On Monday, after Clarence House issued the official announcement, the couple posed for photos and took questions during a live press conference in Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden, where Markle showed off the diamond ring Harry designed — a center stone from Botswana and two side stones from the collection of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The pair also sat for an interview with the BBC on Monday night, during which they shared intimate moments from their proposal, which included the prince getting on bended knee while they were roasting a chicken for dinner.
A well-timed announcement, photo opp, and interview are standard royal etiquette for any newly engaged couple, but Markle’s entry into the monarchy is unprecedented.
“This is a woman who used to be a briefcase model on ‘Deal or No Deal,’” royal expert Kelly Lynch, managing editor of entertainment site Dailybreak, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She also lived in Los Angeles, pursued acting, and is considered a commoner.”
Unlike Kate Middleton, who didn’t have a professional path before marrying Prince William in 2011, Markle is a bona fide career woman who performed love scenes on her former television show, Suits, — that’s unconventional by any royal standard. “Meghan owns what she does,” says Lynch. “She’s not ashamed of anything.”
Markle’s assertiveness was evident when the couple addressed the media — when Harry was asked by a reporter how he proposed, she cut off her fiancé and advised him, “Save that…” And during the joint interview, when Harry was asked how they met, the prince replied, “We were introduced actually by a mutual friend who….” before Markle cut in with, “We should protect her privacy and not reveal too much of that.”
“When you think back to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first interview, she hung back nervously,” says Lynch. “That’s partly because Kate was green, but also because British royal protocol dictates that blood royals take the lead. It’s why you always see Prince Philip walking two steps behind the queen.”
Markle’s confidence isn’t a power move, says Lynch, but rather a sign of equality. “They obviously feel comfortable finishing each other’s thoughts,” she says. “Yes, Markle interrupted Harry, but affectionately so. Now, if Meghan cut off the queen? That’s a different story.”
When it comes to her 2013 divorce from Hollywood producer Trevor Engelson (the two were married for two years), Markle’s romantic history is not likely an issue. “Three of the queen’s four children are divorced and Harry is fifth-in-line for the throne, soon to be sixth,” Lynch points out. Ditto for Markle being half-Jewish (through her father). “Before 2013, marrying into the royal family meant you had to belong to the Church of England — even Kate Middleton was baptized before her wedding. The rules have since relaxed.”
Despite the internet largely celebrating Markle’s status as a #blackprincess, Markle has been on the receiving end of internet racism due to her mother being African-American and her father Dutch-Irish. Harry addressed the backlash in a statement last November, which read in part: “His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
Kate and Will currently hold the title for hippest royal couple — they’re the first in 58 years to conceive a third baby — but per Lynch’s speculation that Markle and Harry could get hitched quickly due to visa issues, they might just be the first to elope.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• Similarities (and differences) between Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton’s engagement announcements
• Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are engaged
• 10 times Meghan Markle’s had royal wedding-worthy hair