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Has Meghan Markle broken royal protocol by speaking about abortion?

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Kayleigh Dray
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Meghan Markle talks abortion in Ireland

The Duchess of Sussex has been praised for championing women’s rights in Ireland.

Shortly after her star-studded wedding to Prince Harry on 20 May, Meghan Markle – now formally known as the Duchess of Sussex – shared her official biography on the Royal Family website. In it, she listed off the experiences that helped shape her “lifelong commitment” to “social justice and women’s empowerment”, and reminded us that she, at the tender age of 11, successfully campaigned for a company to alter their television advert that had used sexist language to sell washing-up liquid. That she volunteered at a soup kitchen in Skid Row, Los Angeles from the age of 13 to 17. That she also established a program at her place of work to ensure that leftover meals from the Suits set were donated to local homeless shelters.

And, of course, the bio stated that Meghan was the UN Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership – a position which allowed her to meet with female parliamentarian leaders in Kigali and visit a Gihembe refugee camp, where women were working on leadership and empowerment at a grassroots level.

Essentially, Meghan’s bio declared her intention to keep fighting the good feminist fight – so it should come as little surprise to learn that she was pleased when the results of Ireland’s abortion referendum came in. 

As reported by The Daily Beast, Catherine Noone – a senator for the ruling Fine Gael party, which was closely associated with the successful Yes campaign – 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, while this is exactly the sort of response we’d expect from Meghan, there is an issue: under the constitutional monarchy structure, royals have been prohibited since the 17th Century from expressing political opinions. As such, Meghan’s comments – if true – will have put her in breach of royal protocol.

Clearly realising her mistake, Noone followed up with a second tweet, saying: “I should say she seemed pleased—she was interested and very measured, not political at all.”

Then, shortly before deleting all of her tweets entirely, Noone added: “I clarified - it was a very benign chat, she expressed no political opinion. She was interested and charming.”

However, writer Una Mullally had also tweeted about a similar discussion she allegedly had with Markle about the vote, and has yet to remove it from her feed.

It reads: “Great to chat with Meghan Markle, Duchess Of Sussex, about Repeal and the importance of her feminist activism. So important to have people in her position championing women’s rights.

“Total sounder!”

Of course, this is not the first time that Meghan has breached royal protocol: earlier this year, she wore black in support of the Time’s Up movement. She also dismissed years of tired old tradition and asked her mother, Doria Ragland, to play an important part in her wedding

And, speaking at a London forum for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s charity, the Royal Foundation, in February 2018 – Meghan (who once branded Donald Trump as “misogynistic” and “divisive”) proudly pledged to use her position in the spotlight to “shine a light” on women’s rights.

“I think right now in the climate we are seeing so many campaigns, I mean #MeToo and Time’s Up, and there is no better time to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered, and people really helping to support them – men included,” she said.

“I mean, it makes such a tremendous difference. So… I guess we wait a couple of months and we can hit the ground running.”

At the time, Meghan said that she could not go into detail on what future work she would be doing, but added: “I certainly know how passionate I am, and Harry and I see the world so similarly in our approach of being very hands-on with things.”

It is all of this, and more, which has earned Markle a place on Time magazine’s annual 100 Most Influential People list – accompanied by a glowing essay about the newest member of the royal family, penned by none other than Priyanka Chopra.

Of Markle, Chopra writes: “This ever-smiling, strong free spirit found her prince, fell in love and in turn made a cynical world believe in fairy tales again…

“With her, what you see is real, and what you get is a relatable young woman with her heart and mind in the right place. Her compassion, evident in the causes she supports, and her drive to break down stereotypes—obvious in her actions—will connect her to a generation in much need of kindness.”

Chopra adds: “More than anything else, Meghan is an important influencer in a world that needs strong public figures to respect and look up to. People the world can be inspired by.

“Meghan, standing shoulder to shoulder with Harry, will be a princess for the people.”

We don’t doubt it.

Image: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.