10 Things Diana Would Tell Meghan About Royal Married Life
The beloved princess knew much about life in the gilded fishbowl.
When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry marry next weekend at St. George's Chapel at Windsor, all the British royals will be there to support him except the one family member who arguably played the greatest role in bringing the couple together—his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
Harry was only 12 when his mother died in a car crash in Paris and it, by his own candid account, was such a traumatic event for him that he never even spoke about his feelings about the loss for two decades. Last year, at the same time he launched the "Heads Together" campaign to build awareness around mental health, with his brother, Prince William, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Harry spoken movingly about his mother and how deeply he still feels the loss in his life. But Diana, in rebelling against royal traditions involving everything from parenting to philanthropy, left a legacy that her sons have embraced and allowed them to follow their hearts in a way that would make her proud.
Meghan, as the first American divorcee to marry into the royal family in 81 years (Wallis Simpson didn't fair nearly as well), has already broken a lot of long held traditions. Diana, who was marginalized and ultimately cast out of the royal family for bucking tradition, would undoubtedly have a lot of advice for Meghan on the eve of her wedding. Here's a rundown of the ten things Diana would likely share with Meghan about royal marriages, if only she had lived to see her son marry a woman who he obviously loves—even if she doesn't come with a royal pedigree. And for more on how once princess influences the other, check out 15 Ways Meghan's Wedding Will Be Different Than Diana's.
There should only be two people in a marriage.
Prince Charles was pressured into marrying Lady Diana Spencer because he was 30 and the Palace wanted to secure the line of succession. He never stopped loving Camilla Parker Bowles, though, who had gotten tired of waiting around and married someone else, while he was serving in the Royal Navy. Their affair reportedly reignited after Harry was born. "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," said Diana during her infamous Panorama interview with the BBC. Harry had two serious relationships—with Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas—before meeting Meghan. Any signs they are too close to Harry should be addressed and dealt with now. It has been reported that one or both of Harry's exes are coming to the wedding. If so, Meghan is obviously quite secure in Harrys' love. Diana would have told her son to leave them off the guest list. And for more on what that who's who guest is going to look like, check out the 20 Celebrities Who Are Definitely Attending the Royal Wedding.
Stick together on walkabouts.
It wasn't long after her wedding that it became clear Diana was the brightest star in the royal firmament. When she and Charles went on official state visits and spilt up to meet and greet the crowds, the inevitable groans of, "Oh no, we want to meet Princess Di!" began to grate and ultimately created feelings of jealously. Diana would be thrilled to see Meghan and Harry always at each other's sides on walkabouts. She would also be beaming with pride to see that her son is confident enough to let Meghan shine in the spotlight without feeling inadequate. And for more Buckingham trivia, don't miss these 30 Crazy Facts About Royal Marriages.
Choose your staff carefully
Royal life is life in a gilded fishbowl. Diana was very close to her staff and relied on them for their loyalty and discretion. Her staff and Charles' team didn't always get along. That hurt the couple and should never have been the case. Harry has no doubt helped Meghan find the most capable and trustworthy staff to work for her and with his office, just as Diana would have wanted.
Stay close to the "Top Lady."
Despite her difficulties within the family, Diana had tremendous admiration for Queen Elizabeth, who she called "The Top Lady." Meghan has already reportedly won the Queen over (obviously), and it didn't hurt that that Her Majesty's dogs like her, too. Diana was not a fan of the corgis. And for more info on the cute pups, learn the 15 Most Fascinating Facts about the Royal Corgis.
Do your job as best you can.
A royal marriage is a working partnership. Every couple must go out and represent "The Firm," and this is more important than ever, as the monarchy strives to seem relevant in modern times. Any crack in the marriage is amplified by the presence of countless cameras. Meghan has already proven adept at meeting people and even more important acting engaged when doing so. Diana was, by all accounts, always professional when she was representing the Queen. "She never complained that there were too many hands to shake, that the weather was bad or the food was no good," her former private secretary, Patrick Jephson, once told me. "The Princess knew she had a job to do and she went out there and did it."
Use your platform for good.
Diana wrote the book on leveraging worldwide fame and influence for the causes that meant the most to her and she did it better than anyone ever had before her. Meghan already knows this and is proving to be to a worthy successor in this area to her late mother in law. Even better, the Royal Foundation, started by Harry and William, now involves working together with Meghan and Kate.
Your children come first.
Diana was the first royal mother who had her child delivered in a hospital, the first to send her sons to private (which means public in the United Kingdom) schools, and the first to travel with her baby son, William, on a royal tour with two heirs to the throne on the same plane. This was unheard of at the time, but Diana wouldn't budge. Things are much different now, as William and Catherine have followed in Diana's footsteps in all of these ways, so Meghan will have no trouble doing any of that. William and Catherine have been criticized in the United Kingdom for doing fewer appearances than other royals, like Princess Anne and Prince Charles, but William has said being there for his children comes first. Diana would be proud and want the same for Harry and his family.
Don't take too many separate vacations.
Diana loved London but hated the isolation of Balmoral, and often jetted off with female friends to destinations in warmer climates. She and Charles spent a lot of time apart, and we all know what happened as a result. Meghan was a big fan of spur-of-the-moment world travels with her Girl Squad before meeting Harry. Diana would surely tell her to curb those trips—or take them with her husband.
Don't steal the spotlight at official events when the entire family is present.
Diana's natural star quality outshone the dowdy royals in the '80s and '90s and plenty of royal in-laws, like the Queen's sister, the late Princess Margaret, complained. When Diana was being shut out of the family during the separation and after the divorce, she used the media to get effect often times for spite. These days, Meghan is not the only young, glamorous figure in the family. Catherine always manages to dazzle, but never seems like she's seeking the spotlight. Meghan, by virtue of her previous career as an actress, comes alive in the presence of cameras. Diana would advise that she makes sure to pick her spots carefully when it comes to the media—preferably never at any big event where the Queen is present.
Watch out for Camilla.
One can only imagine what Diana would have thought of Camilla marrying Charles after their divorce, had she lived. One source told me, "If Diana had found happiness, she wouldn't have begrudged Charles the same." She once told a biographer that she wished Charles would go off with "his lady" and let William be king. When William was dating Kate Middleton, Camilla reportedly did not think Kate or the Middleton family were posh enough to be part of the royal family. If that's true, what must she think of Meghan's fractured and highly dysfunctional (those half-siblings are a nightmare) family? Surprisingly, it's also been reported that Camilla has taken Meghan under her wing and that Meghan and she have grown quite friendly. What a difference a few years make. And for insight on how Meghan lives her day-to-day, learn the 15 Ways Meghan Keeps That "Markle Sparkle."
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.
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