World

First public glimpse of royal baby suggests tradition will win out

AP, AFP-JIJI

Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor slept through his first news conference, but royal experts say the merino wool wrap in which he snuggled said a lot about how his parents, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will approach his future.

Meghan, a former TV star, is known for promoting social causes and niche brands with her clothing choices. Yet she and Harry introduced their son to the world Wednesday in a hand-finished shawl and cashmere cap made by G.H. Hurt & Son of Nottingham, whose intricate knitwear has swaddled royal babies for decades.

Wrapping Archie in a shawl knitted by the small, family-run English company suggests that Meghan and Harry aren’t as intent on shaking up the royal family as much as some people have forecast — or feared.

“I read this as an attempt to reassure the public that they are not going to stray too far from tradition,” said Pauline Maclaran, co-author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.” “There has been a lot of press recently taking a slightly negative tone about Meghan, and this is an opportunity to show that she’s not trying to change everything.”

Since marrying Harry, Meghan has quickly had to get used to the strictures and criticism that comes with the monarchy.

It is a long way from her former life as a television star.

Meghan made her name as savvy paralegal Rachel Zane in the U.S. legal drama series “Suits,” but cultivated a high profile for herself outside the show.

She became a United Nations advocate for women’s empowerment and a global ambassador for the World Vision Canada relief agency.

The Los Angeles-born actress had more than 2 million followers on her now-closed personal Instagram account and ran a successful lifestyle blog, The Tig.

Meghan was also revealed as the anonymous blogger behind The Working Actress, which chronicled the struggles of hustling for parts in Hollywood.

“She’s very focused and someone who has been very ambitious,” said royal writer Andrew Morton, who has penned a biography about her.

“Her great phrase is ‘make the change,’ ” he said.

Meghan was born on Aug. 4, 1981, to Thomas Markle, a white, Emmy Award-winning television lighting director who worked on top U.S. shows like “Married With Children,” and Doria Ragland, a black social worker and yoga instructor.

On her mother’s side, her ancestors were slaves on cotton plantations in Georgia. Her mother’s surname is taken from a slave owner.

Meghan’s parents split when she was two and divorced five years later. She is now estranged from her father and his other children, her older half-sister and half-brother.

Meanwhile, her father set himself up for staged paparazzi photos which backfired, then suffered chest pains and needed heart surgery, causing him to miss her big day.

The leaking to the press of a handwritten letter from Meghan pleading with him to stop serially leaking information to journalists seems to have done irreparable damage to their relationship.

His actions had, it said, already “broken my heart into a million pieces.”

Meghan went to a private Catholic girls’ school where she was remembered for her strong sense of right and wrong.

Aged 11, her letter-writing campaign got consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble to change a washing-up commercial, referring to people rather than just women.

Determined to give herself options, she studied theater and international relations at Northwestern University.

The future duchess graduated in 2003, after which she landed a six-week internship as a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires.

Returning to Los Angeles, in 2004 she fell in love with go-getting film producer Trevor Engelson, who helped her get on the acting ladder as she struggled for bit parts.

They married in Jamaica in 2011.

Soon after their engagement, Meghan had landed her signature role in “Suits.”

While she filmed in Toronto, her relationship with her then husband became a long-distance one. A series of flops followed for Engelson while the struggling actress became a star, and the marriage collapsed in 2013.

Through a mutual friend, she met Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson, Harry, in July 2016 while visiting London. Their romance quickly blossomed.

When the couple first met, she was 34 and a divorcee of three years; he 31 with a few foundered relationships and his 10-year army career recently behind him.

Harry had never heard of Meghan or watched “Suits.”

“I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her,” he recalled, and thought to himself: “I’m going to really have to up my game here!”

Bonding over their passion for the good causes they represented, they immediately set up a second date — for the following day.

A few weeks later, the prince persuaded her to join him camping out for five days in Botswana, which Harry called a “huge leap” — but one that paid off.

“We were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other,” he said.

As Megan continued filming “Suits” in Toronto, the pair never went longer than two weeks apart.

Their romance was under cover for the first five or six months, and largely conducted through nights in behind closed doors.

“We were able to really have so much time just to connect,” she said.

Harry said they had frank conversations about what her future could entail and called it a “huge relief” to have finally found someone comfortable with the pressure and lifelong job he comes attached with.

Harry publicly confirmed they were dating in November 2016 with an angry, highly unusual statement blasting racist “abuse and harassment” directed toward her.

“It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm,” his communications secretary, Jason Knauf, said.

“This is not a game — it is her life and his.”

Harry proposed in November 2017.

The couple were having a cozy night in at Nottingham Cottage, their previous two-bedroom home in the grounds of London’s Kensington Palace, roasting a chicken.

Meghan said “Yes” before Harry had finished proposing or even produced the ring.

They announced their engagement on Nov. 27, 2017, and she was swiftly integrated into the royal fold, spending Christmas with the family and attending public engagements.

Since the wedding on May 19 last year, the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex have thrown themselves into causes they champion, notably mental health, young people and women’s empowerment.

“Both of us have passions for wanting to make change for good,” said the prince.

The queen made Harry the Commonwealth’s youth ambassador, a role that will increasingly drive the couple’s agenda.

Her pregnancy was announced in October as they began their first overseas tour, visiting Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand around the Invictus Games in Sydney, Harry’s Olympics-style event for wounded military veterans.

They have now moved out from Nottingham Cottage to the much bigger Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate as they start their family.

Some royal commentators have voiced concern at the couple’s reportedly increasing distance from his brother, William, and sister-in-law, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.

Reports have appeared of a rift with Kate, of her staff quitting in droves, Meghan pushing her weight around and a “Me-Gain” nickname emerging.

The vastly expensive, celebrity-laden New York baby shower also attracted criticism.

Some have said Meghan’s influence though is softening straight-talking former army hard-man Harry.

But others say it is a sign of a strong-minded couple ready to go their own way, with a new family, new home and new sense of mission.

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