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The One Thing No British Royal Will Ever Do

Meghan Markle's autograph just got a whole lot more valuable.

Meghan Markle's autograph just got a whole lot more valuable.

No, not because she's the first American to be accepted into the British royal family, or because she's marrying its most charismatic member. (Yes, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are adorable, but sorry, Harry has always been the favorite.) And no, it has nothing to do with her instant fashion icon or star status, either.

It's because when she marries Prince Harry and officially becomes a royal, she'll no longer be permitted to sign autographs.

Members of the royal family are expressly prohibited from signing their name on anything. According to the London-based newspaper The Express, the strict anti-fraud policy is in place to prevent members of the royal family's signature from being forged. (One would think seeing the name "Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge" on an application for an Amex Black Card might set off an alarm, but I guess one can't be too careful.)

Last week, when Meghan accompanied Harry to Nottingham to make her first official public appearance with him and kick-off a six-months "getting to know you" tour around the country, she worked the crowd outside the town's National Justice Museum like a pro. With a bodyguard following closely behind, Meghan shook hands (without gloves) and chatted with well-wishers and posed for selfies. She didn't have to decline signing autographs because it appeared no one asked. Perhaps that's because the British people are well aware of the longstanding royal rule—and are unfailingly polite.

It's ironic that Meghan, who is giving up her acting career to marry Harry (fun fact: She was once a briefcase model on "Deal or No Deal"), likely spent at least a few afternoons as a starry-eyed teenager practicing her signature in anticipation of becoming a celebrity. But once she assumes the biggest role of her life when the couple marry in May, she will have to adhere to the same rule and simply smile and wave for the camera.

It's worth noting that at least one royal broke this no-autograph rule constantly. Princess Diana was well-known for sending autographed photographs of herself taken at various events as a thank-you to the designers who dressed her and other people she met. At the famous Christie's auction of her dresses, in 1997, she signed the catalog in her distinctive feminine, loopy cursive for a few lucky attendees. Not surprisingly, hers is one of the most sought-after autographs among collectors.

Perhaps that's why it was so striking when it appeared in bright pink ink on the cover of Tina Brown's best-selling book, The Diana Chronicles, after the princess' death. It was the one thing about the late princess she had managed to keep just a little bit private. And for more royals coverage, don't miss the 10 Secrets the Palace Doesn't Want Meghan Markle to Know.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana: A Novel.

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