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Meghan Markle is free to return to Instagram any time.
Free, as in, there is no keeper of the royal rules looking over her shoulder, approving content. And also free in that we're heartily inviting her to get back to it, publicly that is, none of this private-only-for-her-pals business. As the purveyor of lifestyle website The Tig before getting engaged to Prince Harry as well as an actress with plenty of devoted 'gram fans, there's no carefully curated account we'd rather see popping up in Stories.
Since posting their farewell to the Sussex Royal Instagram page in March 2020, Meghan and her husband of three years have offered rare glimpses of their life through others' social media accounts, usually in association with their Archewell Foundation. Or, when the news is big—as in we're-having-a-baby-big—they've gone with the tried-and-true announcement from their personal representative.
Meghan said during an official outing two years ago, when royal life behind the scenes was approaching peak unsustainability for her, that she didn't read headlines about herself online or scroll Twitter, calling it a "much safer" way to live.
Still, it would seem as if a new verified Insta would be the logical next step now that she's wearing so many hats: Mother of two, author, producer, activist, rustic homebody raising chickens in the backyard. But then again, if a person has Oprah Winfrey's reach at the ready, who needs social media to get her message across?
Celebrating her 40th birthday on Aug. 4 with the Melissa McCarthy-assisted launch of her 40x40 initiative (which, case in point, included a peek at what appears to be Meghan's perfectly appointed work space, with an impressive stone fireplace behind her desk), life at last seems to be approaching what she hoped it would be when she met and fell in love with Harry five years ago—albeit after first thinking that it was more than worth it to put a cork in her acting career, cut her social media ties and relocate to England to devote herself full time to her future husband's country and the monarchy, a.k.a. her in-laws.
Many of whom did post birthday greetings marking Meghan's milestone Wednesday.
But after barely a year of marriage, Meghan was at her wit's end, the always-enthusiastic British press often pitting her against Kate Middleton, blaming her for a rift between Harry and his brother Prince William, criticizing or sometimes outright mocking her desire for more privacy and otherwise not exactly giving her a chance to get her bearings, sometimes while trafficking in thinly veiled racism The tabloids may have called Kate "Waity Katie" for staying in William's orbit for years before he seemed to really commit, but by the time they got married in 2011 she was their future queen. And you can only be so rude to a future queen.
"You've got to thrive, you've got to feel happy and I think I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried," Meghan told ITV during her and Harry's tour of Africa in September 2019. "But I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging and the biggest thing that I know is that I never thought this would be easy."
Meghan's and Harry's Emmy-nominated sit-down with their neighbor Oprah, which aired in March, largely served to outrage both the couple's supporters and their critics, the former because it only further proved to them just how badly Meghan had allegedly been treated by an old-fashioned family and a malicious tabloid machine when she was merely trying to make the best of everything, and the latter because naysayers couldn't believe that Harry—the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II—would go and say all that out loud, on television.
Very, very gauche, the usual suspects sniffed. (Presumably the announcement that Harry is writing a memoir made those same heads explode.)
But the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—still their titles, despite the periodic calls for them to be stripped after the latest affront to Her Majesty, and though as part of their exit agreement from senior royalty they agreed not to use them for any business or personal gain—live in the U.S. now. And the sound you heard was American royalty rallying to their side.
"Meghan Markle, my selfless friend, lives her life—and leads by example—with empathy and compassion," tennis great Serena Williams wrote after watching the Oprah interview. "She teaches me every day what it means to be truly noble. Her words illustrate the pain and cruelty she's experienced."
Poet Amanda Gorman tweeted, "Meghan was the Crown's greatest opportunity for change, regeneration, and reconciliation in a new era. They didn't just maltreat her light—they missed out on it."
William's only public reaction was to assure a reporter that they were not a racist family, while a statement from Buckingham Palace read that the whole family was "saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan."
"The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning," the palace continued. "While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately." Meghan and Harry remained "much loved family members" in the meantime.
Meghan hasn't been in the U.K. since their final string of official engagements in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic started keeping families all over the world apart, whether they were rumored to be feuding or not. Harry's first time back was to attend his grandfather Prince Philip's funeral in April and Meghan was said to be too far along in her second pregnancy to fly out there with him. She also stayed behind with their 2-year-old son, Archie Harrison, and then-1-month-old daughter Lilibet "Lili" Diana when Harry made a quick trip (plus mandated quarantine) last month to join William in dedicating a statue of their late mother, Princess Diana, in the Sunken Garden outside Kensington Palace.
Instead, Meghan has seemingly been enjoying not being in the U.K., settling her young family into the $14 million home they bought last summer in Montecito, which is about an hour-long drive from her hometown of Los Angeles, where her mom Doria Ragland also lives.
After a paperwork hiccup, Harry and Meghan finally got their Archewell Foundation off the ground and debuted their Archewell Audio podcast in time for Christmas, Meghan complimenting her husband on his "podcast voice." In addition to triggering demand for the return of the primetime Oprah interview event that used to be must-see TV, Harry also joined forces with the billionaire to produce and appear in the Apple TV+ series The Me You Can't See, in which he and other celebrities opened up about their rocky mental health journeys. Further making themselves at home, event co-chair Harry spoke—and an eight-months-pregnant Meghan sent a video message—at the celebrity-studded Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World benefit in May.
On Father's Day, Meghan released her first children's book, The Bench, inspired by a poem she wrote for Harry about being a first-time dad, and she told NPR that Archie was a big fan.
"When we read him a book, he goes, 'Again, again, again!'" she shared. "But now, the fact that he loves The Bench and we can say, 'Mommy wrote this for you,' feels amazing." Meghan is also behind an animated series coming to Netflix about women's history as seen through the eyes of a time-traveling little girl, part of her and Harry's reported $100 million production deal, and she and the couple are said to be working on a joint book project about "leadership and philanthropy." Per Page Six, they have a four-book, $20 million deal with Penguin Random House that also includes Harry's already hotly anticipated memoir.
Lili was born on June 4, meanwhile, and during his week in England for the statue unveiling, Harry was heard telling pal Ed Sheeran at an outdoor reception for the recipients of the 2021 WellChild Awards that "two was definitely a juggle."
But at least they were blessed with a couple of good kids!
"We've been lucky so far," Harry told another guest, according to Hello. Lili was "very chilled and seems happy to just sit there while Archie is running around like crazy."
The name Lilibet is inspired by the queen's nickname since childhood that was affectionately used by her nearest and dearest. In response to a report (of course) that Harry and Meghan didn't consult the queen first before giving that name to their daughter, a spokesperson for the couple said of course they did. In fact, she was Harry's first call after Lili was born at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and, the rep added, if the monarch hadn't approved, they would have picked out another name.
And so Lili joined her big brother Archie in the family fold, the siblings destined to have an infinitely more normal (and possibly even more privileged, if you add the luxury of privacy to all the money) life than their first cousins Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis across the pond.
A source told Us Weekly that "Kate has been reaching out to Meghan a lot more since [Lilibet] was born, sending [notes and] gifts and trying to build up a relationship." Also, the source added, "The Firm has been instructing staffers to reach out more to Harry and Meghan to get them to soften a bit."
During an engagement with Jill Biden in June, when the first lady and President Joe Biden visited the U.K., Kate told Jill that she couldn't wait to meet her new niece. "I hope that will be soon," she said.
Whenever or wherever that family reunion occurs, in the meantime Lili has completed that picture Meghan started painting in her mind when she joined forces with the future father of her children.
"This baby solidifies that they are creating roots here in the States," a friend of the parents of two told People in June. Added pal Dean Stott, "Lili becomes the fourth generation of amazing, strong women in the family-behind Meghan, Diana and her Majesty the Queen. Harry and Meghan now have their complete family. It's their time to be in the moment."
While Meghan unloaded everything she was compelled to say about the last few years of her life in one memorable swoop, it's apparent that her creative projects—The Bench, her Netflix show in the works Pearl—will serve to further communicate her values and what she finds important. But we know that anytime she has a point to get across, even without her own Instagram she has a platform ready to send shockwaves around the world with any message.
She doesn't even have to leave the neighborhood.