Shortly after Markle returns from her honeymoon (the location of which has been a mystery), the June 14th trip will send the Duchess of Sussex and her grandmother-in-law on the road to Chester to open the Storyhouse cultural center. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, they’ll eat lunch at the town hall where they’ll meet Lord and Lady Mayoress, among others. The event is also Markle’s first public appearance without husband Prince Harry.
The prestigious invite is another example of Markle’s natural transition into the monarchy, a gesture seemingly more hard-earned by Kate Middleton, who didn’t take her first personal trip with the queen until 2012 — one year after she wed Prince William — to kick off the Diamond Jubilee tour. That day, the newly-named Duchess of Cambridge wore a teal peplum suit by L.K. Bennett and a pillbox hat.
“The most memorable engagement for me was an away-day to Leicester,” Middleton reflected in the 2016 documentary Our Queen at 90. “I went without William, so I was rather apprehensive about that. … She was very supportive. The fact she took the time to make sure that I was happy and looked after for that particular occasion, which probably in everything that she’s doing is a very small element, it shows just how caring she is really.”
Making a personal appearance with the queen is a big deal due to Her Majesty’s high ranking and it requires a strict level of trust and capability. However, Markle is not receiving special treatment, insists royal expert Kelly Lynch, managing editor of Dailybreak.
“When Will and Kate got married, the queen granted them a grace period to live as normally as possible,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “However, when William took a job as a search-and-rescue military pilot in 2012, the queen decided the time was right to take Kate along on tour.”
It’s also likely that following the tumultuous marriage of son Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, the queen was wary of outsiders — that might be why she didn’t meet Kate until five years after her and Will began dating. Before then, as PopSugar reports, they were apparently in the same room together on multiple occasions but had zero interaction.
During their first interview as an engaged couple in 2010, Middleton said of their long-awaited intro, “I first met her at Peter and Autumn’s wedding and again it was amongst a lot of other guests and she was very friendly and no it was fine.” William added, “She was very welcoming…she wanted to meet Kate for a while, so it was very nice for her to come over and say hello and have a little chat.”
Meanwhile, Markle met the Queen for the first time five days before Christmas and only one month after her engagement to Prince Harry. To grace the pre-holiday luncheon at Buckingham Palace, Markle wore a lace-and-crepe dress by Self Portrait with a high neck. Compare that to Middleton, who spent her first Christmas with the monarch in 2011, the year she married.
“I can remember being at Sandringham, for the first time, at Christmas. And I was worried what to give the Queen as her Christmas present,” Middleton told ITV, according to Hello! magazine. “I was thinking, ‘Gosh, what should I give her?’ I thought back to what I would give my own grandparents. And I thought, ‘I’ll make her something.’ Which could have gone horribly wrong. But I decided to make my granny’s recipe of chutney.”
Markle’s induction into royal life seems to be more seamless than it was for Middleton, but that may be due to Markle’s experience in the public eye and the queen becoming less formal over time, says Lynch. “The Queen is not intentionally favoring Meghan.”
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