• Far from being a trailblazer and revolutionary, Markle appears to have obediently trod the orthodox path of all Windsor brides-to-be. (Getty Images)
Time will tell, but Markle appears to be obediently treading the orthodox path of all Windsor brides-to-be.
By
Sharon Verghis

15 May 2018 - 7:15 AM  UPDATED 16 May 2018 - 9:00 AM

On May 19, Meghan Markle – divorcee, biracial American actress, cultural influencer, blogger, feminist, TIME magazine’s choice for this year’s most influential list, and outspoken advocate for gender equality and human rights - will walk down the aisle to marry Prince Harry.

Markle’s every step will be scrutinised by a global audience enthralled by this unlikely fairytale romance.

She will be watched, too, by an army of cultural commentators.

Many hail her as a gamechanger, a flagbearer for race, class, diversity and inclusivity, and a much-needed symbol of change who will reboot the role of royal princess and drag the British monarchy into modernity.

Markle, 36, they say, is the “modern feminist princess we need” -  articulate, highly educated, photogenic and  a millennial-friendly figure who also happens to be an emerging commercial powerhouse  in everything from British fashion to UK tourism and the British economy.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that Meghan really does have the right stuff to take on the (princess) role in the modern era," writes Royal correspondent Tom Sykes. "Royal brides used to be required to be two things—pretty and quiet—but those days are, thankfully, dead and buried.”

Will Markle, 36, really redefine the “pretty and quiet” role of royal princess, escape the straightjacket of protocols, exert her own autonomy and agency in areas outside polite charity causes and fashion?

But are Sykes and others right? Will Markle, 36, really redefine the “pretty and quiet” role of royal princess, escape the straightjacket of protocols, exert her own autonomy and agency in areas outside polite charity causes and fashion?

Will she really be our first woke princess?

The sceptics aren’t sure.

Far from being a trailblazer and revolutionary, Markle appears to have obediently trod the orthodox path of all Windsor brides-to-be.

In the leadup to her marriage, she closed down all her social media account accounts, including her popular blog The Tig.

She announced that she would be giving up acting – Markle came to prominence as feisty paralegal Rachel Zane in US TV series Suits over seven successful seasons -  mirroring, in a small way, the decision of another far more successful actress turned princess, the Oscar-winning Grace Kelly 62 years ago.

In drawing a curtain on a lifetime of hard work, training and financial independence, Markle’s critics says she’s conformed to a time-honoured royal tradition – reportedly, there hasn’t been a single female commoner who has married into the highest ranks of the Windsor family who has maintained a successful career.

Industry figures like Clarence Moye, TV editor at Awards Daily, says he’s  disappointed that she appeared to be toeing the line.

"It would be interesting to see a modern woman continuing her career... but it's not where she seems to be headed."

In her new incarnation, Markle will also not vote or be overtly political, according to royal convention.

It seems a big price to pay for this passionate United Nations advocate and World Vision ambassador who once called Donald Trump a ‘misogynist’, who has spoken up for the #MeToo movement and women’s rights from Rwanda to India, and campaigned to change everything from ‘period poverty’ to gratuitous female nudity on screen, whose social justice activism was seeded at the tender age of 11 when she took on corporate America, the same year she watched her hometown engulfed by the Rodney King racial riots of 1992.

Markle, it seems, will face an uphill battle to bring about real change in this role, embodied perfectly  - if in decidedly anti-progressive fashion -  by her future sister-in-law Kate Middleton, according to writer Hilary Mantel.

She’ll still pay a steep price, not just in terms of her career and independence but a life of royal protocols, security restrictions, public scrutiny

It’s little surprise to Professor Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly of Oxford University’s Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages.

She argues that while there have been some concessions to modernity in Royal family traditions, from the acceptance of commoners to female succession, the role of modern-day female royals – from Princess Diana to Kate Middleton - is surprisingly similar to that of royal consorts in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

“It fascinates me that the Duchess of Cambridge is doing exactly the same kinds of things that a queen consort would have done at any time from 1500 on. The role has not changed at all.”

On May 19, Markle will willingly enter that gilded cage.

As wife to a royal highly unlikely to inherit the throne, she will have more leeway than her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge.

She will no doubt find her feet in terms of promoting causes and charities.

But she’ll still pay a steep price, not just in terms of her career and independence but a life of royal protocols, security restrictions, public scrutiny.

Will she miss her old life as a working actress? Grace Kelly, according to her biographer, deeply missed acting.

Women married to men in political power have a chequered history. Some have proven effective in their own right, others not so much.

 But perhaps, for Markle, love conquers all.

As Markle said in her joint engagement interview with the BBC last year, “I've ticked this box [a successful acting career], and I feel very proud of the work I've done there…now it's time to work with [Harry] as a team."

Royal Wedding LIVE will air live Saturday 19 May from 7:30pm AEST on SBS and SBS On Demand. Coverage of The Royal Wedding will follow at 9pm AEST.

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