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
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.
Let’s look at how Middleton and Markle’s lives changed after becoming royals.
She has a degree in history – and is part of that history now
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
She was an actress until she became the Duchess of Sussex
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.
She changed the way she dresses
As a commoner, Markle wore casual baseball caps. She sported a ZegnaSi baseball cap while out and about in Los Angeles, in 2005.
For royal events, fascinators are a must. She wore a green fascinator to a Commonwealth Day Service in London in 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
- 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