Freshly engaged Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will be delighted at the speed in which their spring wedding announcement has been grasped, filleted and converted into “hot takes” by media berks such as myself. I heard the romantic epistle just after 10am on Monday and don’t mind admitting the urge felt heady to run into a Starbucks, grab any laptop, windpipe-chop the owner and shout “Royal citizens everywhere need me right now”. I feared I’d be beaten in arm-to-arm combat by Penny Junor.
Markle, I’ve heard, inflaming my excitement, has also resigned from her acting role on the US legal-drama Suits, which is now in its seventh season. It seems she has rejected, perhaps not entirely of her own volition, her own career in order to appease the House of Windsor. It all felt a bit like actress Grace Kelly “deciding” she’d not make any more movies after marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco. And that was in 1956.
Additionally, Markle’s resignation also said much about what a certain genre of women will endure for their prize at Buckingham Palace’s top table. It’s a sort of “pay to play” set up. You get to bear the royal babies and a dress allowance and it’s all a bit The Princess Bride become real, but you no longer have your own projects. In fact there’s a chance the Palace sees your past theatrical life as a bit grubby.
But more pertinent than any of this – it struck me that as I myself personally have no prince or potential civil list handout myself to pay my mortgage and council tax – that there was no time like now to prove my grit and ingenuity in rattling out spurious wisdom on royal matters. Earlier this year, I took part in the BBC2 panel show Debatable alongside Jennie Bond, the esteemed royal correspondent with a career spanning 30 years. Bond, ever resplendent and enigmatic, steeped up to the back teeth in cheerful Princess Anne anecdotes, had flown back from a long winter holiday in Antigua merely for one day to record the quiz show. For Bond, furnishing the public with royal titbits and off-the-cuff analysis had clearly paid dividends.
With this in mind: “Hooray, it’s pay day” is a sentiment echoing around a thousand writers, broadcasters, fashion, bridal and etiquette experts this week and every step of the entire arduous royal saturated media slog until next spring. Right now Andrew Morton, Paul Burrell and some of the more lucid of Diana’s 1981 bridesmaids are leafing through underfloor heating brochures while “Fiesta” by The Pogues parps joyously in the background.
I can’t compete with this in the hot takes league. I am never going to shoulder Piers Morgan out of the BBC1 royal wedding commentary booth next spring if I speak honest truths like “Oh for the love of God, Markle was only a supporting actress on Suits, it’s hardly a career, more people will have watched her on CCTV in Harvey Nichols.” Or even, “Don’t ask me to cry for Markle being robbed of her feminine agency by quitting her job”.
Markle showed how much she’d tolerate for an HRH title when she allowed Pippa Middleton to stiff her with an “evening reception only” invite, meaning she spent the day loitering in a hotel. Something about protocol? Something about not upstaging the bride? Something about Pippa’s no ring/no bring rule? Many women would have told Harry at this point to stick his family’s protocol into a dark, moist crevice somewhere around the back of his trousers, before then flouncing to Heathrow, taking a Club Class flight to Hollywood and hitting audition season with fresh new incandescent vigour.
It is almost, if I’m being incredibly churlish, as if newly job-free Markle didn’t really want to work long days as an actress in the first place. And this is possibly in the same manner as Kate Middleton struggled after university, now fully loved up with William, with keeping on her job as a handbag and earring purchaser for Jigsaw, instead opting to “work for the Middleton family business” and then not work all.
“I was so impressed by her,” said Jigsaw’s founder recalling ecstatically Kate’s sojourn at her company, “She sat in the kitchen at lunchtime and chatted with everyone from the van drivers to the accounts girls. She wasn’t precious!” Bearing in mind we are still talking about “a posh woman who was sleeping with Prince William” here and not, say, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, it feels quite evident that for several people, there is a belief that if you’re a woman with a sniff of marrying into The Firm, doing any meaningful work at all is viewed as quite miraculous. I thought all this before seeing Markle’s, cough, sparkler. Pull up a chair. We’ve got at least five months of this to get through. We’ve only just begun.
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