Opinion

Meghan Markle sat on a chair – and the world lost its s**t

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Kayleigh Dray
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 26: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Queen Elizabeth II and John Major at the Queen's Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 26, 2018 in London, England. The Queen's Young Leaders Programme, now in its fourth and final year, celebrates the achievements of young people from across the Commonwealth working to improve the lives of people across a diverse range of issues including supporting people living with mental health problems, access to education, promoting gender equality, food scarcity and climate change. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

A 60-second video of Meghan Markle crossing her legs has sparked endless headlines. Why is the world so obsessed with catching her out?

On 26 June, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry joined his grandmother, the Queen, to welcome the young members in the Queen’s Young Leader’s programme to Buckingham Palace.

The programme, which the Queen started in 2013, honours youth who have given back to their communities in the form of mental health advocacy, advocating against violence against women, and other life-saving acts of heroism.

With this in mind, it makes sense that the Queen asked the Duchess of Sussex to appear at the event in an official capacity. As many will already be aware, Meghan – shortly after her star-studded wedding to Harry on Saturday (20 May) – shared her official biography on the Royal Family website, which lists the experiences that helped shape her “lifelong commitment” to “social justice and women’s empowerment”.

It 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 involvement in the Queen’s Young Leader’s programme has allowed her to continue her work as a philanthropist – and fulfils her desire to be connected “to a generation in much need of kindness”.

The world’s press, though, didn’t focus on any of that. Instead, they decided to hone in on the fact that, when Meghan sat on a chair, she failed to sit like a lady.

Yes, really.

A 60-second video, which was shared on Instagram after the event, changed the narrative entirely.

It was captioned simply: “Harry and Meghan join the Queen and the Queen’s Young Leaders for their photo at the palace” – and very little happens in the clip. Meghan sits down and talks to a woman sat beside her, the Queen ensures everyone is positioned correctly, Harry adjusts his trousers… the usual.

Explain, then, the slew of headlines that followed.

“Whoops!” screamed People. “See the EXACT MOMENT Meghan Markle switches from crossed legs to ‘Duchess Slant’ at palace party.”

Another publication claimed to have footage of the moment “Meghan Markle realised she messed up her royal leg cross”.

“Meghan Markle broke a royal rule at an event with the Queen,” bayed another.

And there were countless others, all pointing out that Meghan had done the unthinkable: she had “crossed her legs at an event with the Queen.”

Don’t believe me? Try googling the phrase “Meghan Markle crossed legs” – and you’ll see the press and public alike have gone in on the newest member of the royal family for doing something thousands of us do every single day.

It’s deeply, deeply depressing.

While we’re all for celebrating Meghan’s royal rebellions (her donning black to support of the Time’s Up movement remains one of our favourite royal moments ever), here’s the thing: Meghan hasn’t broken any rules whatsoever.

In fact, photographers have also captured Kate Middleton and Princess Diana crossing their legs over the years – and nobody batted an eyelid. It seems as if everybody has gotten a little too fixated on the so-called “Duchess slant”, which, yes, some female members of the royal family adopt when it comes to photos.

“It is the perfect pose for when a camera is shooting directly in front of you because by slightly slanting the knees to create a zig-zag effect when wearing a dress or skirt, your legs are angled so that the camera only shoots the sides of your legs and protects your modesty,” Myka Meier, royal etiquette expert and founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette, told People earlier this year. (It is worth noting that Meier invented the term herself, based on the Duchess of Cambridge’s favoured sitting position).

According to Meier, the pose demands that you sit up straight with an egg-width between your back and the seat, your chin parallel to the ground, your ankles together and your legs slanted slightly to one side. And, yes, Meghan has sat this way before, too: being a human being, rather than a Barbie doll, she has been known to move her legs into different positions on occasion. Mind-blowing as that may seem.

So why the fuss?

Well, it seems like yet another example of the press’ attempt to undermine Meghan and dress her up as ‘unsuitable’; to remind us that she is an outsider; that try as she might, when she tries to act like a royal, she slips up.

Ever since her relationship with the prince came to light, tabloids have hounded Meghan, penning lengthy articles about her divorce, her age (she is a few years older than the prince) and her race (she has a black mother and a white father).

Stunned by the abuse and harassment that Markle had been subjected to, Prince Harry was forced to issue an unprecedented public statement, condemning the behaviour of some parts of the press.

“Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments,” he said.

“Some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.”

It’s time that we stopped this incessant need to see Meghan put a foot wrong. To stop criticising her, undermining her, and disrespecting her. To stop using something as innocent and banal as her crossing her goddamn legs to subtly remind the world that an “outsider” has infiltrated the royal family’s inner circle.

Because, no, maybe Meghan wasn’t “bred” for royalty – but that doesn’t make her ‘unsuitable’. After all, she’s a philanthropist, writer and fashion designer. She has penned essays about racism, human rights and the perils of fame. She is her own person – and she is absolutely more than a royal WAG.

As she puts it herself in her Vanity Fair interview: “[Harry and I] were very quietly dating for about six months before it became news, and I was working during that whole time, and the only thing that changed was people’s perception.

“Nothing about me changed. I’m still the same person that I am, and I’ve never defined myself by my relationship.”

If that means she might want to sit down like a normal human being every once in a while, so bloody be it. Surely the world has bigger things to worry about than the positioning of a woman’s legs.

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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