MEGHAN Markle’s entry into the House of Windsor is being hailed as a “breath of fresh air” for the royal family.
Prince Harry’s glamorous fiancee officially joins “The Firm” next May as the most modern princess ever after what is anticipated to be the most watched wedding of British royal history.
The question is how will the gender equality campaigner, humanitarian and actor, who grew up in downtown LA, cope in the often stultifying atmosphere of palace life?
Prince Harry has forged his identity as a passionate supporter of former British armed forces personnel, disadvantaged children and child HIV victims in Africa.
And Meghan Markle’s work with refugees in Rwanda may have been as much as an attraction for the prince as her looks and charm.
Together, the future Duke and Duchess of Sussex may help reshape the new monarchy under King Charles — who will ascend to the throne after the death of the now 91-year-old Queen.
But before that happens, a very independent young woman will be adjusting to life in a centuries old institution hidebound by formality and unbending tradition.
What lies ahead for Markle includes never being able to go out for a quiet stroll again, ever.
Free movement outside the palace walls is over and learning the strict rules of royal etiquette and protocol is in.
Her Instagram and other social media accounts have already been shut down, but there will be no more posting on anything other than an official page, after vetting of course.
When in residence at the palace, there will be constant clothes changes (up to five a day), dressing for meals and the omnipresence of a full household of staff.
And then there is the relentless media scrutiny.
Whether or not Markle negotiates her new life with the relative ease of her immediate predecessor, Prince William’s wife Kate Middleton, a camera will never be far away.
How will the self-described “freewheeling Californian hippy” and wellness blogger who embraces alternative culture adapt?
Her history makes her perhaps the most challenging person to enter Kensington Palace as a working royal.
Markle is the daughter of Doria Ragland, an African American psychotherapist and yoga teacher, and Thomas Markle, a caucasian cinematographer.
She told Elle magazine that she tackled life as a mixed race child in a white Los Angeles neighbourhood sometimes nervously.
But ultimately she had to face up to it with courage in the face of not-so-casual prejudice, like the time her mother was called the “N” word.
“I have come to embrace [this and] say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident, mixed-race woman,” the girl once known as “Meggie” said.
“Perhaps the closest thing to connecting me to my ever-complex family tree, my longing to know where I come from, and the commonality that links me to my bloodline, is the choice that my great-great-great grandfather made to start anew.
“He chose the last name Wisdom.”
Markle is referring to her ancestor who celebrated freedom from a cotton plantation in Georgia with a new name after Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in 1865.
As her step-grandmother Ava Burrows put it, “Meggie marrying a prince? I guess it’s like your Downtown Abbey — and we’re the folks downstairs.”
But more than Britain’s aristocrats, Harry’s own ancestors — Queen Anne, and George I and George II — were the major shareholders or governors in the British South Sea Company.
From the early 1700s, the company’s primary purpose was to deliver slaves to Jamaica and America.
Roll on 400 years and things have changed, but the palace is about to welcome its feistiest new member.
As one story about her rise through the acting ranks to become a star of the TV series Suits, said about Markle, “she would fight, tooth and nail for the things she wanted in life.
“And Meghan always got what she wanted.”
One of her first challenges, apart from coping with the intense eye of the media, could be boredom.
Prince Harry has joked that his brother had become “boring” since he married, with cancelled forays to their favourite London nightclub, Boujis, or anywhere other than a scheduled event.
Prince William and Kate’s friends insist they still “have fun”, but that kind of fun will be further curtailed for Harry and Meghan by the arrival of children.
For the first two years after the wedding, however, the Queen is said to likely promise them a period of grace.
She granted this to William and Kate so that they could enjoy the early years of their newly married life, just as she and Prince Philip did when he was a naval officer in Malta.
They newlyweds may be able to escape from full public life and live “as commoners”, apart from surveillance by the Royalty and Specialist Protection (RASP) of the London police.
But Harry’s retirement from his British Army career won’t quite allow him the freedom William enjoyed living on a Welsh island with his new wife as he worked as a search-and-rescue pilot.
Harry will have to find an alternative, discreet placement away from their new home in Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
When Harry and Meghan travel to stay with his granny, the Queen, at the royal residences of Sandringham, in Norfolk, and Balmoral, in Scotland, life will be more formal.
Footmen, courtiers and ladies in waiting will be among the household staff overseeing a stressful daily itinerary that includes shooting, tea, and a formal dinner.
If Harry is not present, Meghan will be expected to curtsy to all senior members of the family, including princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
Under the revised Order of Precedence, Meghan’s new bedside reading, she must always curtsy to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and Camilla and the Prince of Wales.
In private, Camilla apparently relaxes the curtsy rules if she likes you, as she has done with Kate.
Meghan can expect that even before she becomes royal by marriage, she will be deluged with free merchandise.
But she can accept none of the bags of designer clothes and handbags that will arrive daily at Kensington Palace.