Yes, She Has Opinions
Meghan Markle Salutes Irish Abortion Vote
The simple rule for royals when it comes to politics is, say nothing. But Meghan Markle, on her first overseas trip, showed she won't be silenced.
DUBLIN—Few would be surprised to hear that Meghan Markle is pro-choice, and perhaps it was only natural, when meeting a number of activists in Ireland's recent referendum to legalize abortion (the proposal was passed by a thumping majority) that she would express her enthusiasm for the cause.
Unfortunately for Meghan, two of the women she spoke to about the issue at a garden party in Dublin last night then took to twitter to publicize their encounters, meaning Meghan has now been drawn into a debate about the limits of royal political neutrality.
An Irish politician said in a tweet that Markle told her she was ‘pleased’ with the result of the recent referendum to legalize abortion, while a well-known Yes campaigner and feminist journalist also tweeted that she had chatted to Markle about the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish constitution which forbade abortion, and strongly implied that Meghan agreed with her pro-choice views.
Catherine Noone, a senator for the the ruling Fine Gael party who was closely associated with the successful Yes campaign, also said she spoke to Meghan at the garden party held last night at the British ambassador’s residence in Dublin on Tuesday, where Harry and Meghan are on their first foreign tour as a married couple.
The senator tweeted: “The Duchess and I had a chat about the recent referendum result—she watched with interest and was pleased to see the result.”
However, apparently quickly realizing her blunder—under the constitutional monarchy structure, royals have been prohibited since the 17th Century from expressing political opinions—she followed up with a second tweet that sought to backpedal on the claim, saying: “I should say she seemed pleased—she was interested and very measured, not political at all.”
Una Mulally, a respected journalist and noted campaigner for women's rights, has left her tweet untouched although both of Noone's tweets were subsequently deleted. Instead Noone posted a more anodyne remark, reading, “A pleasure to meet Prince Harry & the Duchess of Sussex at the British Ambassador’s Residence this evening. #harryandmeghan #royalcouple #meghanmarkle.”
Noone said she had deleted her original message as it “was misleading,” telling the Irish Times: “The Duchess was interested and charming and was not in any way political.”
However, Meghan should take consolation in the fact that she is hardly the first royal to be caught out unintentionally expressing political opinions.
Prince Charles famously sought—and failed—to suppress a series of memos he wrote to government ministers commenting on government policy. The queen was said to be livid when a BBC correspondent revealed that in a private conversation Her Majesty had expressed dismay at the delay in arresting a militant Islamic cleric living in Britain, Abu Hamza. The BBC apologized for “breach of confidence.”
Few will have a problem with Meghan holding a mainstream viewpoint—the country voted by a margin of 66/34 to overturn the ban and unrestricted abortion will soon be permitted up to 12 weeks of gestation—but questions will be asked about whether the team advising her have done enough to prepare her for her public role.
Her team have been widely criticized for failing to control Meghan's dad, Thomas Markle, who ruined the carefully choreographed run-up to the royal wedding with a series of interviews with TMZ and then gave a paid interview to a British TV breakfast show. He fears he has now been permanently cut off by his daughter.
Robert Lacey, the royal biographer and historical consultant for Netflix series The Crown, told The Daily Beast that any fault lay with those who had publicized her comments or attitude.
"These were private conversations and I think Meghan could have had every expectation that they would stay off the record. The mistake is on the part of those who have publicized her comments, and the fact that one of them deleted her tweets soon afterwards shows that.
"What Meghan said was in no way rabid or sensational and hardly surprising; she is a modern royal and we know that she has modern beliefs, but a subtle game has to be played to preserve her neutrality."
Harry and Meghan continued their tour of Dublin today, receiving a warm welcome from crowds gathered at Trinity College, the city centre university.
Anjelique Luca, 22, and her friend Sandra Clark, 20, Americans interning at an Irish charity for the summer were among those waiting to catch a glimpse of Harry and Meghan.
"I think the story of Harry and Meghan just shows how love can bring cultures together," said Anjelique.
Harry stopped to chat to five year old Lisa Hall, who told The Daily Beast that the Prince was eager to watch tonight's World Cup football match between England and Croatia: "He told me he'd get home just after kick-off," said Lisa, "And he asked me what I though the score would be."
On answering '2-1 England' the Prince told Lisa, "Have a bet on it, er no, actually, don't. Don't gamble."