Meghan Markle is rewriting the meaning of what it means to be a duchess.
The former American actress, who became the Duchess of Sussex when she married Britain’s Prince Harry in May 2018, has endured a year of accomplishments and controversies as she took on her newest challenge — motherhood.
Since becoming a member of the world’s most famous royal family, the 38-year-old welcomed a son named Archie in May of this year. But life as a royal has been far from smooth sailing, as Markle’s every move has been heavily scrutinized by the tabloids. And while the former “Suits” star frequently stirred headlines in 2019, Markle continues to pave her own way as a duchess.
Here are 10 ways Markle seemingly broke royal rules and traditions throughout the year:
Having a baby shower overseas
In February, Markle stirred headlines when she flew out to New York City on a private jet for a lavish baby shower being held at posh hotel The Mark. The festivities were organized by Serena Williams, who booked out the penthouse suite, which features two floors, five bedrooms, four fireplaces, six bathrooms, as well as extensive views of Central Park. According to Tatler, the tennis pro personally covered the cost of the $75,000-a-night room bill.
And while the Markle has flown out to the U.S. on a private jet, which is estimated to have cost over $100,000, Vanity Fair noted that the plane belongs to one of her close friends in Toronto, who covered the cost as a present for the expecting royal.
“There’s absolutely no reason why Meghan shouldn’t have a baby shower,” she explained. “Showers are largely an American tradition and Harry, along with the rest of the royal family, would be more than happy for her to honor her own tradition and customs. Baby showers are not customary in the U.K. as friends and family usually give gifts once a baby has been born. It’s just a different way of doing things and not because of any perceived ‘rules.’ Meghan’s friends throwing her a shower is a generous gesture and no doubt the time with them in New York will have been much appreciated.”
Not giving birth in the Lindo Wing
In March, The Sun reported Markle and Harry chose not to have their baby at the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, the same spot where Princess Diana and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton gave birth. Instead, sources claimed the couple opted for a maternity unit closer to their home.
“Harry and Meghan realized there is intense public interest but this baby is not a direct heir to the throne and they want the birth to be as private as possible,” alleged the insider. “Meghan is nervous about complications such as an emergency Caesarean and doesn’t want the pressure of having to look immaculate on the hospital steps just hours later… She just wants a normal, natural birth and to bond with her baby without being primped and blow-dried to within an inch of her life just for the pictures.”
Keeping her royal birth plans private
In April, Markle and Harry announced they were keeping their birth plan private and will publicly reveal details of their baby’s arrival only after they’ve celebrated together. This meant the public had to wait longer than expected just to catch a glimpse of the royal baby.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very grateful for the goodwill they have received from people throughout the United Kingdom and around the world as they prepare to welcome their baby,” the statement read from Buckingham Palace, as reported by Time magazine. “Their Royal Highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private. The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family.”
Ditching a royal title for her son
In May, the royal couple introduced their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor to the world — but unlike his famous cousins, the baby has no royal title.
Arbiter shared that it is very likely Harry and Markle wanted their son to have a sense of freedom and independence that does not come with carrying a royal title.
“He’s going to be simply known as Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor,” she explained to Fox News. “That gives him a greater chance of a normal life. Who knows what the future holds because one day his grandfather will be king. But it just takes the pressure off. There’s not so much expectation. He gets to be normal.”
Royal history and blogger Marlene Koenig revealed that while Markle and Harry didn’t need Queen Elizabeth II's permission to go with a name like Archie, she may have wanted her great-grandchild to have a title.
“The queen might be disappointed, but she’s pretty open-minded in having members of her family have some leeway,” she explained. “She also understands that change is good for a monarchy. And there have been numerous changes over the years… She’s fond of her grandson and knows what it means to be a royal. She knows he’s going to raise his children well."
“Duty will still remain important to [Harry and Markle],” added Koenig. “You’ll see [their son] but he will never do royal engagements.”
Revamping her engagement ring
Markle caused a stir yet again in June when she apparently redesigned her three-stone engagement ring. In June, Town & Country reported her ring may have been reset in time for her first public appearance following the arrival of Archie. The ring featured a thin micro-pave band, as opposed to the original solid yellow gold version. The outlet shared it’s unclear when the changes to the ring were made as Markle didn’t wear her engagement band during the final months of her pregnancy. However, it was noted that her fingers may have swelled due to pregnancy and therefore the ring could have gotten a makeover to coincide with her body transitioning after giving birth.
While some were outraged that Markle could have redesigned the engagement ring Harry created for her, it is believed Harry designed the new eternity band for their one-year anniversary.
Keeping her son’s royal christening private
In July, People magazine reported Markle and Harry decided to keep Archie’s royal christening a private affair for a reported close-knit group of 25 people. The outlet pointed out that in contrast, Prince William and his wife Middleton publicly announced all three of their children’s christenings and allowed for photos to be taken on each occasion. However, it is noted that William is second in line to the British royal throne and consequently, has less room “to deviate from tradition.” The private affair also meant Markle and Harry could celebrate this milestone as a family without glaring camera flashes.
“The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family,” the couple shared on Instagram shortly after Archie’s birth.
Keeping the names of her son’s godparents a secret
In July, the couple made headlines again when they decided not to reveal the names of Archie’s godparent. However, a royal source told People magazine that not only were the new parents determined to protect the privacy of their son, but also the privacy of their friends and family.
“These are friends, private citizens, not celebrities or public figures,” claimed the source. “Meghan and Harry wanted to protect them from the inevitable onslaught: ‘When did you meet them? How?’ That was the driving reason [to keep them private]. It’s a very personal thing to ask somebody to be a godparent.”
“This is not a couple that will conform if they don’t feel it’s right for them,” added a royal insider. “It’s that simple.”
Taking a selfie
In October, Markle may have accidentally broken royal protocol when she took a selfie. UK’s Express reported that during her royal tour of Africa, entrepreneur Nikiwe Dlova showed Markle an Instagram filter during their meeting. The moment, which was captured on video, showed Markle looking curiously at the phone before realizing the filter was putting “crowns” on her head. The shocked duchess appeared delighted by the animated headpiece.
Speaking out in a doc
In October, Markle candidly spoke out about the intense media scrutiny surrounding her relationship with her husband for the ITV documentary “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” which chronicled her tour of southern Africa. When British journalist Tom Bradby asked Markle how she’s coping with the lack of privacy and ruthless tabloid rumors as a new parent, the former American actress said she takes “each day as it comes.”
“I have said for a long time to H, that’s what I call him, ‘It’s not enough to just survive something,’” said Markle. “’That’s not the point of life. You have to thrive. You have got to feel happy.’ I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a ‘stiff upper life.’ I really tried, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”
The royal went on to tell Bradby she would be more understanding about the scrutiny if it were fair.
“I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair,” said Markle. “And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile.”
Fighting back against the tabloids
In November, Markle ditched the unspoken royal rule of “never complain, never explain” when she responded to several tabloid rumors that have plagued her time as a member of the royal family. According to court documents submitted by Markle’s lawyers in her legal case against Associated Newspaper, the Duchess of Sussex was fighting back against claims she refurbished her Frogmore Cottage home with expensive and unnecessary amenities.
The legal documents obtained by People magazine call rumors of Frogmore's renovation and those like it "untrue" and were made to portray her "negatively." The filings also address the publishing of Markle's private letters to her father Thomas Markle, claiming that it was edited heavily by the press.
Similarly, the documents refute claims that Markle dismisses her father's health concerns, explaining that she "has a long history of looking after her father’s welfare and trying to find solutions to any health problems,” as well as her alleged snubbing of him upon not attending her wedding to Harry.
Per People, the documents say Markle reached out to her dad before the wedding in order to “protect him, as well as to ensure that he would be able to come.” In addition, she “did not ignore” her father afterward or argue with him about his decision to not attend, read the papers.
Skipping the holidays at Sandringham
In November, A pal of the royal couple told Closer Weekly that Markle and Harry were allegedly skipping the traditional holiday festivities of Sandringham and instead, likely splitting six weeks between England and Los Angeles where Markle’s mother Doria Ragland resides.
“Meghan misses her mom like crazy and can’t wait to spend quality time with her,” the friend told the magazine.
“Sandringham is always fun, but it can also be quite stressful and very formal,” added the pal. “This Christmas will be low-key and informal.”
A source previously told The Sun the royal parents “needed to recharge their batteries” during the holiday season.
“Christmas at Sandringham can be quite stressful, so perhaps they don’t want to go with Archie at such a young age,” royal biographer Ingrid Seward told the outlet. “Having said that, Sandringham has played host to many, many children through the ages and is well set up for them.”