Meghan Markle isn’t technically a member of the royal family yet – that will happen in May when she marries Prince Harry – but she’s already shaking things up at the palace. Avid royal watchers have noticed that she’s not always willing to compromise when it comes to the strict rules about fashion and style. This was evident during her first royal trip of 2018, where her hairstyle drew plenty of comment. She’s very different, it seems, from her soon-to-be sister-in-law Kate Middleton. But different doesn’t always mean bad.
Meghan and Harry have made several outings as a couple, as is customary for members of the royal family and their significant others. Prince William and Kate Middleton did the same thing before they were married in 2011. Official outings are part of the royal family’s ambassadorial and charity work. They visit organisations and charities, and draw in huge crowds when they do so.
But it was noted that Meghan broke some rules of royal protocol while there. First, she was snapped (and not for the first time) holding hands with Harry – and royals don’t do hand-holding, or any sort of intimate affection, in public. Prince William and Kate don’t hold hands when greeting crowds because, according to royal experts, it’s unprofessional since they’re technically at work.
However, as with a lot of royal rules, the general public don’t actually care one bit. In fact, they like to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle behaving like a “normal” couple. The crowds in Brixton had an overwhelmingly positive response to the royal pair, and the young children present excitedly asked Meghan about her upcoming wedding.
The hand-holding ban is far from the first royalty rule that Meghan’s been seen to ignore. Even one of her royal engagement photos with Harry drew some raised eyebrows on the internet. She posed wearing a sheer gown with gold leaf embroidery. Absolutely nothing could be seen through the sheer, but the media still considered it to be a very daring choice. And very possibly one that the Queen wouldn’t have approved of.
Her more traditional engagement photos weren’t quite in accordance with royal protocol either. Though she looked great in them, it was noted by many that she wasn’t wearing pantyhose tights or stockings – and that was a big royal fashion no-no. Kate, for example, wore pantyhose in her engagement photos and has done ever since. And it’s unthinkable for the Queen herself to ever rock bare legs.
But although Meghan’s clothing choices often came under scrutiny, her hairstyles generally didn’t… until the London trip. When photos of it were published, royal watchers noted that the way she was wearing her hair was an unusual one for royals, to the extent that it qualified as a breach of royal fashion protocol.
Meghan had her hair pulled back into a messy bun for the whole of the day. And the word “messy” was the important one there. It’s considered rather unbecoming for a royal, even one who’s not technically part of the family yet, to wear their hair in a casual way. There are some exceptions obviously – when Kate or William play sports for example – but it was a very surprising choice for a royal walkabout.
Online, reactions to Meghan’s hairdo were mixed. “The untidy topknot was not becoming,” one person wrote on Twitter, in a reply to Kensington Palace tweeting about the event. “She can’t keep pushing the envelope, eventually the Queen is going to step in and take her to task. We need dignity.” But others loved it, and took to Twitter to explain why they did.
“I LOVE the fact Meghan Markle is doing official royal events with her hair in a messy bun. I know it’s just hair, but it feels so much more relatable/less stuffy,” one Twitterer wrote. Relatability seemed to be the key reason why people loved the look. The royal family had long been considered to be out of touch with how people actually lived, until the younger generation came along.
When Kate Middleton married Prince William, she too was considered to be bringing a breath of fresh air into the royal family. And yet she quickly demonstrated that she was more than willing to follow the rules and hasn’t rebelled in the slightest. Whenever she wears her hair up, for example, there’s barely a hair out of place.
But it’s understandable that the long, long list of royal fashion rules might not be amiable to a trendy young woman such as Meghan. Some of them seem downright strange to the average person. For example, royal ladies should never be seen wearing brightly colored nail varnish – the Queen reportedly finds the very idea of colored nails “vulgar.” And Meghan keeps hers plain too.
Other rules are more sensible or practical. The Queen is almost never seen without gloves in public, which is a rule that dates back to the olden days of royalty. But there’s a good reason for that: she has to shake a lot of hands when out and about. And the gloves keep her safe from the inevitable exposure to germs. As she gets older and older, that becomes all the more important.
Hats are also a vital part of the royal ensemble. Though they’re not necessary for royal charity visits and the like, they’re absolutely required for formal and ceremonial events. Meghan wore her first royal hat on Christmas Day 2017, when attending the royal family’s Christmas service. However, it was considered a rare fashion misstep for her, with some Twitter users comparing her hat to the famous “poo emoji.”
Meghan is up against something most people would severely dislike – the prospect of every single one of her hair, fashion and accessory choices being endlessly analyzed in the media. And she doesn’t really have the option to leave the house without makeup or wearing a pair of sweatpants. As a royal, she basically has to be “on” at all times.
Yet times are changing a little. People have pointed out that it wasn’t too long ago that Meghan herself would never have been considered a candidate for Prince Harry to marry. She is divorced – her first husband was actor and producer Trevor Engelson – and as the head of the Church of England, the Queen is officially anti-divorce.
Within living memory, it was unthinkable for a royal to marry a divorced person. When the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, wished to marry the divorced Peter Townsend in 1953, she couldn’t do so without renouncing her royal privileges and her claim to the throne. Eventually, she decided not to marry him, citing the Church of England’s teachings as a factor in her decision.
Harry will not have to renounce anything when he marries Meghan. That’s because the royal family has evolved a lot with regard to divorce. Harry’s own father, Prince Charles, is a divorcee. When the wedding takes place, it will be an affair without any of the complications that previous generations of royals had to worry about.
And Meghan has ignored all criticism about her messy bun. So much so that when she visited Cardiff with Harry a few days later, she was wearing one again! The pair went to Cardiff Castle and visited the StreetGames sports organization, which Harry has worked with before. And, just as they had in London, crowds lined the streets to see them.
So Meghan’s absolutely nailed one part of the royal experience – ignoring what the media has to say about you! And no one would doubt her hairstyles look fantastic, especially when paired with her array of gorgeous coats and dresses. Hopefully, even after she marries and takes the title of duchess, she’ll continue to wear what she likes and not give a damn about what anyone has to say.