Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, will arrive in Chester Thursday morning alongside the Queen, and just weeks into her life as a royal will be at the Queen’s right-hand side for a busy day of engagements. The news that the Queen personally invited Meghan on the trip, her last away day before she heads to Balmoral for her annual summer break, is further proof of just how warmly the new Duchess of Sussex has been welcomed into the royal fold.
Sources close to the royal family said the Queen is keen to help mentor Meghan and ensure her transition from commoner to royal is as seamless as possible. “Lessons have been learned from the past and everyone is very keen that Meghan should feel included from the beginning,” a courtier said. “It feels like a team effort with many of the family making themselves available to help Meghan, and that includes the Queen.”
It is, added courtiers, all part of a master plan at the Palace that involves the Queen handing over more power and responsibilities to the younger royals she privately refers to as her “substitutes.” Kensington Palace announced last week that Prince Harry and Meghan will carry out their first overseas tour this fall, visiting Australia, Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga, and New Zealand.
According to Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen, the Queen is keen to establish the couple as ambassadors within the Commonwealth as quickly as possible. “The Queen got the ball rolling by giving Harry a specific role in the Commonwealth, where he is widely admired, and where Meghan is already really popular. The Commonwealth is such a vital part of her legacy. At the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting she got the commitment that Charles would be the new head of the Commonwealth, and with Harry and Meghan, she can ensure that the British monarchy has a firm place in the next generation among the Commonwealth countries. The visit to Australia will help solidify that link.”
In other words, the Queen is helping to map out sharply defined roles for Meghan and Harry, and as she did with Kate, is bringing Meghan up to speed in a welcoming way. While Kate had to wait 10 months before she was invited on an away day with the Queen—a trip to Leicester—Meghan’s invitation from Buckingham Palace has come just weeks after the royal wedding.
“People are saying it’s very soon, but it’s really down to how the royal calendar has worked out,” insisted an aide. “The visit to Chester has been in the diary for some time, and it was seen as a brilliant opportunity for the duchess to join the Queen and to see the breadth of the work the royal family does.”
While Meghan carried out an impressive number of royal engagements in the run-up to the wedding, this is the most important. Refreshed from their recent honeymoon and apparently “ready to get down to some hard work,” Meghan won’t have Harry to show her the ropes tomorrow, and despite her natural confidence, she is likely to be nervous.
Sources close to the Queen insisted that the monarch will go out of her way to be warm and welcoming. “She has a way of being very inclusive while at the same time being a brilliant and formidable mentor. Meghan should count herself very lucky,” commented a royal source. The packed itinerary will include opening the Mersey Gateway Bridge and the Storyhouse theater and library in the center of town, as well as a royal walkabout and a formal sit-down lunch at Chester City Council. The Queen loves to meet the public, and while Meghan has already mastered the art of engaging with the crowds, she will observe firsthand how efficiently the Queen works the crowds in order to stick to their timetable.
Though Meghan has become famous for her relatively casual attire at royal engagements in the past, she is expected to make a special effort tomorrow. Her favored messy bun will likely be replaced by a more formal style, while wedges and bare legs will be a no-no. The Queen has an aversion to both.
And while Meghan broke with protocol, striding out ahead of Harry when she accompanied him on engagements ahead of their wedding, she will have been briefed to walk a step behind the monarch. If she’s unsure of anything, her new private secretary, Samantha Cohen, who used to work for the Queen and knows royal etiquette better than most, will be a whisper away. Meghan might benefit from one tip: if in doubt, talk about the weather. It’s a subject Her Majesty never tires of.