Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton: who changed the most after becoming a royal? Before marrying Prince Harry and Prince William, Markle did odd jobs while Middleton carried her own bags

Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton went through more than just style changes after they married into British royalty. Photos: AdMedia/Retna Ltd./Corbis, Reuters, AP, @grigio_london/Twitter

The world has a continued fascination with the British royal family, following their moves and hoping for glimpses into their day-to-day … and for those who were “commoners” before being granted royal titles, their former lives can be just as interesting.

Two women in particular have had the public spellbound since they married into royalty – and stepped back down from it, in the case of one of them.

Meghan Markle, who turned 41 on August 4, was an actress before she married Prince Harry. She held a number of odd jobs before getting her big break on the TV show Suits. Kate Middleton, meanwhile, earned a degree in art history from St Andrews, where she met Prince William.
Meghan Markle, left, and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, attend the first Royal Foundation Forum, in February 2018, in London. Photo: Rota/i-Images/Zuma Press/TNS

Let’s look at how Middleton and Markle’s lives changed after becoming royals.

Kate Middleton

She has a degree in history – and is part of that history now

Then the girlfriend of Britain’s Prince William, Kate Middleton leaves after attending their university graduation ceremony at St Andrews University in St Andrews, Scotland, in 2005. Photo: AP

Middleton graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2005 with a degree in art history. Prince William studied geography and graduated at the same ceremony. The pair met during their first year at the university and started dating in 2002.

She’s part of that history now with her own portrait at the National Portrait Gallery.

She used to drive herself and carry her own bags

Britain’s Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, drive from Buckingham Palace along The Mall in an Aston Martin DB6 Mark 2, after their wedding in Westminster Abbey, in central London, in 2011. Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

The Duchess of Cambridge is now chauffeured everywhere she goes and gets driven to royal engagements. But she used to drive herself – for example, to her 25th birthday party – and was photographed pulling out of her driveway in 2007.

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As a commoner, she carried her own bags. Her assistant and stylist handle that now. In 2016, her then assistant, private secretary Sophie Agnew, and stylist, Natasha Archer, were pictured carrying luggage for her.

From red carpet parties to charity galas

Kate Middleton attends a party at Bluebird to celebrate The Shop at Bluebird opened by Belle and John Robinson, hosted by Terence and Vicki Conran and Belle and John Robinson, at Bluebird, in 2006, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

She used to attend red carpet parties as a guest, like the party at Bluebird and the WTA Tour Players Party in 2006.

Now, Middleton is the guest of honour at charity galas. She spoke at the annual Place2Be School Leaders Forum in 2017.

Kate Middleton attends the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park, in 2005 in Stroud, England. Photo: Indigo/Getty Images

She used to wear cowboy hats. She chose a brown cowboy hat with braid detail to wear to the Gatcombe Park Festival of British Eventing in 2005.

Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge is seen at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia, in April 2014. Photo: EPA
They’ve since been replaced with fascinators.
Kate Middleton enjoys a glass of wine at the Amisfield Winery in 2014, in Queenstown, New Zealand. Photo: @SeaAndBeScene/Twitter
She wore button-down shirts and blazers before joining the royal family. She still wears a slightly more regal version of the same look. At a wine tasting during a visit to New Zealand in 2014, she wore a blue checkered shirt with a crisp navy blazer.
Kate Middleton attends the Afrika! Afrika! show at the O2 Arena in 2008, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

She was a fan of wearing bold animal prints when going out and about. Back when she could attend events like a circus show at the O2 Arena in 2008, she could wear funkier clothes.

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Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge visits Resort Studios in Cliftonville, in 2015. Photo: AP Photo

She can get away with more muted versions now – she wore a less shiny animal print dress to visit Resort Studios in Cliftonville in 2015.

Meghan Markle

She was an actress until she became the Duchess of Sussex

Meghan Markle and Wendell Pierce on set together in Suits. Photo: NBC Universal

Markle was an actress starring on Suits, playing the character Rachel Zane. She held a number of odd jobs before getting her big break: she was a briefcase model on Deal or No Deal, a freelance calligrapher, a restaurant hostess and more.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, visit the track and field event at the Invictus Games in The Hague, Netherlands, on April 17. Photo: AP Photo
But being the Duchess of Sussex became a full-time job until she and Prince Harry gave up their royal roles. The couple now lives in Montecito, California, and are working on a slew of projects through their non-profit, Archewell.

She changed the way she dresses

Meghan Markle in Los Angeles, California, in 2005. Photo: WireImage for Kari Feinstein PR

As a commoner, Markle wore casual baseball caps. She sported a ZegnaSi baseball cap while out and about in Los Angeles, in 2005.

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Meghan Markle in 2020. Photo: @ _duchess_of_sussex/Instagram

For royal events, fascinators are a must. She wore a green fascinator to a Commonwealth Day Service in London in 2020.

A detail shot of Meghan Markle’s clutch, nails and ring as she arrives at the Instyle and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Party during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival held at Windsor Arms Hotel, in 2012, in Toronto, Canada. Photo: FilmMagic

Markle used to be able to wear whatever shade of nail polish happened to match her outfit. At an InStyle party in Toronto, she wore grey nail polish to match her dress.

Britain’s Prince Harry stands with his then fiancé US actress Meghan Markle as she shows off her engagement ring while they pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in west London, in November 2017, following the announcement of their engagement. Photo: AFP Photo

But now, Queen Elizabeth reportedly only allows neutral nail colours, and royals are expected to adhere this unspoken rule. Meghan was wearing nude nail colours after the announcement of Prince Harry and her engagement.

She now opted for handshakes and “duchess slant”

Markle gave enthusiastic hugs as a commoner – she still does that now sometimes by breaking the rule.

Meghan Markle meets members of the public during a walkabout as she visits Cardiff Castle, in January 2018, in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Indigo/Getty Images

But still hugging a royal wasn’t considered appropriate according to royal protocol, so she would mostly opted for handshakes. She shook hands on a walkabout at Cardiff Castle in Wales.

Britain’s Prince Harry sits with his then girlfriend Meghan Markle to watch a wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in September 2017. Photo: Reuters

Markle used to be able to cross her legs like anyone else. As the Duchess of Sussex, she was expected to sit with a “duchess slant”.

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Coined by Beaumont Etiquette, the term “duchess slant” refers to the way Middleton sits, keeping her ankles and knees together while slanting her legs to either side. It’s a move Markle has adopted, as well.

No more pink cocktails and autographs for Markle now

Before royal life, she could sip a cocktail without thinking twice. She attended the DirecTV Beach Bowl 2014 and sampled a pink cocktail.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a summer party at the British ambassador’s residence at Glencairn House during their visit to Ireland, in July 10, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Photo: WireImage

But her royal life involved lots of formal toasts with dignitaries. No pink cocktails to be found at a reception at the residence of the British ambassador to Ireland during her visit to Ireland.

She once gave out autographs as an actress and would sign her name publicly at events. As a duchess, autographs are against royal protocol for security reasons to prevent their signatures from being forged.

But she was known to bend the rules on royal engagements. She signed 10-year-old Caitlin Clarke’s autograph book with a heart and smiley face.

This article originally appeared on Insider.
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  • British royal watchers are fascinated by the lives of former ‘commoners’ such as the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex – Markle used to act on the TV show Suits
  • They used to attend red carpet events and wore more casual fashion, but as royals they met with world leaders and followed Queen Elizabeth’s style protocols