Happy birthday to Duchess Meghan of Sussex, who turns 38 on Sunday and tackles a new year with a new baby, new travel plans and new challenges in her role as Britain's first American and biracial royal.
Where will she and Prince Harry and baby Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor be celebrating? Don't expect Buckingham Palace to share the details.
Birthdays are considered private celebrations for the royals and are rarely discussed by palace officials. Besides, Harry and Meghan have already demonstrated their keen desire for privacy.
They didn't want to say where Archie was born on May 6 (in Portland Hospital in London), didn't want to release his birth certificate (it's a public record and was released days later) and didn't want to share pictures ahead of his christening or the names of his godparents.
So they are not talking about birthday plans. Nevertheless, the British media are convinced the Sussex trio are headed north to spend some of their summer vacation with Queen Elizabeth II at her beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
If true, it might be the perfect quick getaway before the Sussexes embark on their much-anticipated trip to Africa this fall. The trio will be paying an official visit to South Africa, while Harry will also visit Angola, Malawi and Botswana while in the region, according to Buckingham Palace.
The queen, 93, and her husband, Prince Philip, 98, (who is retired) spend about two months every summer at Balmoral, the Highlands estate acquired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 19th century.
During their summer holiday, members of the royal family are invited to trek north to visit for short periods.
Being invited to Balmoral is considered an honor, so it was news when The Sun, Britain's largest-selling tabloid, reported in June that the queen would invite the Sussex family to spend a few days in Scotland around the time of Meghan's birthday.
"The Queen will be spending her summer at a birthday tea with Meghan Markle and horse riding around Balmoral," The Sun tweeted.
Tea in Scotland has got to be more appealing to Harry and Meghan than putting up with the carping back in England.
Some of it is due to their own choices: The veil on Sussex activities since Archie was born has led to some disgruntlement among royal fans denied access to more Archie baby pictures, and among anti-monarchists already incensed about the $3 million the Sussexes spent on renovating Frogmore Cottage, their home on the Windsor Castle estate.
The Queen will be spending her summer at a birthday tea with Meghan Markle and horse riding around Balmoral https://t.co/oHFLps6mLk— The Sun (@TheSun) July 27, 2019
And that doesn't count the pique expressed loudly and often by royal reporters and pundits.
Thus, the challenges facing outspoken and self-confident Meghan, still adjusting to the constraints of royal life 15 months after she and Harry wed in spectacular ceremony in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in May 2018.
While she remains a popular figure in Britain and around the world, there's been a steady drumbeat of criticism since the happy days just after the wedding.
Was there a toxic "feud" between her and her sister-in-law, Duchess Kate of Cambridge? Probably not.
Was it smart to write cheery messages on bananas in lunches distributed to sex workers during an engagement in Bristol? Probably not.
Should she have dragged herself away from Archie to appear in June with Harry at the official state banquet hosted by the queen for visiting President Donald Trump?
Give her a break: Aside from the fact that she had expressed some disdain for Trump before her marriage, she had given birth only a month before.
This week, the criticism grew louder when Meghan announced that she had guest-edited the September issue of British Vogue, with a cover featuring 15 "trail-blazing" women, including former first lady Michelle Obama, Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
But why didn't she include the queen, howled some critics. Too political (bad) and too leftist (worse), shouted others (royals are supposed to stay out of politics).
The veteran Meghan critic, "Good Morning Britain" co-anchor Piers Morgan, was especially contemptuous in his Daily Mail column.
"Me-Me-Meghan Markle's shamelessly hypocritical super-woke Vogue stunt proves she cares more about promoting herself than the Royal Family or Britain," the headline read.
The tut-tuting about the propriety of royals-as-editors overlooked the fact that it wasn't the first time a royal had been a "guest editor" for the purposes of promoting charitable projects. That in turn led to accusations from Meghan's fans of a "double standard" applied to her.
Duchess Kate was a guest editor for Huffington Post UK in 2016. A year later, Prince Harry was guest host on BBC's Radio 4 (he interviewed former President Barack Obama). And Meghan's father-in-law, Prince Charles, guest-edited Country Life magazine – twice, in 2013 and 2018.
If Meghan needs advice on how to manage her royal life, she could always ask the long-reigning queen. But few have ever criticized her in her 67 years on the throne (and one who did got slapped in the face by an outraged royal fan in 1957).
Better to ask Prince Charles for advice: Few modern royals have ever been subjected to the torrents of invective he's endured over the years. And he just carries on.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meghan Markle turns 38 but will she celebrate with the queen?