In the narrative of Meghan and Queen Elizabeth II, the queen is like Regina George, sneakily setting up little mean-girl tests for Meghan the way we decided Queen Elizabeth did for Diana and then Camilla and then Kate, because naturally a 92-year-old monarch’s primary concern is hazing her granddaughter-in-law.
This one time, Meghan didn’t know whether to let the queen get into a car first, so she asked, and this was somehow mortifying. Meghan likes pasta, but the queen doesn’t serve it at her table, and will Meghan be able to survive one meal without pasta, or will she, like most people deprived of pasta for one meal, wither into an empty husk as she wails, “Rigatoni. Rigatoni.”?
Three months ago when Meghan married Prince Harry, everyone speculated that the presence of a divorced biracial American 30-something would forever change the monarchy. This column was going to attempt to evaluate that endeavor, and what I have discovered in my research is that this past weekend was Meghan’s birthday and she wore a colorblock dress from Club Monaco and accidentally flashed her bra.
Royal watching is seen as a silly sport, but it’s actually a controlled science experiment. To examine the first three months of Meghan Markle’s royalty is to have an unfettered look at the tired stories we tell about women when they’re not allowed to rebut the narrative.
What does it mean to be a princess in 2018? What does it mean to be a queen? The royal family’s job is to function as figureheads — to offend nobody, to take no positions. For 60 years, the head of that family has been a woman.
The combination of these two circumstances has resulted in the coverage of the modern monarchy being oddly feminized: Nobody can know what the queen is thinking, so let’s turn our attention to her renewed love of gardening and a photo gallery of her 51 best hats. The women of the royal family have become the perfect targets for British and American societies struggling with sexism: The women are there to be judged. They are not allowed to talk back.
During President Trump’s recent European tour, he had rocky encounters with both British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The only stateswoman he seemed to enjoy meeting was Queen Elizabeth, whose entire job consists of saying nothing and being polite.
“I was asked to have tea with the queen, who is incredible by the way,” Trump said. “I’m waiting. I was about 15 minutes early and I’m waiting with my wife and that’s fine. Hey, it’s the queen, right? We can wait.”
It fell to the Internet to produce contradictory evidence: Earlier this week someone uploaded footage of the queen stoically eyeing her watch while herself waiting on the president.
At least her foil in that narrative wasn’t another woman.
“Meghan Markle’s rising popularity causes tension with Kate Middleton,” says Us Weekly.
“Tension inside the royal household. Is it because of Meghan Markle?” asks the Royal UK, a gossip site.
Meghan’s family, the white side, is still crazy, we learn via our tabloid education. Meghan’s mom hung out with Oprah. Meghan sometimes dresses like her deceased mother-in-law, in the sense that they have both worn clothes that are, for example, blue. When this happens, Town & Country will do a pictorial spread that implies Meghan is trying to take Diana’s place.
Meghan Markle Meghan Markle.
I read stories about her and I think I’m supposed to believe that she’s representative of all women, or our complicated notions about them. Maybe pretending to like you, maybe about to stab you in the back. Proving her own worthiness to the public by wearing the right thing. Proving her humility, by situating herself near the airplane toilet. Doing the best she can while never getting it quite right.
Photos of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, out and about
Monica Hesse is a columnist writing about gender and its impact on society. For more visit wapo.st/hesse.