Meghan’s next steps: How will Meghan Markle continue to make her mark on the world?

The fairytale may be over, but Meghan’s desire to do good remains the same.
Meghan Markle Duchess of SussexGetty Images

There’s no denying that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has always had the best of intentions.

From the age of 11, when she enlisted the support of powerful women such as Hillary Clinton to get a dishwashing liquid manufacturer to change its sexist TV ads, she has spoken out about matters close to her heart.

More recently, she has channelled her fame into supporting organisations such as World Vision and the United Nations (UN) in an effort to make the world a better place.

And when she married Prince Harry nearly two years ago, it seemed her new royal status would give her an even more powerful platform from which to support causes she feels strongly about, such as education opportunities for girls, women’s rights and overcoming poverty.

Becoming a duchess should have been a help, not a hindrance, when it came to using her strong sense of social justice for good.

But now that it has all gone terribly wrong, and she and Harry are about to pull the plug on their roles representing the Queen, Meghan is needing to find a new way to achieve her goal of making a difference without getting people’s backs up because she’s “dragged Harry away from his family and upset the Queen in the process,” says a royal insider.

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“There’s no denying that the next steps they take will be crucial ones,” says the source.

Meghan and Harry have already been lashed for the way they announced they would be stepping down as senior royals, and for how they’ve treated the Queen (93). For that, Meghan (38) has been on the receiving end of a lot of the blame.

“Even before she became an actress and then a duchess, she has been driven by a desire to make her mark on this world, and she really could use the influence she and Harry have to do great things. But she has to be very careful about how she does that, and be seen to be doing things for the right reasons, and not because she’s cashing in on who she married.”

The backlash against her has been ongoing since it was announced in January that she and Harry would no longer be senior royals.

Then last week she was attacked over the debate about whether she and Harry (35) can use the Sussex Royal branding in their new ventures.

The pair had trademarked the name to use for a foundation they planned on setting up and products they could sell, including books, clothing and stationery. But the Queen put her foot down and said they couldn’t use the word ‘royal’.

The Sussexes agreed not to use it but struck back with a statement seen by many to be petulant and sour, as they effectively said the Queen did not have the right over the word in countries outside the UK.

Tom Bowers, who is Prince Charles’ biographer and has written about the royal family for many years, says the statement had been “led by Meghan” and was rude to the Queen.

“It was really spiteful fury from Meghan,” said Tom during a TV interview.

“What Meghan wants, Meghan gets. What is spiteful is that she married into the royal family not long ago, and she bailed out. But she wants to bail out on her terms. What is most important for this country is to protect the reputation of the royal family.”

He added that she was trying to “commercialise” the royal family without any thought or the Queen and that she had “absolutely no status apart from being attached to the royals.”

But journalist Afua Adom, who was appearing on the same TV show, argued that before marrying Harry, Meghan used her profile as a successful actress to support good causes.

“She was known for doing a heck of a lot of charity work. It’s completely disingenuous to say that without Harry she would have no status.”

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The statement released by the couple certainly threw the cat among the pigeons.

They hit back, saying, “While there is not any jurisdiction by The Monarch or Cabinet Office over the use of the word ‘Royal’ overseas, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use ‘Sussex Royal’ or any iteration of the word ‘Royal’ in any territory (either within the UK or otherwise) when the transition occurs in spring 2020.”

According to one source, the Queen has drafted in top lawyers in a bid to enforce the ban. Meghan was earlier reported as telling friends that there was “nothing legally stopping” her and Harry from using the Sussex royal name.

A friend has claimed, “Meghan says the global projects they are working on speak for themselves, and they chose that name to protect the royal name, not profit from it.”

The pal added, “Meghan has told her inner circle their success is inevitable with or without the current brand name.”

She’s most likely right about that, according to media experts who say that the Sussexes could achieve their goal of becoming financially independent (so they can concentrate on their charity work) by focusing on digital media, along with writing books and making TV and speaking appearances.

“At the moment they have a fairytale quality about them and in the short-term they could absolutely clean up as social media influencers,” says one consultant.

“They will be able to name their price with the world’s biggest brands like Amazon, Netflix and Disney, which are already in the mix.”

If they land a few “high value deals” that fit in with their status they can then lend much of their time to community and charity work, she points out.

Meghan (above, in Rwanda in 2016) could follow the lead set by Angelina Jolie and combine philanthropic work with endorsements to achieve financial independence.

Meghan has already indicated what she stands for in several of the things she has done since joining the royal family, for example promoting diversity when she edited an issue of British Vogue magazine.

She could also follow in the footsteps of actress Angelina Jolie, combining serious philanthropic work with fashion and beauty endorsements.

“Before Meghan was royal, she was an influencer,” says media consultant Sara Flanagan, pointing out that Meghan ran a very successful blog, The Tig, for nearly three years.

“What will be new is these hurdles they’re going to have to get over as far as being royal [is concerned], and not being seen to cheapen the royal brand.”

Meanwhile, a source close to the duchess says Meghan will be far more comfortable establishing herself in her new role than she ever was shaking people’s hands on visits to places as a member of The Firm.

“She has always wanted to change the world and had started down that path with the UN work she did before marrying Harry. I think she saw becoming a member of the royal family as a way of doing this to an even greater extent, but she didn’t allow for the fact that the royal family is an institution that comes with a lot of rules and regulations.”

For example, family members can’t be seen to be political. Meghan and Harry would do well to remember that getting too political now they have left the fold could also backfire, cautions a royal commentator.

“As head of state, the Queen has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters and Harry and Meghan’s popularity is, in part, tied to this unifying neutrality.

“Choosing to intervene politically – remembering that subjects like climate change and even mental health are not apolitical – might give them a quick hit of satisfaction but erodes the basis of their popularity. Once they start to behave like ordinary people, giving ordinary opinions, then people will treat them as such.

“Certainly, anyone can understand Meghan and Harry’s desire to be independent, to say what they believe and to give themselves something to stand for. But it’s not cost free.”

Meghan and Harry living in Canada “embodies the Commonwealth they want to serve,” says a royal commentator.

Meghan has always been a big fan of former US First Lady Michelle Obama for the way she has been able to work for causes close to her heart and, in fact, the Obamas are believed to have given the Sussexes advice on life after stepping back from a role in the spotlight.

“Harry and Meghan would like to model themselves on the Obamas, who have become good friends.

“Their star has soared since leaving the White House, particularly Michelle’s, whose book Becoming has sold over 10 million copies so far. She is someone Meghan admires very much.”

In the meantime, before the Sussexes can truly start their new life, they have their final royal commitments to fulfil. The couple will make one last series of public appearances as full-time royals this month before the transition on April 1.

Harry is due to attend a recording session at the famous Abbey Road studios in London with US band Bon Jovi and also open a motor museum, while Meghan will fly solo in the English capital for an event marking International Women’s Day.

They will both be present at an award ceremony and a musical gala, and will join the rest of the royals for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

“This family gathering, which could be quite uncomfortable for everyone involved, is expected to be the couple’s last as senior working members of the royal family,” says a palace insider.

Meghan previously turned to Michelle Obama for advice on adjusting to the pressures of the spotlight.

The Queen is graciously allowing Harry and Meghan to have a 12-month trial period to explore their new life and make sure it works for everyone, meaning a new deal could be struck if things don’t work out.

The couple could very well be welcomed back if the new arrangements are a disaster says one royal commentator, who points out that not having Harry and Meghan on board is quite a loss for the royals.

“Meghan and Harry speak to a younger, more diverse and more global audience in a way that no other member of their family will ever manage.

“Their desire to live in Canada embodies the Commonwealth they want to serve. Their goal is to be a living example of the slimmed-down monarchy the 21st century demands.

“Have they gone about it the best way? Clearly not. Should they be helped to get it right? Absolutely.”

Adds another royal observer, “Let’s hope they have got whatever they want to get out of their system. It was their decision to do this and the family is clearly trying their best to facilitate it. But it inevitably requires sacrifices on both sides and the Sussexes need to be rather more gracious about it. Sniping from the sidelines doesn’t help anyone.”

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