Even Kate Middleton isn’t really “Kate Middleton” anymore, despite how she’s commonly referred to. She’s been Duchess Catherine, officially speaking, since she and Prince William said their I-dos in 2011. And though Kate and Will are the most modern couple that the monarchy has produced to date, being married to the man who’s second in line to be the king of England requires being onboard (100 percent, as much as possible) with a certain kind of lifestyle.
As in, “you get to pick out your clothes and some charities, but we’ll pick out everything else.”
To be sure, Kate’s personal life is more nuanced than that, but being a royal is a full-time job, at least for her and William—and for him it’s only going to get more time-consuming as Queen Elizabeth II bestows more responsibility on the Duke of Cambridge in the future.
But what does that mean for Meghan Markle?
She is Prince Harry‘s first serious girlfriend in years and, now that he’s 32 and on the record saying he’d love to have his own family… what you’re hearing is Big Ben ticking down his remaining days of bachelorhood.
But the particulars of their relationship aside, Markle is the most independently successful woman Harry has ever dated, and would be the most famous American woman since Grace Kelly to ever join a monarchy, let alone the British monarchy, should she and the prince go the distance.
And if they do, what does that mean for all of Meghan (or Meg, as the U.K. tabloids are familiarly calling her) Markle’s personal endeavors, not least of which being her acting career?
Well, the days of having to choose between career and royal obligations may over. Partly, yes, because Prince Harry is “only” fifth in line to the throne, behind William’s son, Prince George, and daughter, Princess Charlotte.
That distance from the throne helps, as it has also allowed the likes of Princess Eugenie (who is just as much the queen’s grandchild as William is, but she’s eighth in line) to pursue a career in the private sector.
And even Grace Kelly, who is the most frequently cited example of a “commoner” who gave it all up when she became Princess of Monaco, would most likely have returned to show business in a different day and age. There was no law mandating she not be an actress and a royal, but it was the 1950s and a different, decidedly macho time when she married Prince Rainier III. Alfred Hitchcock wanted her to star in his 1962 thriller Marnie, and Kelly was willing—but local public sentiment was against it. She was attached to the film for awhile, but the palace would announce that spring that the princess was withdrawing from negotiations.
Markle, who’s been steadily working in TV for almost two decades, is currently enjoying her biggest role to date, co-starring as ambitious paralegal Rachel Zane on USA’s Suits. The drama has been renewed for a 16-episode seventh season in 2017, so Meg’s got plenty on her plate with that course alone. (Not to mention, substantially more people than ever before are going to be paying attention to the show’s shooting schedule, the premiere, every move Rachel makes, etc. Markel already became the most Googled actress of 2016.)
Moreover, Markle doesn’t just show up, shoot and call it a day. She made a point several seasons ago to object to her character being scantily clad for no apparent reason other than to show skin, and she relishes the opportunity for both herself and Rachel to serve as role models as strong women.
And this is the 21st century. There may be the exact opposite sort of outcry than there was for Grace Kelly’s acting aspirations should Markle decide to call it a career and leave Hollywood for good anytime soon.
But what of Markle’s other pursuits? In addition to having two dogs, Bogart and Guy, being a yoga enthusiast and an adventurous foodie, and being in demand for photo shoots and fashion spreads, as many young actresses tend to be, the 35-year-old Los Angeles native is an active humanitarian and the founder of her own lifestyle site, The Tig.
First thing’s first: Her philanthropic ways will obviously fit right in with the royals, particularly Harry, who along with William grew up watching his mother, the late Princess Diana, tirelessly champion a number of causes—and so the brothers have continued in her stead. It’s not much of a stretch to assume that Meghan’s commitment to giving back proved quite appealing to Harry.
So, while he continues his work on behalf of wounded veterans and HIV/AIDS awareness, Meghan could add accessibility to clean water, women’s education and efforts to help combat poverty around the globe to the schedule.
Explaining why she spent most of her downtime during hiatus from Suits traveling on behalf of various causes, Markle told Miami Living this summer, “That makes so much more sense for me to do than a film that doesn’t move the needle.”
Markle has also been increasingly open, including in an essay she penned for Elle U.K. last year, about her experiences—in Hollywood and beyond—as the daughter of a black mother and a white father and how that has shaped the woman she is today.
Her newfound visibility thanks to Suits prompted her to launch The Tig two years ago as a platform for all of her various interests, from her philanthropic work and global travels to the day-to-do fun stuff such as her favorite jewelry trends, beauty products and, the other day, a cozy peppermint hot chocolate recipe. Her Instagram account, which saw its following increase just a bit over the last couple months, is also a carefully curated space.
“The moment that social media came into the mix and people started listening to what I had to say,” Markle recalled to Miami Living, “I feel even more responsibility to say something of value, so being able to do that and to talk about those projects has been important to me.” The Tig is “my baby,” she said. “It’s become my space to voice my own opinion, whereas as an actor, you’re paid to say someone else’s words for a living…It’s really important for me to be like: ‘And here’s real life.'”
Hmm, a sense of responsibility, combined with a predisposed interest in good works…
Sounds like a match made in heaven. As for maintaining her own independent website down the road, there will be an inevitable joining of forces with palace authority. It’s hard to envision Markle not being able to have at least some outlet for a lot of what she already holds dear; however, it would be a very big deal if, somehow, she were to reflect poorly on the royal family. So, whoever’s paying close attention now, multiply that by millions.
We could also see any future salary she draws, whether it’s from acting, a clothing line or any other endorsements, being funneled into various charities rather than her own bank account, just as William’s paycheck from East Anglian Air Ambulance goes right back to the organization.
So it’s conceivable that Markle could end up hanging onto more of herself than any person who married into Britain’s royal family has before. And this also calls for props to Prince Harry, for having the wherewithal to be attracted to a woman with such a well-rounded life in the first place.
Whatever happens down the road, cheers to the idea of everyone involved getting what they want.