Meghan’s always been ambitious,” said an actress friend of Ms Markle in the BBC’s impressively well-prepared Harry and Meghan: A Royal Engagement, shown on Monday, the day the happy couple announced their big news.
It’s an observation we’ll be hearing more of, I suspect, and a great deal more will be made of it. Pre-engagement, there were gossip mag stories about Meghan’s “plan to be queen” – unfounded, wildly speculative rubbish, of course, but that won’t stop even wilder speculation and stirring from the usual sectors of our princess-devouring media.
Ambition, in Britain, is not generally seen as an admirable quality for a young woman, certainly not one who intends to become a member of the Royal family.
As we have found with Kate, lovely hair is seen as a good quality, as is pencil slimness, shiny white teeth and the ability to look appropriately chic for any type of Royal engagement assigned, from gala dinners to football matches.
Diana’s early days and Sarah Ferguson’s entire Royal career demonstrated that the British media, and many of the public, quickly want to dull the sparkle of a less-than-perfect princess. We are even more demanding now, not just of princesses but of every woman in the public eye. Hollywood glossiness is a standard requirement.
For all the antiquated talk of her background and experience being worlds away from Harry’s, the role of modern princess is one Meghan Markle seems to have been born and raised to play. She’s a Hollywood girl who was brought up to believe in herself and, most importantly, define herself. “Draw your own box,” said her father when she told him she didn’t know whether to tick “black” or “white” on a school census form – a story that has already become part of British Royal history.
At university, she studied Theatre and International Relations, perfect training. She became not only a successful actress, but has also used her profile to build a philanthropic and political role, not least as UN Women’s Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership. In a UN speech, she declared herself proud to be a feminist and said, “Women need a seat at the table”, adding that, if they are not invited, “they need to create their own table”.
In the US, ambition is encouraged in young women. It doesn’t set alarm bells ringing and teeth on edge as it does in the UK. If Meghan Markle is ambitious and “empowered”, then good. Let her show young women here how to create their own table. And long may she “go, girl”.