May I first of all, with the rest of the nation, offer my heartfelt congratulations to you on your engagement to our very own Prince Harry. When the announcement was issued on Monday by Clarence House, spontaneous applause broke out in the newsrooms of our national newspapers. I’m not ashamed to admit that there were tears in the Royal Affairs Department of this one.
Beyond the joy and the laughter, though, there are serious matters to consider. The family that you are about to join cannot be described as entirely normal. Your future father-in-law, for instance, exudes the tense and gloomy dissatisfaction of a man ill at ease with himself and the world. Outside the palace walls, the media gazes in. Already the popular press is gushing about you in a way that old hands will see as oddly menacing – it is waiting for your first wrong move. Elsewhere the dreary old establishment, steeped in snobbery about race, nationality and class, have already found you wanting in all three areas.
Within hours of your engagement being announced, a Spectator columnist set the tone, writing: “Obviously, 70 years ago, Meghan Markle would have been the kind of woman the prince would have had for a mistress, not a wife.”
Who is Meghan Markle?
Meghan Markle is an American actor, best known for her role in the hit series Suits. She has described herself as “an actress, a writer, the editor-in-chief of my lifestyle brand the Tig, a pretty good cook, and a firm believer in handwritten notes”. She has also campaigned for humanitarian causes.
The 36-year-old grew up in Los Angeles. She studied at a girls’ Roman Catholic college there before attending Northwestern University. Recently she has lived in Toronto. She is the daughter of a clinical therapist and a TV lighting designer. Markle has written about her mixed heritage, describing herself as “a strong, confident mixed-race woman”. She was married once before, to film producer Trevor Engelson, but the pair were divorced in 2013.
Since news of her relationship with Prince Harry broke in 2016, she has closed her blog and given an interview in which she described the couple as “really happy and in love”. She said: “Nothing about me changed. I’ve never defined myself by my relationship.” She will become a duchess or princess when the couple wed.
You get the picture. It will be a bumpy ride. The British are in a confused state right now, longing to belong to the outside world yet in love with borders; hankering for celebrity and glamour while also disapproving of them. To be honest, we are in a bad place psychologically and, in this sense at least, we have the perfect representatives in the family you are about to join.
I would like to cut through the emotion and the carping to offer some practical advice about royal life. Frankly, if you avert your eyes from the gurning contortions of the press and follow these simple guidelines, you won’t go far wrong. On a positive note, you have done very well bringing Guy and Bogart here. This is a nation that likes to believe it is good with animals, and four-legged creatures, canine and equine, are an essential part of the royal image. To avoid confusion, you should probably avoid referring to your dogs as “my boys”, the phrase Princess Diana used to describe your future husband and his brother. Let it be known that Guy and Bogart are rescue dogs, recommended by the American television star Ellen DeGeneres. That mixture of the grim and the glitzy – “from refugee camps to red carpets”, as you once beautifully put it – always plays very well in Britain.
You will also be required to kill animals, or at least be around when they are killed. In the royal family, shooting and hunting animals are a valid expression of your love for them. Paradoxically, fans of the Windsors not only forgive the killing but see it as something rather special and distinguished about the family. To be squeamish about these things can cause difficulties.
On the subject of families, it would probably be sensible not to talk too much about your own. When it comes to the monarchy, admirers of the royal family are quite traditional: they tend to be suspicious of any new member not belonging to a family of aristocrats who own half of Northamptonshire. And whatever you do, avoid repeating your description of your mother Doria as “free-spirited”. The British, who can be surprisingly sensitive to linguistic nuance, will take this to be code for mad, promiscuous or both.
You will mercifully be able to bid farewell to Markle, which for many Britons sounds uncomfortably close to Merkel
Your new status will involve a change of name, and you will mercifully be able to bid farewell to Markle, which for many Britons sounds uncomfortably close to Merkel. Just as the last royal bride became Princess Kate, a usefully classless name, you should quietly encourage the use of Princess Meg, which has a jaunty lack of pretension without being downright common.
Be careful not to say or do anything that might invite the deployment of the expression “Princess Pushy”, a favourite of the press that has not been used for a while. All that may sound rather bland, and so it is. Dullness should be your friend. If you must sparkle, for heaven’s sake do it behind closed doors. The last thing the Windsor family needs is another strong, opinionated, charismatic young woman. That always ends in tears.
One final, slightly personal point. Your teeth: they are just a little too white. As a nation that is not dentally blessed, we are sensitive about such things and see excessive oral dazzle (Justin Bieber, Penélope Cruz, Donald Trump) as a sign of vulgarity. Good luck, Princess Meg. We’ll be watching you.
• Terence Blacker is the author of Yours, E.R.