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Meghan Markle + The New People’s Princess (B2-C1)

Maggio 2019
Esattamente un anno fa l’ex attrice americana Meghan Markle è diventata duchessa e da allora non sono mancati gli inevitabili paragoni con la defunta Lady D. Il prestigioso giornalista e biografo inglese Andrew Morton ripercorre la vita di entrambe.

di Alex Phillips and Andrew Morton

File audio:

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle
Andrew Morton
Andrew Morton

Speaker: Sarah Davison (British accent)

A year into her marriage with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is certainly shaking up the royal household! The retired American actress has broken protocol on a number of occasions: wearing burgundy nail polish for a public event, choosing an off-the-shoulder dress for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday… She even, on arriving for an engagement at London’s Royal Academy, closed her own car door – a gesture of independence unacceptable for a duchess! Yet such down-to-earth gestures have enamoured the public and drawn comparisons between Meghan and another pioneering royal from another era – Princess Diana.


Andrew Morton is a prominent English journalist and writer, whose sensational best-selling biography Diana, Princess of Wales, was written with her full, secret cooperation. Originally published in 1992, the book was reprinted in 2017 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Diana’s tragic death. Last year, Morton published a biography of the soon-to-be Duchess of Sussex, Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. And, as Morton told Speak Up, his research for the book raised many fascinating points of similarity and contrast between Diana and Meghan. 



Speaker: Alex Warner (British accent)

As the late princess’ official biographer, I detect similarities but significant differences between Diana and Meghan. There is much light and shade.
At a young age, both Meghan and Diana experienced pain and confusion when their parents divorced. For Diana, a generation older than Meghan, divorce was so unusual that she felt out of place and ‘different’ at school. Naturally a shy girl, the stigma made her even more reluctant to join in with her fellow pupils.


Meghan too felt unusual, not because she was from divorced parents – by the 1980s divorce was common – but because she was multi-racial, having an African-American mother, who is the descendant of slaves, and a Caucasian father. It was a source of continual confusion.
As she was light-skinned, her classmates and teachers thought she was Italian or from southern Europe. On one occasion she was even asked to join a white-girls- only club. She gave that idea short shrift.


While Diana was shy, and would only take part in school plays if she were given a non-speaking part, Meghan loved to perform, on one occasion even taking the microphone on stage to hand out her own awards to teachers at her junior school, Little Red School House. She was academic, loved answering questions on the general knowledge show Jeopardy and enjoyed taking part in school discussions and debates.


Meghan was seen by parents and teachers alike as a politician-in-waiting. When she was just ten, she organised a protest against the first Gulf War in 1991 and was well-known for her letter-writing campaigns where she complained to big companies about damaged packaging or foodstuffs.
Famously, she found herself on national TV aged just twelve when she wrote letters to Hillary Clinton, lawyers and Proctor and Gamble, the household products giant, for their sexist advertising regarding dishwashing liquid. Her intervention saw the company changing the slogan that previously stated that ‘women all over America’ were cleaning their pots and pans with their dish-washing liquid to ‘people all over America.’


Academically gifted, Meghan won numerous prizes when she graduated from her Catholic high school, but unlike Diana, she is not remembered as sporty. In contrast, whereas Lady Diana lacked academic ability – “I didn’t feel any good at anything. I felt hopeless, a drop-out,” she told me – she was a natural sportswoman, captain of the school netball team and the winner of various diving cups and trophies. If she hadn’t grown so tall, she dreamed of being a ballet dancer.
While Lady Diana Spencer practised her ballet moves in the entrance hall of her father’s palatial stately home, Althorp House, Meghan sat quietly doing her homework at the side of the set of the raunchy TV comedy Married With Children, where her father worked as a lighting director.


Such different settings, such different childhoods, but their teenage years saw Diana and Meghan united by a common imperative, the desire to give back and a concern for the welfare of others.
When she was sixteen, Diana found her calling as a career. During this time she was a pupil at West Heath private school, from where she volunteered to visit patients at a nearby Victorian hospital. During those visits she found that she had a natural aptitude for this work, getting down on her knees to join youngsters with learning difficulties in their activities, chatting with elderly patients and helping them with their daily tasks. She instinctively realised that a cuddle, a touch and a smile were worth a thousand words. It set the tone for her future behaviour as a royal and as a humanitarian.
At the same age, Meghan was spending her Saturdays helping out at a soup kitchen for the homeless in downtown Los Angeles. She realised, as Diana had before her, that beneath the labels, these were human beings with a story to tell.


During this period, Diana had a powerful and genuine impact on Meghan’s life. She and her school friends sat sobbing during the princess’ sombre funeral in September 1997, just a month after Meghan’s sixteenth birthday.


During her twenties there was little sign that she was emulating the late princess. Then she was trying hard to make it in Hollywood, working as a briefcase girl, wearing short skirts and tight blouses on the entertainment show Deal or No Deal. While Meghan was struggling for work, Diana came into her own. Aged twenty-five, she made history when she publicly shook the hand of an AIDS patient, that gesture helping to dispel the stigma surrounding the killer illness.


It was not until Meghan was thirty that she finally got a break, on the legal drama Suits, which gave her the time and opportunity to give back. She worked on behalf of the United Nations to promote gender equality and later, as an ambassador for a Canadian NGO, visited Rwanda to see their work bringing clean water to villages.


Like Diana, she is a stylish and glamorous fashion ambassador, and like the late princess, she wanted to be known for her work rather than her wardrobe. Diana often said that she wanted to be remembered as a ‘workhorse’ rather than a ‘clothes horse’. Intriguingly, Meghan had a similar phrase, saying that she wanted to be known as ‘a lady who works’, not ‘a lady who lunches’.


Diana, who always struggled with her speech-making, would be impressed by her daughter-in-law’s fluency at the microphone, giving speeches at the United Nations and other prestigious venues. Though much divided them, much connects them. They shared a humanitarian vision and a mission, the two women realising that they could harness their celebrity to give back and promote good causes.


While Diana’s appeal lay in her vulnerability and her striving to find her own place in the world, Meghan is self-possessed, poised, sophisticated but approachable. She is a flag bearer for a new generation of confident, assertive women who want to kick through the glass ceiling that has held down women for decades. The latest member of the royal family is not an imitation of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, but her own person.

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