They could have simply put together a beautiful, traditional ceremony.
Had Meghan Markle and Prince Harry‘s May 19 nuptials been filled with the standard hymns and readings, billions of fans would still have tuned in, applauded the beauty of it all and celebrated the love between the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
But that’s not what Meghan did. Instead, the woman who once wrote a poignant essay about being biracial for Elle UK chose to celebrate what she calls “my mixed heritage” and her American background. She and Harry brought in The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry—a native of Chicago and the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church—to deliver an impassioned sermon about the redemptive power of love, using the words of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and asked a predominantly black gospel choir to perform a moving rendition of “Stand By Me”.
As Meghan explained in her and Harry’s post-engagement BBC interview, “Very early out of the gate you realize that once you have access or a voice that people are going to listen to, with that comes a lot of responsibility, which I take seriously.”
It stands to reason, then, that the longtime philanthropist won’t be satisfied with just playing pretty princess. Since their November engagement, the 36-year-old has spoken about her desire to have an impact and “hit the ground running,” working behind the scenes to familiarize herself with the royal family’s pet causes.
Before she even had the title, she’d accepted the responsibilities of the role, joining Harry at appearances all across the United Kingdom. And mere hours after they were pronounced husband and wife, her page on the royal family’s official site went live, touting her work with One Young World, UN Women and World Vision.
Though Meghan has yet to pinpoint the specific causes she will focus on as the newest member of The Firm (or at least outwardly announce them), one can assume the royal, who became an accidental activist at 11 when she launched a letter writing campaign to remove a sexist ad from airwaves, will use her platform to highlight issues of gender inequality. Other areas of importance—from homelessness to HIV to the environment—can be seen in the seven charities she and Harry selected for well-wishers to support.
More than anything, though, she’s simply dedicated to making a difference, whether that’s showcasing the beauty of diversity or empowering women to speak out. From that initial 2016 date with Harry, 33, she told BBC, they have been discussing how they could affect change: “It was one of the first things we started talking about when we met was just the different things we wanted to do in the world.”
And they intend to start with millennials, Generation Z and the other impressionable minds that comes next. Explained Harry, “For all of us, all we want to do is be able to carry out the right engagements, carry out our work and try and encourage others and the younger generation to be able see the world in the correct sense rather than perhaps being—having a distorted view.”
With such an ambitious goal, it makes sense that they want to start straight away. While there has been talk the couple may take a trip to Ireland or even to Mexico to visit her father Thomas Markle, who has been laid up following heart surgery, first they’ll report for royal duty.
Come Tuesday they’ll make their first official appearance as a married duo at Buckingham Palace, attending Prince Charles‘ 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration, with many more to follow. Having been by Harry’s side as he visited Amazing the Space, the youth-led peace-building initiative he launched in Ireland and attended events for Invictus Games, the competition he launched for injured veterans, Meghan has proven herself a worthy ambassador. Her warmness—often introducing herself with a relatable, “Hi, I’m Meghan,”—and penchant for doling out hugs to children have already earned her several comparisons to Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana.
“She’s got her own way of doing things,” Grant Harrold, former royal butler to Charles, Harry and his older brother Prince William, told E! News of Meghan. “You look at the energy of Princess Diana and she was very much somebody that would hug people. She was famous for it.”
As Meghan fully settles into her new role, there are likely to be further analogies. Like Diana, Meghan has already made under-the-radar charitable efforts, taking secret visits to comfort victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and quietly touring The North Essex Veterans Mental Health Network with Harry. And as Diana worked to erase the stigma surrounding AIDS, shaking the hands of those suffering without wearing gloves, Meghan, who wrote an op-ed last year about the shame surrounding menstruation and the dearth of access to proper sanitation, is sure to take on less supported causes.
“Diana blew out of the water all those prejudices with one small action,” ABC News’ royal contributor Victoria Murphy said, adding there’s “no question” Meghan and Harry, who’s launched his own HIV charity Sentebale, “will champion causes that may be controversial…in exactly the same way as Princess Diana did.”
India Hicks, one of Diana’s bridesmaids when she wed Charles, expects Meghan to make a similar impact. Noting the former actress has the same “brilliant” passion for humanitarian work, she told ABC News, “I think if she can go on and follow somewhat in Diana’s steps of being able to get the world to watch her, to follow her and to learn from her, would be exceptional.”
Meghan is already planning a broad reach. In addition to focusing “even more energy on” the causes that have long been dear to her, she told the BBC, “Now being boots on the ground in the UK, I’m excited to really just get to know more about the different communities here, the smaller organizations who are working on the same causes that I have always been passionate about under this umbrella, and also being able to go around to the Commonwealth.”
She already has her first visit in the books. When the fourth iteration of Harry’s Invictus Games kicks off in Sydney, Australia this October, Meghan will once again be at his side. (The pair made their official debut as a couple during last year’s event in Toronto.) During an April visit with the wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans competing for one of the 72 spots on the UK’s team, Meghan revealed to one hopeful that she’d be rooting them on.
“She told me that she had never been to Australia, but was going to this year’s event and was really looking forward to being there with Harry,” volleyball, basketball and rugby competitor Michael Mellon told E! News.
But first the couple will enjoy a more private excursion. Though they, like, William and wife Kate Middleton, chose to delay their honeymoon, the getaway has already been planned. (And, sorry, no, it won’t be in Namibia.)
Though the African country offers two of the elements the couple are seeking—sun and sea—they recently booked a spot that offers them relative anonymity. “To say it’s taken some time to find the right location is an understatement,” a source tells E! News. “Going somewhere they can bring minimal security and not worry about people seeing them has been of the utmost importance.”
The relaxation will be key, as the pair may be due for more upheaval soon.
Settled in to Nottingham Cottage, Harry’s two-bedroom Kensington Palace flat, since late last year, the pair are expected to make an upgrade in the near future.
The most likely spot: Apartment 1, the 21-room spread right next door to William and Kate. A source told E! News builders have “feverishly” been working on the stately property. “I’m sure it will be for them,” adds a staffer. “Works take place on all the properties here but there’s a level of secrecy surrounding this particular job that is giving the game away.”
No matter where they land, a Meghan insider says their current dwelling isn’t permanent: “They’ll definitely move out some time after the wedding. Nottingham Cottage is too small!”
Particularly with their plans to expand.
Harry famously told ABC News he’s “longed” for kids “since I was very, very young,” adding, “I’m waiting to find the right person. Someone who is willing to take on the job.”
And he has an eager partner in Meghan. In the Sky One documentary Harry and Meghan: A Love Story, her former agent Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne recalled a work trip where the Suits star confessed about her desires to parent: “She said to me, ‘I would absolutely love to have children, and I can’t wait to be a mother.'”
She wasn’t shy about dropping hints during the duo’s recent trip to Ireland. Meeting with Adam Murphy and Sinead Murphy, a husband-and-wife duo who make innovative and hypoallergenic baby products for a brand called Schnuggle, Meghan pointed to their wares and said, “I’m sure at some point we’ll need the whole thing!”
Perhaps sooner than later. Though Harry said they wanted to take things “one step at a time,” in their BBC interview, he added, “hopefully we will start a family in the near future.”
After all, they’ve already completed their first major step towards forever.