Amid sizzling hot engagement rumors, Meghan Markle is receiving personal guidance from Prince Harry to help her make it through the tricky transition from American divorced actress to Meghan, Princess Henry of Wales. If Meghan and her prince marry, the Suits star will be the first woman to marry into the royal family without any of the usual upper class British credentials.
Lady Diana Spencer, who famously married Prince Charles to become the Princess of Wales, was the daughter of Earl Spencer, head of one of the oldest, wealthiest aristocratic families. She was related to the royal house of Stuart and to Winston Churchill, and Diana appeared to be the perfect princess from the moment the media noticed her.
Kate Middleton was not of aristocratic heritage, but her family was wealthy and educated, and her father, Michael Middleton, was from an aristocratically connected family. The Middleton family has entertained members of the British Royal Family in Leeds since his grandparents' time, and Michael's father flew with Prince Philip before Philip gave up his career for Queen Elizabeth.
Meghan Markle has none of the usual upper crust requirements for royal brides, and according to writer Kate Nicholl, Prince Harry is very aware of the obstacles Meghan faces.
In an interview with the New York Post, Nicholl said that Prince Harry is doing everything he can to make it easier for his girlfriend to become his wife.
"He knows how daunting this will be for Meghan and he's keen for her to be relaxed in the company of senior royals."Compared to Markle's path towards acceptance into the royal family, Lady Diana Spencer and Kate Middleton had a smooth road. The flip side of that is the way Diana was treated by the palace and the media.
The teenage Lady Diana charmed everyone and played her role beautifully throughout the brief courtship, the formal engagement, the fairy-tale wedding and the first years of marriage. But she was given almost no guidance or support along the way. She even had to prove her virginity before she was allowed to marry Prince Charles.
Diana, who would later say that her wedding day was the "worst day of my life," was left to sink or swim as she tried to figure out on her own how to be the girlfriend of a prince. At the time, Diana's ordeal was seen as a Buckingham Palace test to see just how suited the golden-haired goddess was to life as the Princess of Wales.
Kate Middleton definitely fared much better. Queen Elizabeth and Buckingham Palace changed their expectations and attitudes after Diana's tragic death at the hands of paparazzi. The media storm that had been her life killed the people's princess, and "The Firm" came perilously close to losing the confidence and love of their British subjects.
When Kate and Prince William met while they were both students at St Andrew's University, the media gave them more space than Lady Diana ever enjoyed. There was also no need for Prince William to immediately marry and produce an heir.
William and Kate were both only nineteen when they met, the same age that Lady Diana was when she became engaged to Prince William's father. But Prince Charles was already in his thirties, and he was the direct heir to the throne. The pressure was on, and Princess Diana paid the price.
Kate and William dated for seven years before finally announcing their engagement in November 2010, and they tied the knot at Westminster Cathedral on April 29, 2011.
Kate Middleton had plenty of opportunity to learn the ropes along the way, and although the public couldn't get enough of the self-contained, clever brunette, she rarely had to endure the ambushes that marked Princess Diana's life.
Prince William's wife did have to accustom herself to the manners and protocol that would have been more familiar to Diana, since her family was close to the royals. Kate Middleton has to call her husband's granny"Ma'am," even now that she's a duchess and mother to a future king.
Kate also learned the hard way that one does not forget the majesty of the throne, even when one is the most celebrated bride in the world. Critics were aghast when the newly married Duchess of Cambridge appeared to miss out on a full bow of the head to Queen Elizabeth before walking down the aisle on the arm of her husband.
Meghan Markle will have to put all her acting skills to work to learn her new role, including "how to curtsy, hob-knob with foreign dignitaries, or emerge from a car without flashing her underwear" along with remembering to address the 91-year-old queen as ma'am.
It turns out that there's a school to teach all of those royal tricks to willing princesses, but Meghan won't be going there. According to the Telegraph, The English Manner offers lessons in English etiquette to anyone who can afford their fees, and the school is becoming "increasingly popular" among the Chinese elite. As preparation for marrying Prince Harry, Meghan Markle could learn a lot at this "charm" school.
The founder and director, Alexandra Messervy, was a member of the Queen's Buckingham Palace household. Messervy promises her pupils they will learn all the ways of royalty, from "the perfect handshake" and "afternoon tea etiquette" to "how to sit like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge."
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