Categories Royal Tour Royal Tour: Australia Royal Tour: Fiji Royal Tour: New Zealand Royal Tour: Tonga

How always-composed Meghan Markle turned tour Down Under into a triumph for the Commonwealth

Four countries, 16 days, 41 outfit changes and 76 engagements later the Duchess of Sussex passed her first big royal test with flying colours.

No surprise she is now being dubbed The Duchess of Success. Not for her the rictus grin and stilted performance of other royal tours — this was pure Hollywood magic.

It was Meghan’s first international tour with husband Harry since their wedding in May. And she charmed her way through public walkabouts, formal dinners, hugs with kids and formidable speeches.

The pregnant Duchess even baked banana bread for her Aussie hosts and did yoga at 4am when the jet lag kicked in.

The Fijians and Tongans were delighted the royals had come to town, while the Aussies couldn’t get enough of Meghan and the Kiwis went wild, too.

On the tour’s own merits, she did a great job and didn’t put a foot wrong — even more impressive considering she only made her public debut with Harry just over a year ago. Since then Meghan has changed the face of The Firm for ever, and has made Prince Harry incredibly happy.

The Duchess is now very much a Republican’s nightmare; her natural charm and modern approach have set back their cause for a generation.

But it was never a given.

Meghan embarked on this mammoth tour with the dark cloud of her father Thomas Markle’s constant brickbats in the Press. To say he had been a thorn in her side would be the understatement of the year.

I’ve covered these tours for years and while they look like — sometimes literally — a walk in the park, they are anything but. Life under this kind of unrelenting microscope is tough, even for a royal veteran.

Meghan, 37, may well be a seasoned actress and used to meeting and greeting fans, but a royal tour is a completely different gig.

For every single person they meet, that five-second (or shorter) encounter with the young royal superstars is one that will be remembered for ever. So every handshake, every “hello I’m Meghan”, every “so nice to see you today” matters to the thousands of people they met on the tour.

The smile can’t falter, the grip can’t shake and they have to be on form at all times — for 16 days straight.

And it was here that Meghan’s Hollywood training kicked in. The former Suits actress didn’t miss a beat.

Harry often looked grumpy — it was extremely tiring with early starts and up to five engagements each day — and at one particularly long welcome ceremony in Fiji he looked like he wanted to thump someone.

Thankfully, when the red mist descended Meghan, always composed, always smiling, was ready to hold his hand to cheer him up. And it was clear that her extraordinary beauty was the tonic that could lift him out of his darkest mood.

Seeing them together, standing in the rain in Dubbo in Oz — with Meghan shielding Harry from the rain with a giant brolly while her husband made a speech — was a powerful image. Meghan, of course, knows the power of a picture. Right from the start of the tour, she used her wardrobe and jewellery to send substantial messages.

She wore two Aussie designers on Day 1 in Sydney — with her Karen Gee “Blessed” dress showing off the merest hint of a baby bump.

But it was her earrings and bracelet that caught the eye. The butterflies at her ears had belonged to Princess Diana, the bangle too, and showed that Harry’s mum was with them on the journey as they began their own family.

It was a clever piece of signalling — and a respectful inclusion of Diana, who is still hugely popular Down Under — and the crowds loved this glamorous new daughter-in-law.

In Fiji, Meghan had chosen the blue of the Fijian flag for her black-tie dinner gown. Her hosts loved the tribute to their country, which still fondly remembers the Queen and Prince Philip’s visit during the Commonwealth Tour of 1953. The couple had waved to the excited crowds in the island’s capital Suva from the balcony of the Grand Pacific hotel, in an exact replica of Harry’s grandparents 65 years before.

And in Tonga, Meghan stepped off the plane in a red Self-Portrait dress to echo the Tongan flag.
This kind of mirroring is nothing new — and sister-in-law Kate often chooses local designers of the countries she’s visiting. But Meghan carried it off with panache and style.

There were no structured coat-dresses, boxy hats or nude court shoes. This was a working wardrobe for a new working royal, Meghan Markle-style.

Skirts were longer, colours more muted than in her previous life as an actress. She looked the business.

And there was substance, as well as style. She gave three impressive speeches. Kensington Palace had billed her debut as a fully-fledged royal as “a few words”.

It was much more than that at Fiji’s University of the Pacific.

She spoke eloquently about how everyone deserved the opportunity of an education. A speech at the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games in Sydney paid tribute to all the friends and family of those who had been injured in the line of duty.

But the most powerful, and perhaps personal, speech came at Wellington’s Government House on Sunday.

To celebrate 125 years of New Zealand giving women the vote (the first country in the world to do so), the female Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hosted a reception. Keen advocate of women’s rights, Meghan gave the keynote speech: “Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness. Suffrage is not simply about the right to vote but also about what that represents. The basic and fundamental human right of being able to participate in the choices for your future and that of your community.”

It was clear she had written these speeches herself and worded them in her language, not the formal words of a British royal court.

Again, here was that Hollywood sparkle in full effect.

And the message that she delivered — equality for everyone and be the best you can be — struck home.

From Maori kids in New Zealand to Aboriginal girls at a school in Australia, the fact a mixed-race American had been accepted by the royals showed them anything was possible. Time and again I heard that Meghan is a role model for young women. But does this new superstar in the royal firmament pose a threat for those already established? It is perhaps too early to say.

What we know is that Prince Charles adores her and their warm relationship has fostered a renewed closeness between father and son. Meghan views Charles as a new father figure after cutting off her biological one for incessantly speaking out and missing her wedding.

Camilla, too, knows what it’s like marrying into The Firm and has been a source of support. They are content to see Harry and his new wife steal the headlines.

But comparisons with William and Kate are perhaps inevitable.

If Meghan is in danger of eclipsing even Kate, 36 — and certainly in the battle of the evening frocks last week Sussex beat Cambridge — perhaps that explains why the Cambridges and Sussexes are thinking of separating their courts. Currently all the “Fab Four’s” work is handled by one office at Kensington Palace, but William and Harry are thinking of setting up one for each brother and their families next year.

Right now the only cloud for Meghan is her troublesome family.

Dad Thomas, 74, and half-sister Samantha, 53, have frequently offered their views on their new royal relation — much to Meghan’s distress.

It appears she has not spoken to her father since the wedding — and has no plans to do so. He claimed he heard about his daughter’s pregnancy from the radio.

However, her new family will be pleased with all the positive headlines and renewed royal fervour in the four Commonwealth countries.

After all, Harry and Meghan were representing the Queen, and everyone agrees it was a tour de force.

Granny will be delighted.

Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/