It's not easy being a royal bride in Old Blighty. Even keeping up with what to call everybody, and whom to curtsy to, and whom to expect a curtsy from, requires an immersion course in protocol. We can't even call Meghan Markle by her real name.
For anyone going to high tea at Buckingham Palace, Meghan is correctly "Her Royal Highness Princess Henry, Duchess of Sussex and Countess of Dumbarton and Kilkeel." The queen gave her these titles as a wedding present, something to make her feel at home in a new family. But it's OK to call her simply "Your Royal Highness," and after that, "Ma'am," rhyming it with "ham," the way they do in Memphis, and not "farm." She can indulge a giggle only when she's with old friends.
A faithful feminist, Her Royal Highness could have kept her maiden name if she had married someone in Los Angeles or Pittsburgh, but as a synthetic royal in the United Kingdom she not only loses that prerogative but she's "Princess Henry," highness via his name, not hers. One prissy London correspondent warned reporters visiting from the colonies that "it is totally incorrect to refer to her as 'Princess Meghan.' "
But faithfulness to protocol is not the only thing expected of her now. The gossip in the American media, much of it uninformed, is about how Britain can expect to see Harry's bride shake up the monarchy, to breathe fresh life into the stuffiest corners of British culture, to do what Princess Diana set out to do but never did.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, the curate of the mean streets of America, expects nothing less from Meghan than to erase white supremacy everywhere. "When you got little white girls in Wales saying, 'I want to be like Meghan,' there's a shift worldwide that white male supremacy is on its last breath," he told a rally in Harlem on Meghan's wedding day. "When you have little white girls in Arkansas look up and say, â€˜I want to be beautiful and smart like Michelle Obama. I want to dress like the Obama girls,' that's where white supremacy is questioned."
This suggests a sociological intimacy with Wales and Arkansas we never imagined the reverend had, and he expects too much from the beautiful and insightful Meghan.
Her public advocacy days are over.
The royals, from the queen to the most obscure duchess, stay out of politics, never expressing an opinion about the views and goals of Tory or Laborite. The royals, by custom, do not even vote.
She's not only a royal by marriage, but a commoner from America, sentenced to a life in a goldfish bowl. "She's not a prisoner," says Katie Nicholl, author of a biography of the bridegroom, "Harry: Life, Loss and Love," but in a way "she is a prisoner." Another royal observer, Ingrid Seward, agrees. "She can never make any comment about politics. She's not going to change the monarchy."
Her freedom of expression is gone, says Katie Nicholl. "She can say what she likes in private, but never a word in public. She's a quick learner, with an ability to adapt, and she will pick up a new role. She has made a seismic leap into a new life."
Harry, by all accounts and observations, is clearly besotted by his new bride, and that should help with the transition. Their behavior with each other is a lovely thing to watch. Young love always is. Harry and Meghan made their debut as Mr. and Mrs. after only two days together in the palace. "The honeymoon is over," quoth the London Daily Mail, with their appearance at the 70th birthday party for Harry's father, Prince Charles. Meghan couldn't keep her hands off her new husband, staying close and running her hand down his back, a gesture of affection more American than British.
For the rest of us, the royal wedding was a respite in the strife and anger of a day in the life. "A surprisingly large percentage of the American public takes an interest in the comings and goings of the British royal family," observes Philip Terzian in The Weekly Standard, "especially its marriages and (in recent decades) its divorces, and this in turn reliably annoys that smaller portion of Americans who have no interest in the royals. They ask: Why should anyone, on this side of the Atlantic, care one way or another about the British royal family? And come to think of it, didn't we fight a revolution in order not to have a royal family?"
Indeed we did, but there's nothing revolutionary in the air this time. Meghan deserves a break. She can't save the world, and it's not fair to ask her to try.