- Meghan Markle turns 39 today.
- She and Prince Harry have continuously broken royal tradition, frequently departing from protocol throughout their relationship.
- Like other millennials, they’re changing the face of marriage – they’re just doing it at an elevated level that’s modernising the monarchy.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Meghan Markle is celebrating her 39th birthday today.
This past year has been eventful for the Duchess of Sussex. She and Prince Harry most recently stepped back as working members of the royal family and relocated to Los Angeles, where they’re reportedly house hunting.
This move is just latest way Harry and Meghan have broken royal protocol since their dating days. Like other millennials, they’re changing the way marriage looks compared with previous generations – they’re just doing it in a more high-profile way that influences the monarchy.
Millennials are waiting longer to get married,Insider’s Kim Renfro reported;Harry and Meghan were 33 and 36 when they wed. But by adding nontraditional elements to their wedding and displaying affection in public – among other protocol-breaking actions – they have taken things a few steps further.
Here’s how the royal couple has broken royal traditions.
Before getting married, Harry brought Meghan to the queen’s holiday festivities.
Royal protocol dictates that only spouses of royals can attend the queen’s festivities at her private estate in Norfolk,according to Insider’s Talia Lakritz. Even Kate Middleton wasn’t allowed to spend Christmas with the royal family in 2010.
Harry reportedly asked the queen to make an exception, and Meghan became the first royal fiancée to spend Christmas with the royal family.
Meghan is the first mixed-race divorced woman to marry into the royal family.
“It was deemed a royal union fit for the twenty-first century and a turning point for the monarchy,” the royal biographer Katie Nicholl wrote in her book, “Harry and Meghan: Life, Loss, and Love.” “Meghan was the first mixed-race divorcee to marry into the royal family, something that, decades ago, would have been unthinkable.”
Her marriage to Harry also marks the first time a royal family member had a church wedding with a divorced woman.
The couple married in May — an unlucky month, per royal superstition.
Since the age of Queen Victoria, it’s been a superstition that it’s unlucky for British royals to get married in May, but Meghan and Harry, who tied the knot on May 19, 2018, were one of the few royal couples to do so, according to Claire Nowak of Reader’s Digest.
They had a modern wedding that broke several royal traditions.
The wedding ceremony marked a “turning point for the monarchy,” according to Nicholl, in part because of its multicultural elements.
“Complete with a gospel choir and an African American bishop, the ceremony was a departure from tradition and captured the imagination of the world,” she wrote.
The ceremony also broke tradition with a bridal party of bridesmaids and page boys who weren’t all from the royal side, as well as a star-studded guest list, according to Marcia Moody of Town & Country.
Meghan also entered the chapel alone, where she was escorted down the aisle by Prince Charles.
At the reception, the couple opted for nontraditional wedding details. Traditionally, most royal wedding cakes are fruitcakes, but Harry and Meghan had a spring-inspired lemon-and-elderflower cake coated in buttercream and fresh flowers, according to Moody.
And instead of using a royal-warrant-holder – go-to businesses for the royal family – for their floral arrangements, they chose Philippa Craddock, a florist in London, Nowak reported.
Harry wears a wedding band, whereas the rest of the royal men don’t.
Prince Philip and Prince William don’t wear wedding bands, and Charles wears a signet ring on his pinkie, according to Moody. However, Meghan and Harry exchanged rings, signifying equality in the marriage and modernity for the monarchy, said Meghan McKenna of Fashion magazine.
Meghan and Harry are more affectionate in public than other royal couples.
Tim Rooke, Shutterstock’s royal photographer, who has photographed the royals for more than 25 years, told Insider that Meghan and Harry were the most affectionate couple he had photographed.
“Compared to Kate and William, they are much more affectionate in public, which could be attributed to the different pressures placed on William as the next in line to become king,” he said. “We don’t often see Prince William and the duchess holding hands, but the Sussexes do it if cameras are there or not.”
They’re also more vocal than other royals.
According to Nowak, royal families don’t typically open up about their relationships until they’re engaged and married, but Meghan expressed her love for Harry early on in a Vanity Fair interview.
Harry also issued a statement through Kensington Palace about the press harassing Meghan, Nowak said.
And while the queen and the rest of the royal family avoid politics, Meghan has spoken about the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and Harry’s feminism, according to Nowak, as well as expressing opinions on abortion.
And they have informally engaged with fans.
Royals tend to stick to formal greetings for security and position reasons, but Meghan and Harry have hugged fans. According to Elyse Dupre of E! News, Harry hugged a fan during his Australian royal tour in 2018. And at an event for International Women’s Day that year, Meghan hugged a 10-year-old fan who said she wanted to be an actress.
Meghan once also signed a 10-year-old girl’s autograph book with a heart and smiley face, though royals aren’t allowed to give autographs so their signatures don’t get forged, Lakritz said.
In preparation for her first child, Meghan had a lavish baby shower.
Vanity Fair estimated that Meghan’s baby shower in Manhattan cost $US200,000. Serena Williams, a friend of Meghan’s, reportedly paid for the party, which included a flower-arranging lesson and a dessert tasting with a Michelin-starred chef.
Kate didn’t have a baby shower, as far as anyone knows, Lakritz reported.
Meghan and Harry didn’t release official merchandise to celebrate the birth of the royal baby.
The Royal Collection Trust confirmed to Insider shortly after Archie’s birth that no official merchandise would be released to celebrate the birth of the royal baby, something that William and Kate did for all three of their children.
Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator, told Insider that merchandise was likely considered too “commercial” for Meghan and Harry.
They also opted out of the Lindo Wing photo op.
Meghan and Harry skipped the Lindo Wing photo op (posing outside the exclusive maternity ward at St. Mary’s Hospital a few hours after giving birth) that Charles and Princess Diana began after the birth of William, who continued the tradition with Kate.
Instead, they hosted a photo op with Archie at Windsor Castle two days after the birth, which is said to have taken place at home.
Fitzwilliams told Insider that the decision could be linked to “Harry’s fiercely protective instincts.”
In April 2020, Meghan and Harry stepped down as senior royals and became “financially independent.”
Meghan and Harry are continuing to “fully support” Queen Elizabeth, they stated on their official website.
The couple plans to split time between the UK and North America. They left Canada, where they’d been staying, at the end of March and have reportedly been living in Los Angeles with their 1-year-old son Archie since.
Most of the British monarchy’s wealth is derived from inherited lands and investments, Business Insider’s Ainé Cain reported. British taxpayers also support the royal family through a “sovereign grant” issued by the treasury.