She’s quietly broken royal protocol bit by bit – first was the non-traditional wedding cake, then baring her shoulders at a formal royal family gathering, and the subtle shows of PDA with Prince Harry — and now Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle has broken royal protocol on her first foreign tour in Ireland.
The small nation, which recently held a referendum on a woman’s right to abortion, voted with a landslide to repeal a constitutional amendment outlawing the procedure under any circumstances. A traditionally strict Catholic country, its abortion laws have been seen as extremely restrictive, and the result of the vote a major step forward for women’s rights. The repeal will bring Ireland’s abortion laws in line with almost every other European country, so it’s a pretty damn big deal, and the significance wasn’t lost on the Duchess.
According to the Irish Times, in two now-deleted tweets, Senator Catherine Noone, a guest at the garden party thrown by the UK Irish Ambassador, claimed: “The Duchess and I had a chat about the recent referendum result — she watched with interest and was pleased to see the result.” In a second tweet, she clarified: “I should say she seemed pleased — she was interested and very measured, not political at all.” Sounds like someone’s covering their tracks, making clear the approval is an interpretation, with Meghan not explicitly stating an opinion on the matter.
But writer Una Mullaly, member of an activist group campaigning for the repeal, wasn’t quite so cautious. The following tweet, which emphasizes the importance of public figures championing women’s rights, is still up for all to see:
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! pic.twitter.com/Vjdquo45CP
— Una Mullally (@UnaMullally) July 10, 2018
The Duchess surely tiptoed around the issue carefully, given the strict code of conduct around Royal Family members’ political views. Whilst it’s not strictly outlawed, it’s customary for royals, dating all the way back four centuries, to remain politically impartial, so as to not alienate any particular demographics in society.
But given her feminist credentials, which are even noted in her official Royal Family website bio, her personally-held views are hardly surprising – it’s that she now has to navigate them in the public sphere oh so differently. (The Instagram from her former Tig life recommended a book from prominent left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky, so we can guess where along the political spectrum her sympathies might lie).
So whilst being outright explicit on a political subject is a clear no-no, no one said it can’t be strongly implied – just ask the Queen. British tabloids claimed the monarch backed the UK leaving the European Union in the divisive 2016 referendum. Yet at the state opening of the UK Parliament the following year, for which she had traditionally worn her crown and robes, the Queen instead donned a blue and yellow outfit that looked suspiciously like the EU flag, prompting speculation she was sending an anti-Brexit message. Impossible to say for sure, but we’ll choose to believe it was a nudge-nudge-wink-wink moment – some causes are worth breaking rules for.