Among the royal brides who have joined “the firm” at Windsor Castle are the Countess of Wessex (formerly Sophie Rhys-Jones), Canadian-born Autumn Kelly and even Camilla Parker-Bowles, who had her marriage blessed in St. George’s Chapel in 2005.
But Markle is, in many ways, also forging her own path as a royal fiancée, and has already upended a number of unspoken (and spoken) rules that were once considered non-negotiable. Her level of public visibility in the lead-up to the wedding has been one of the standout differences, experts suggest.
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By the time she says “I do,” Markle will have attended around 25 separate engagements in a quasi-royal capacity, with six coming in a single week in late April (another is apparently planned for the week right after the wedding).
Many of these are events that, in the past, would have been strictly reserved for family, like the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Christmas at Sandringham and most recently, the Queen’s birthday concert.
It’s been called “unprecedented.”
From Belfast to London, Markle has shaken far more hands than the Duchess of Cambridge (formerly Kate Middleton) ever did before her wedding. Kate attended barely a half-dozen official events in the months prior to marrying Prince William in 2011, and didn’t join the Royal Family for Christmas.
“With Kate Middleton, there seemed to have been efforts to ease her into royal life. We saw her taking on a smaller number of engagements, it was some time before we heard her give a speech in public,” Harris recalled.
“With Meghan, there are two key differences. One is that having had a career as an actress, she is already used to being in the public eye.”
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Andrew Morton, who penned one of the most famous biographies of Princess Diana and recently published a book on Markle, agreed. He told ET Canada that the actress is “not going to be camera shy. She’s more camera ready.”
“The one thing I hope is that she doesn’t get red carpet fever, and that’s when people work at the palace or join the Royal Family and get a little bit above themselves,” Morton said.
“I hope that Meghan is suitably down to earth, not to put on any airs and graces. We like her just as she is.”
The second difference between Markle and Kate Middleton, according to Harris, is that the future Duchess of Cambridge had her family close at hand, and had lived in Britain her entire life. It’s likely she wanted to spend as much time with the Middletons as possible before taking on such a high-profile royal role.
Markle’s network of family and friends, in contrast, is largely based in Toronto and Los Angeles.
“She just has Harry,” Harris said. “Her parents are on the other side of the Atlantic.”
As Markle forges new relationships and connections in London, the British public also needs to be introduced to her as the future spouse of the sixth in line to the throne.
Middleton was a royal girlfriend for so many years that she was dubbed “Waity Katie” by the British press, and just about everyone in the U.K. knew her face — and her background.
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Markle’s past as a network TV star (who was married once before) is pretty unconventional by comparison. But she has actually been more of a traditional royal fiancée in that her courtship with Harry was brief and intense, Harris explained.
And she certainly isn’t the first royal bride to hail from outside Britain.
“Whenever there’s a royal spouse who isn’t already familiar to the British public, certainly there is a great deal of curiosity,” Harris said.
The press speculated ad nauseum about Prince Albert’s income when he married Queen Victoria, for instance, and huge crowds gathered to see the arrival of Alexandra of Denmark when she was getting set to wed the future King Edward VII.
After their wedding, Harris said, the public can expect to see the newlyweds out and about a lot as the Queen cuts back on engagements and the younger royals take on more responsibilities. International travel may be central to their roles.
Harry has recently been appointed a Commonwealth youth ambassador, and his bride-to-be has long shown a strong interest in the welfare of girls and women around the world.
“We may see Harry and Meghan attending the same kinds of events … but Harry focusing more on youth leadership and Meghan focusing more on women’s empowerment,” Harris predicted.
The couple is already planning a trip to Australia for the Invictus Games this fall, which could reportedly be extended to a full royal tour in the region. A visit to Canada may not be far behind, Harris said, as both are quite familiar with the country.
“I think we’re going to see philanthropy expanding, and we’re going to see Commonwealth tours going forward.”
Check out this interactive family tree to learn more about the royal family: