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The One Habit Royal Insiders Want Meghan to Stop

PDA is a no-go, according to protocol.

It's been nearly two months since Meghan Markle married Prince Harry and became the Duchess of Sussex, and, by most accounts, her indoctrination into the royal family appears to be going well. She wowed the crowds on her first official solo appearance with Queen Elizabeth II, has mastered the art of looking great in outrageous hats, and even perfected her "Duchess Slant." But there's one habit the former actress has that palace insiders wish she'd drop.

Her penchant for reaching for Harry's hand or linking arms with his whenever the couple appears together in public has resulted in some commenters labeling the duchess as "clingy" and criticizing her for being unaware of proper royal protocol in certain situations.

"The duchess is adapting quite well to her new life," one palace insider told me. "It is unfortunate people have chosen to unfairly criticize her for being herself. If not holding the duke's hand or linking arms in public will silence her critics, then perhaps she should consider making that small concession to stave off the naysayers."

In the just released official portraits of Prince Louis' christening, taken at Clarence House, Meghan appears in two family photographs. In one shot, she is standing behind Catherine, Duchess of Sussex and Prince William with their three children alongside Harry with Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. She is holding on to Harry's arm with her right hand. In the past, for official photographs like this, no royal couple has ever been photographed touching. Throughout their 70-year marriage, the Queen and Prince Philip have never shown any affection in public.

Commenters on a number of British publications' websites were quick to pounce. "Meghan hanging on to Harry AGAIN!" clucked one Daily Mail reader. "Klingon!" sniped another.

"Meghan is someone who has craved fame and the limelight, but this degree of fame and the aggression that comes with it can be very daunting," notes psychotherapist and relationship expert Dr. Robi Ludwig. "She has a big task to fit into the royal family seamlessly. Harry is her touchstone of comfort. It almost looks like she's hanging on for dear life."

This comes on the heels of an incident earlier this month where Harry appeared to rebuff Meghan's attempt to hold hands while the couple accompanied the Queen on an engagement.

At the Young Leaders Reception at Buckingham Palace earlier this month, Meghan moved her hand in her husband's direction while walking behind the Queen, but he quickly clasped his hands away from her. What at first glance looked like a snub was actually just the prince actually following protocol. Royal watchers have noted that William and Kate rarely, if ever, link arms or hold hands at official engagements. Body language expert Robin Kermode told The Sun. "It is very clear that William and Kate are emotionally close, however, they do not seem to feel the need to prove their love—particularly when on official state business."

"If I were Meghan's therapist, I'd advise her to do whatever is in her best interest," says Ludwig. "She could do one of two things. She could decide "I'm doing what I want to do. I'm an American and there's nothing wrong with showing affection. People will get used to it." Or, she could decide, "I'm in a new country with new rules. Maybe I could find another way [of feeling comfortable] because it's getting too much attention and aggression."

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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