It’s been the year of Meghan Markle but now the rumours are swirling
By Yasmin Jeffery
Meghan Markle started the year as a commoner but is ending it as Royalty. (AP: Frank Augstein)
This year saw Meghan Markle officially join the Royal family, marry Prince Harry in what was undeniably the biggest wedding of 2018 (sorry, Eugenie), and casually announce a pregnancy months later.
But despite the “happily ever after” line peddled by fairytales, behind the scenes things have been far from smooth for the Duchess of Sussex.
For the newly minted Royal, the year has also involved endless media coverage, widespread criticism, racism and an alleged feud with Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton — all in addition to her storybook romance.
As the year draws to a close, we take a look at Meghan’s 2018 and have a peek at what 2019 has in store.
First, the good things
While it may feel like it happened a lifetime ago, Harry and Meghan were married on May 19 in a ceremony at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Unsurprisingly, all eyes were on what the bride was wearing. Meghan made a statement in a Givenchy wedding gown with an open bateau neckline designed by Clare Waight Keller, the fashion house’s first female artistic director.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married in a lavish ceremony in Windsor. (AP: Dominic Lipinski)
A mere five months after the wedding-to-end-all-weddings, Meghan and Harry announced they were expecting their first child, set to arrive in the spring of 2019 (autumn in the Southern Hemisphere).
The news — which came one day after Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbanks’ wedding on October 12 — was shared as Harry and Meghan arrived in Sydney at the beginning of their 16-day Royal tour of Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji.
Meghan and Harry announced they were expecting their first baby in October. (AAP: Joel Carrett )
As Harry and Meghan embarked on their first Royal tour in October, it felt as if they could do no wrong.
The pair attended more than 70 engagements over the course of the whirlwind visit, meeting koalas in Australia, celebrating athletes at Harry’s Invictus Games and visiting the King and Queen of Tonga.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry saw their star power rise after their first Royal tour. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
The parallels to Princess Diana came in thick and fast as Meghan stayed up late to bake banana bread for local farmers in Australia and again as she gave an impassioned speech about women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the first country to give women the vote.
Basically, it seemed as if the only way was up for the newlyweds.
It may have been Meghan’s year, but it has not been without problems
That is, until reports of a less-than-sisterly bond between Meghan and Kate surfaced in November.
The alleged feud started when Kate was reportedly left in tears after the fitting for Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress ahead of the Royal wedding.
A second report emerged earlier this month claiming the sisters-in-law had an argument over the way Meghan treated a member of Kate’s staff.
Reports have claimed Kate Middleton was reduced to tears ahead of the Royal wedding. (AP: Justin Tallis)
Because pitting women against one another is one of society’s favourite pastimes, the alleged incident escalated to the point that Kensington Palace issued a public statement, insisting, “this never happened”.
News of the “feud” was followed by associated drama between brothers William and Harry, and by Harry and Meghan’s decision to move out of Kensington Palace — where William and Kate live — to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor in 2019, officially breaking up the “Fab Four”.
Things appeared to turn from bad to worse when none other than the Queen herself reportedly confronted Meghan over the feud with Kate earlier this month.
How seriously should we be taking the ‘feud’?
According to Australian Women’s Weekly editor-at-large and Royal correspondent Juliet Rieden, “The feud is a massive storm in a teacup”.
“It has been completely blown out of proportion by the media, who every day need to come up with a different story,” she said.
Why, then, are we so obsessed?
“The media will continue to concoct these stories as long as they get interest from the public, and now that interest is quantifiable with the internet,” Ms Rieden explained.
“We’re all sensible people — we read these stories and we realise it’s based on one flick of an eye or some tiny little detail that could be interpreted in so many different ways, and we all realise we’ve been had.
“But, by that time the story has been read, the click has been registered and another story is being created.”
According to Royal correspondent and commentator James Brookes, we should view Meghan and Harry’s move to Windsor in much the same light as the rest of the “feud”: “The move seems more like a logistical one and one that comes back to Harry and Meghan wanting to forge their own path.
“Harry’s spent the last few years in his brother’s shadow … so it’s understandable,” he said.
Mr Brookes put the Queen’s alleged involvement down to rumour: “The Queen’s worked hard to try and welcome [Meghan] into the family and she’ll be all too aware from Prince Philip’s experiences of being an outsider how isolated that situation can make one feel.”
Confusion over Royal protocol
She’s only been a Royal for eight months, but Meghan has already broken protocol at least 18 times — if numerous media reports are to be believed.
According to Mr Brookes, the media often gets it wrong: “There’s been a lot of talk, particularly in the British press, of Meghan breaking so-called “protocol”.
“A lot of it is rubbish. The ‘shutting her own car door’ is a good example — many times, the Royals have someone there to open their car door for them and they’re straight out and into greeting people, but if there’s nobody there to shut it and it’s in the way, they’ll close it themselves.
“Remember, they are human after all.”
What will next year hold?
With a baby due in Spring, a move to Windsor on the horizon and a new patronage from the Queen set to be announced, Meghan’s 2019 is likely to be just as fast-paced.
Aside from the Royal baby — which Ms Rieden said will “break the internet” — we can expect Meghan to continue following her passion of representing female empowerment, and maybe even using her experiences with racism to talk about racial issues in a first for the Royals.
Meghan made her debut as an author and as a Royal patron with a community cookbook in September. (AP: Geoff Pugh)
Ms Rieden explained: “It’s all very well having white and privileged members of the monarchy standing up and trying to support multiracial communities, but to actually have someone who is themselves multiracial gives it more credence, and I can’t imagine she wouldn’t want to be that role model.
“We’ve [already seen that] in the cookbook she wrote for [the victims of] Grenfell tower.
“[Meghan is] already making pretty powerful speeches [on female empowerment], which is quite new for the Royal family, and especially for the wife of a member of the Royal family.”
The Royal correspondent said she expects the Queen will hand Meghan a patronage linked to the theatre — an industry close to Meghan’s heart.
While this is yet to be confirmed, whatever patronage Meghan is tasked with, 2019 will be “a time for her to settle into her new role and start to develop it and show the world the type of Royal she wants to be,” according to Mr Brookes.
Unfavourable press coverage is part and parcel of being a member of the Royal family. (Instagram: kensingtonroyal)
“It’s also a time for her to realise that the press coverage will always be there … that’s something that will take a little time to adjust to — either by ignoring it altogether or developing a thick skin,” he added.
At least one thing is for sure — 2018 was the year of Meghan Markle.
And if we consider society’s obsession with Meghan’s departed mother-in-law Princess Diana — which ultimately led to her untimely death with the involvement of the paparazzi — this is unlikely to change.