The ‘Suits’ actress is reportedly leaving her longtime gig; royal experts say it would be ‘groundbreaking’ for a princess to work
Updated: November 27, 2017
As she trades life playing a paralegal on television for being an IRL princess, Meghan Markle is swapping out pencil skirts and her career for evening gowns and tiaras.
Clarence House, the seat of the Prince of Wales, announced Monday that the “Suits” actress and philanthropist is engaged to her boyfriend, Prince Harry. Markle is also reportedly leaving the cast of the long-running legal drama. Though the USA Network series has been renewed for an eighth season, Markle isn’t believed to have renewed her contract and Deadline Hollywood says that she’s “poised to depart.”
The prince proposed to Markle in November and the wedding is set for spring 2018. Rumors have been long swirling in the British press about an engagement between the 36-year-old actress and Harry, who is fifth in line to the British throne. As such, Markle’s expected departure isn’t that surprising. She shut down the Tig, a lifestyle website she ran, in April. Many speculated that this was done in deference to the British monarchy, which takes a dim view of hogging the pop culture spotlight while not on royal duty.
While royals have had careers of their own—Princess Margaret’s husband was a society photographer—and even carried out affairs with entertainment personalities, welcoming an actress into the House of Windsor would be unprecedented. For one, the profession has historically been held at arm’s length by the British establishment. “There’s a hundred years of suspicion and still remnants” of wariness, says Sarika Bose, a professor at the University of British Columbia who closely follows the royal family. “It would be groundbreaking if she were able to continue in her job.”
That’s even trickier if you’re a woman (even Grace Kelly had to abandon Hollywood to become Princess of Monaco) and expected to keep to “ladylike” engagements. For instance, it was decided that while Kate Middleton would promote British fashion, the Duchess of Cambridge would stay away from glitzy fashion shows, longtime royal observer Sally Bedell Smith tells Moneyish.
That’s problematic for Markle, who has a clothing line of her own. “It’s an interesting distinction and the kind of adaptation she’ll have to make,” says Smith, author of a buzzy new Prince Charles biography.
However, there are two things in Markle’s favor if she ever becomes a Princess. For one, Harry is unlikely to ever be crowned King, thus giving his future spouse more leeway. “Harry is interested in taking up Diana’s mantle and pushing the monarchy in a direction it normally wouldn’t go,” says Arianne Chernock, a British history professor at Boston University. “He likes to have fun and be seen as of the people.”
The famously unhappy experiences of other female royals have also changed things. Princess Diana was seen as overly stifled and unprepared when she married Charles, and Crown Princess Masako of Japan became depressed partially because she had to abandon a job in the diplomatic service for palace life.
Nowadays, even the 90-year-old Queen encourages women to lean in: Kate Middleton “took a lot of stick at the time for not having a full time job and at one point the Queen was said to be concerned by Kate’s lack of direction,” says Katie Nicholl, author of a new biography of the Duchess of Cambridge.
That’s because Britain’s most famous working woman knows that lady professionals are good for the crown. “The monarchy has never been more popular and that has to do with their ability to capture the public imagination and admiration,” Smith said.
This story was updated on November 27, 2017 with news of Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry.
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