Meghan Markle’s best speeches — from the UN Women Conference to One Young World

Meghan Markle speaks in Manchester on her visit to the UK (PA)
Meghan Markle speaks in Manchester on her visit to the UK (PA)

After a two-year hiatus, Meghan Markle returned to the stage this week with her first public speech since stepping back as a senior member of the Royal family in 2020.

In a full-circle moment, the speech took place at  One Young World – an organisation she has been apart of since 2014. “I was the girl from Suits, and I was surrounded by world leaders, humanitarians, prime ministers and activists,” she said of her first speech at the summit eight years ago.

The conference, held at the Manhcester’s Bridgewater Hall on Monday evening, brought together 2,000 young leaders delegates from 190 countries to “inspire and empower them to build a fairer and more sustainable world” through four days of speeches, panels, networking, and workshops.

In her keynote address, she encouraged young people to embrace their capacity to effect change. “You are the future," she told the crowd. "But I would like to add that you are also the present. You are the ones driving the positive and necessary change needed across the globe now in this very moment. And for that I’m so grateful to be in your company today."

Although some royal commentators have criticised the former actress for “lacking content” and being riddled with “insincere remarks,” most notably, royal commentator Angela Levin tweeted: "It’s totally off putting to hear her first line ‘it’s very nice to be back in the UK.’ What a phoney." Others praised Markle for being a “first class orator”.

As the couple continue their European tour to support causes they care about, which includes a pit stop in Dusseldorf to mark one year until the 2023 Invictus Games and an upcoming appearance at the WellChild Awards on Thursday, here are some of Markle’s best speeches.

The speech that put Markle on the map

In 2015 Markle – then just an actress from the popular American sitcom Suits which she balanced alongside her popular lifestyle blog The Tig  – made a speech at the UN Women Conference. It was the first time she did so as an official ambassador for UN Women.

During the speech Markle shared the story of the first time she advocated for women’s equality. At 11 years old she wrote a letter to the then First Lady Hillary Cliton, Nick News host Linda Ellerbee and powerhouse lawyer Gloria Allred about a sexist advert she had watched in school, where the tagline: "Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans." Her campaigning was encouraged by Clinton, who replied to Markle with a letter of encouragement, and eventually led to P&G changing the tagline for the product.

It is widely lauded for putting Markle on the social justice campaigning map. In fact, clips of this speech went viral when Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry was announced in 2017, with many using it to praise her royal credentials.

Her debut as a working royal

In July 2016 Markle met her future husband Prince Harry after mutual friends set them up. Following their Soho House date, they went “0 to like 60 in the first two months”, according to an interview with James Corden on The Late Late Show in 2021, and by November 2017 they had become engaged over a roast chicken dinner.

In 2018 she made her first appearance as a working royal alongside Prince Harry and the  Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Royal Foundation Forum. Although the conference was called to update the press and the public on the charitable work of the two princes, it also served as the official tactical debut of a working soon-to-be-royal. Markle used the opportunity to talk about the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, saying there was “no better time” to “shine a light on women feeling empowered and people really helping to support them, men included.”

When asked about working with Harry and her future in-laws, she said: "Thank goodness (there are) such differing personalities and everyone’s very communicative because that’s how you can really see bigger change – if everyone’s thinking the same way, how are you going to push the envelope, how are you really going to break through in a different sort of mindset?"

At the time her speech was well-recieved, with many royal commentators agreeing that it signalled a golden age for The Firm was coming.

Markle’s first solo speech as an official royal

While celebrating the launch of Together: Our Community Cookbook, a charity book which contains recipes from members of the community in West London that came together following the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, Markle gave her first speech as a royal.

In tow was Prince Harry and Markle’s mum, Doria Ragland, who watched on as she addressed the crowd. According to a tweet by ITV reporter Chris Ship, she spoke for three minutes without notes and “gave a very charismatic, poignant speech thanking everyone for their work on the project.”

Marking the Invictus Games with an important plus one

The Invictus Games has always been a big part of Harry and Meghan’s story. It’s part of the reason they met – according to US Weekly, the pair first met in May 2016 while Harry was in Toronto setting up the Invictus Games. What’s more, they made their first public appearance together at the Toronto games in 2017.

Only a year later and at the 2018 games Markle gave an impromptu speech while pregnant with their first child, Archie, about her support for Harry, and praised the "Invictus spirit" at the heart of the annual event. Commentators applauded Markle for being confident, humorous, and for having a great message about how "immeasurable" it is to support others who are healing from injury and trauma.

The one where she couldn’t be ruffled

Again the duchess ditched her notes for a windy al fresco speech to launch her Smart Works collection in September 2019. The wild weather and blaring sirens did nothing to put her off her stride and she even paused to ask if she should “hold for sound.” Ever the pro.

The last speech before her two-year hiatus

“There will always be negative voices and sometimes those voices can appear to be outsized, and sometimes they can appear to be painfully loud. You can and will use your own voices to drown out the noise. Because that’s what it is—just noise,” declared Markle during her keynote speech at the virtual 2020 Girl Up Leadership Summit.

Attended by more than 40,000 young people in 172 countries, it was the second time Markle addressed a large group of young women since moving to Los Angeles in March 2020 after controversially stepping back from royal duties. The first was a surprise virtual graduation address at her former high school, Immaculate Heart High School.