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This Is the One Thing Kate Has Learned From Meghan Markle

The royal mum-to-be is showing more signs of support to women's causes.

She's found her voice.

For seven years since marrying Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has followed protocol to the letter and adhered to all the unwritten rules and traditions that the British royal family hold dear.

Ever since Meghan Markle has been welcomed into the family as Prince Harry's fiancé, Catherine seems to be following Meghan's lead in venturing into trickier terrain and showing more outward support for causes that in the past she might have steered clear of.

But she's doing it her way.

When Meghan joined Prince Harry for their first official evening event at Goldsmith's Hall a few weeks ago, she opted to wear a sleek black pantsuit instead of the expected gown seemingly in support of the #TimesUp which has led to actresses and other celebrities wearing all black ensembles to red carpet events as they did at the Golden Globes in January as a show of solidarity for the movement.

This past Sunday, Catherine attended the BAFTA Awards (the British version of the Oscars) where actresses also wore black in support of #TimesUp. The duchess wore a dark olive green dress with a black sash by Jenny Packham to the black-tie gala in London. Critics on social media who promptly bashed Catherine for not adhering to the informal all-black dress code missed the point entirely. In choosing an understated dark dress and black sash, the duchess was clearly showing a subtle nod to support to the movement—while dressing and behaving like the future Queen of England.

In his foreword to the official program Prince William appeared to reference the #TimesUp campaign, mentioning "a year when many brave people spoke up about bullying, harassment and abuse."

Members of the royal family have always steered clear of political issues and protocol dictates royal women wear black only for funerals and ceremony of remembrances. Catherine handled a difficult situation perfectly. She could have faced repercussions from the Palace if she had worn all black as it could be viewed as a political statement. Instead, the mother-to-be subtly acknowledged #TimesUp without breaking protocol.

Then on Monday, Catherine and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, co-hosted a reception for the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at the Buckingham Palace on Monday evening. The event featured designers from all 52 countries of the Commonwealths whose one-of-a-kind sustainable outfits were showcased at the reception. The duchess opted for a black-and-white print dress by Erdem for the occasion.

Sophie wore a black dress with red detailing from Burberry, one of the designers representing the U.K. at the event.

While Catherine has long championed causes involving children, the mother-to-be who is expecting her third child in April, has also shown great empathy for women in her charity work. During a recent appearance at a London hospital where she candidly addressed the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood she told patients and officials, "There's an expectation you're going to be super happy all the time, and one in four of us aren't."

Meghan, an avowed feminist, has spoken out on gender inequality for years, most notably at the UN Women's conference in Beijing in 2015. She has since stepped down from personal commitment to the organization and after her engagement announced she will now focus her efforts in working with Prince Harry on his charities. Since Harry will be sixth in line to the throne once Catherine and William's third child is born, there is decidedly less pressure on Meghan to strictly adhere to unwritten royal rules. She's already shown she is breaking with tradition by wearing trousers (and a messy bun!) for official appearances and hugging well-wishers at events (another royal no-no).

It seems Catherine has taken just enough inspiration from Meghan to update her role as the future Queen of England.

One thing is for sure, these two women are going to modernize monarchy one way or another. And for more on Meghan and Kate, don't miss the 10 Ways They're Definitely Not Alike. 

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

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