal family,’ says royal author and correspondent Katie Nicholl, who has written a biography on Prince Harry, out next year. ‘She has taken everything in her stride and handled her foray into the royal family with impressive confidence.
‘She’s clearly very self-assured, fearless even. In that respect, she is really a breath of fresh air. She’s not a blank canvas on to which the royals can project an image, but already has a clear idea of who she is and what she wants to achieve. You haven’t seen anyone like this since Diana.’
The effects are already being felt. By all accounts, Meghan can be credited for Harry’s recent decision to open up about his struggle with grief following the death of his mother, as well as his renewed focus on his charity work.
‘Having observed Harry for the past decade, it’s very apparent to me that she’s had a really positive in uence on him,’ says Katie. ‘He’s dropped his guard and really seems to be enjoying life. We’ve heard from him more than ever before and he’s been honest about his mother – to his great credit. It feels like he’s met the right woman at the right time in his life.’
Royal commentator Robert Jobson agrees. ‘Harry is more relaxed and comfortable these days,’ he tells Grazia. ‘Suddenly, he’s with someone who is used to the photo ops that Harry hates, who is used to the attention
and who copes with it a lot better than he does. It has helped him.’
It seems the rest of us are just as enamoured. Last week, the Meghan Effect officially began: just days after their public debut, her £221 Husband shirt sold out on Farfetch. Meanwhile, Finlay & Co., the brand behind the £120 tortoiseshell sunglasses she wore for the occasion, saw their website crash as demand soared. A blog, Meghan’s Mirror, tracking her every fashion move, is also in existence.
Their appearance at the Invictus Games – an event said to be what Harry is most proud of so far – has inevitably renewed fevered speculation of an engagement. Though Meghan has continued working so far, Robert says that would come to an end if the pair were to marry. ‘She’s carried on being her own person, but I can’t see that being the case indefinitely,’ he says. ‘If she becomes a duchess, I think it would be expected that she would join Harry on the world stage and do the job.’
But far from shying away, say insiders, that’s exactly what Meghan wants. As one source told Grazia, ‘Meghan has privately told friends she feels she has reached the pinnacle of her career and has enjoyed her success. She feels it’s time to move on and time to take her career in a different direction.
‘What she really wants to do is focus on her humanitarian work: her interest in philanthropy is genuine. As Prince Harry’s girlfriend and possible fiancée, she will have a unique spotlight on her. She feels she can make a real difference.’
As Katie puts it, ‘Harry feels like he’s found someone on his wavelength. If Meghan marries Harry, she’ll be joining the ranks of the “Magnificent Seven”. That’s the Queen and Prince Philip, Charles and Camilla, Kate, William and Harry. She’ll be very important.
‘Harry won’t want her sidelined and he is really drawn to her campaigning spirit. They have already talked about how they will work together, travelling the world on humanitarian missions. She will make waves – in a positive way.’
If the future of the British monarchy is an American divorcée with a genuine passion for the charity work she will be expected to carry out as a duchess? Bring it on.
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