Meghan Markle exposes simple thing Kate Middleton can’t do


Sometimes the royal family pull a magic trick – they seem normal.

For example: When Kate the Princess of Wales is seen suffering her way through the supermarket self-service checkout and then actually ferrying her own over-crammed, reusable bags back to the car or when she and husband Prince William voluntarily fly on a budget airline with their trio of small children and live to tell the tale.

But it’s oh-so-easy for this ‘normal’ bubble to be burst. The best story I’ve ever come across: The King squealing in such shock and horror the first he saw Glad Wrap that the noise sent Queen Camilla running to see what was the matter, an event that happened in the last 20 years.

There was no Glad Wrap present but today Meghan the Duchess of Sussex has just done her level bust to do some ‘normal’ busting, managing to accidentally remind us all how detached from reality and contemporary life royal ways can be.

So, Meghan, it turns out, went to Los Angeles Children’s Hospital in late March where she read to young patients, proving she has been getting good value out of her Queen Mary Quote of the Day Calendar. It was Mary who famously told a royal relative reluctant to do their bit during World War One, “You are a member of the British royal family. We are never tired and we all love hospitals.”

(Side note: More than a century on from Mary’s ward-touring days and it’s interesting to see that her great great granddaughter-in-law is temporarily adhering to tried and triple-tested royal ways.)

Any who in the video of the duchess’ visit, put out by Extra TV, Meghan can be seen posing for Polaroid photos with the kids and then autographing them.

And just like that the Queen Mother rolled over in her grave, knocking over the bar set she insisted on being buried with.

Members of the royal family, you see, don’t ‘do’ autographs.

This was illustrated last year Kate made a surprise visit to the Chelsea Flower Show’s inaugural Children’s Picnic. When the princess was asked to sign her name by one of the primary school pupils, she replied “I can’t write my name, but I can draw.” (She then duly drew a flower, a tree and a pond with plants, according to reports.)

Asked a second time about an autograph, the Princess of Wales responded, “My name’s Catherine. I’m not allowed to write my signature, it’s just one of those rules.”

Given that the signature ban is “just one of those rules” prepare yourself for sniffy sorts to start popping up castigating Meghan here and enjoying some finger wagging in the direction of Montecito.

Personally, I could not disagree more strenuously and I have the power of two double espressos behind me.

What the Duchess of Sussex has done (I’d assume without actually meaning to) is to remind us how abnormal, how ridiculous and how artificially constrained royal existence still is.

An adult woman barred from signing her own name. Where else outside of some repressive regime where women are stoned for crossing their legs or yawning on a Sabbath would this happen?

Buckingham Palace might have moved on from the days of Home Secretaries being required to witness Queens giving birth (the rule was only changed in 1946 ahead of the arrival of King Charles) or having courtiers in the room to confirm marriages were consummated, which was de rigueur for centuries.

Bob Dylan wore, a man who I doubt is particularly a fan of inherited privilege or Black Pudding, “the times they are a-changin,’” but this signature situation demonstrates that if you are a Windsor they are only changin’ so much.

There was a time not that long ago when members of the royal family posing for selfies was as verboten as fishnets in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot and yet now they so regularly and with relish. (How many hours do you think aides spent practising with the Waleses to really perfect this routine?)

And yet, no scrawling their names or it’s off to the Tower to think about what they have done.

I cannot come up with one sensible reason why in 2024 working members of the royal family should be restrained from giving autographs. One argument previously floated is that their signatures could then be sold or forged but there are images of their John Hancocks all over the internet. That horse has long since bolted.

Also, given we now live in an age where it is only so long before AI-generated videos showing saying Camilla performing Beyonce’s Single Ladies start cropping up (*prays) and yet someone, as recently as last year, was preventing Kate from showing off her neat cursive?

The absurdity here matters because it’s instances like this which jeopardise all the modernising and humanising work that Kate and William have been slogging away at; it’s

Instances like this that make a sane, considered person, pause, step back and look at the institution with fresh, critical eyes.

This autograph rule is a neat reminder of how creaky and mouldy and fogeyish the palace can still be. It would not surprise me if they still sent out their weekly Harrods’ food hall orders via Telex or used a Morse Code beep-beep gizmo to contact their stockbrokers.

Watching Meghan sign her name, so simple of an act and yet so meaningful, it tells us something about Royal captivity.

That last year Kate couldn’t make a little girl’s day because of some holdover rule from the days when the sun never set on the British Empire and the Buckingham Palace staff photo was whiter than a Napisan commercial exquisitely illustrates what it must be like to live in royal captivity.

It nearly feels like someone should put up a sign on the gates saying ‘Please don’t feed HRHs’.

One of the key points that Meghan made during her round of post-palace proselytising was that marrying Harry meant a life so constricting that it sounds like it would slowly strangle a person’s spirit.

No longer. Now the duchess can squiggle her name anywhere and everywhere she fancies as she enjoys her US freedom, and all while knowing that with this hospital visit, she is living up to one of the prevailing maxims of royal life. How’s that for a spot of midweek irony?

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Kate MiddletonMeghan Markle