If you look up any news articles on etiquette these days, they’re most likely to be about Meghan Markle being accused of breaking some rule of royal etiquette. More often than that, it’s because she broke protocol by hugging a young well-wisher during one of her public appearances with Prince Harry. There has been some pearl-clutching and clenching of fists, but, even as a professional etiquette and civility expert, I think the press and purists should lay off.
While I wouldn’t suggest hugging or wrapping an arm around the Queen — it isn’t appropriate — Markle is a different case. She didn’t grow up in a royal household; she didn’t even grow up in England. She’s reportedly having countless new rules of etiquette drilled into her brain, but I find her approachable image to be charming, warm, and modern. Like Princess Diana, she’s a princess (or duchess-to-be, rather) for the people.
Royal etiquette reportedly also frowns on members of the royal family expressing political views. While Kate Middleton has hesitated to address major issues of the day, Markle has remained refreshingly candid, speaking out for women’s rights and even addressing the #MeToo movement. She’s staying true to her outspoken self, and it may just be that kind of candor that can help the royals as they move into the future, and, eventually, a new monarch.
Today people were complaining that the cake Markle and Prince Harry have selected for the royal wedding wasn’t traditional enough because it’s not a classic fruit cake (which is more popular in Britain than it is in America). Instead, the couple are opting for a more modern (and tastier, from the sounds of it) lemon and elderflower sponge with buttercream icing. Good for them.
People can complain all they like, but it’s important to remember that etiquette is always evolving. Some rules — not talking with your mouth full of food, for instance — will always remain valid. Others are introduced to roll with the times and new technology, and some are phased out because they represent outdated practices or points of view.
So let’s stop giving Markle such a hard time. If the Queen approves, who are we to judge?