Royal sources are not yet ready to confirm it, but it seems increasingly likely that Meghan, Harry, and their soon-to-be-born baby will make a royal tour of America and Canada later this year.
Last month, Vanity Fair reported that the tour would likely take place in the fall, with Meghan and Harry bringing their (by-then-born) baby with them to locations including New York City, Washington, D.C., and California.
Harry and Meghan’s 2019 trip stateside is clearly important for their own personal brand, but it is instructive to recall the larger context of royal visits to America, which have formed a—perhaps surprisingly—important part of British foreign policy since the outbreak of World War II.
As the American royal writer Christopher Andersen, author of the bestselling biography of Harry and William, Diana’s Boys says: “The first official visit to America has been a watershed moment for every royal couple since the Queen’s parents, George VI and his wife Elizabeth [better known as the Queen Mother], arrived in 1939 seeking U.S. support in their fight against the Nazis.”
Since then, royal visits Stateside have been important cultural planks in the building of bridges between the two countries. Britain in 2019, knee-deep in the Brexit quagmire, needs its transatlantic ally as much, if not more, than ever.
For Meghan and Harry, having dodged a meeting with Trump when he visited Harry’s grandma in Windsor last year, this means they will almost certainly need to do their duty by British taxpayers, who fund every aspect of these trips, and whoop it up with the leader of the free world.
The fact that Meghan criticized Trump online before his election will just have to be forgotten, as it has been in the case of so many other former Trump critics.
Harry may only be sixth in line to the throne these days, but that matters even less in America than it does at home. In America, Harry and Meghan are the most recognizable faces of the monarchy today, and few would want to take the risk of offending Trump by having the young royals not schedule a meeting.
It would certainly be a memorable picture, and these big set-piece visits are all about providing iconic images that stand the test of time.
“Everyone remembers when John Travolta twirled a delighted Diana around the White House dance floor as Prince Charles looked on enviously. When Charles and Camilla made their first official visit to the U.S. as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, she was unfavorably compared to her glamorous predecessor. The New York Post ran a huge front page headline describing Camilla as “New York’s ‘Frump Tower’,” Andersen recalls.
The royal reputation for glamour was restored when newlyweds William and Kate chose the U.S. and Canada as the destination of their first official trip abroad in July of 2011. When they appeared at a Beverly Hills gala in their honor, Kate dazzled the Hollywood crowd in a stunning McQueen dress.
Accounts the following year showed a record amount of funding for their foundation emanating from the U.S. One polo match attended by Kate and William generated revenues of $2.5 million (£1.63 million), accounts for the American Friends of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry showed.
It’s entirely possible that the reception Meghan and Harry will receive in the U.S. will eclipse even that enjoyed by William and Kate.
Partly this is because of Meghan’s enviable access to a network of showbiz contacts, both stars and those behind the scenes, but, more importantly perhaps, is the fact that being center of attention is absolutely in Meghan’s comfort zone. Anyone who doubts that should watch her recent pitch-perfect stardust appearance at the British Fashion Awards.
Kate, by contrast, was intensely shy when she made that first trip to the U.S., and was said to get sick with nerves before public appearances. She was therefore not able to work the U.S. media. She gave no big interviews on American TV and was still a sensation.
Imagine, then, how a media native like Meghan will be received as she turns on the charm for the media. Everyone loves a local hero, and this will be a homecoming parade for the woman who proved that fairy tales really are possible.
Plus, Harry has always been a more adored figure in the U.S. than his brother, William, and his bad boy antics as a younger man have made him an object of even greater affection. William may be more important in terms of official ranking within the monarchy, but who cares about that in America?
The one fly in the ointment could be noises off from Meghan’s birth family.
It can only be hoped that Meghan and Harry’s forthcoming presence in America will force her and her advisers to finally reach out to and make peace with her father, Thomas Markle, who will otherwise likely seek to use the trip as an opportunity to further air his grievances against his daughter, who he believe has cut him off unfairly after he spoke to the press.
There is less concern about the impact of Meghan’s attention-seeking half-sister, Samantha. While she would also likely see any American tour as a bumper opportunity for paid media appearances, she has less impact on Meghan’s image. She was recently deemed a ‘fixated person’ by the British police, and the public have little sympathy for her; most people see her as little more than an opportunist.
Unlike Thomas, who seems genuinely hurt by Meghan’s ghosting, Samantha is widely perceived to be in it for the money, having not been in contact with Meghan for a decade before her marriage. Her interviews and social media posts have also been notable for a kind of gleeful malevolence.
However, it might be wise for palace aides to resolve in 2019 to examine once again if she can be somehow persuaded to silence, ideally before a jet carrying Meghan and her crew touches down in North America.
There should really only be one person with the last name Markle on American TV this fall, and that should be Meghan, not Thomas or Samantha.