Like so many of us, Meghan Markle was inspired by Princess Diana growing up — her refreshing openness, her commitment to helping others, her iconic style, willingness to take on the powers that be and insist on being treated with dignity and respect, her commitment to remaining graceful in the face of attacks and harassment by the media.
And in many ways, Meghan went on to have similar values, especially when it comes to advocating for others and being a relatable member of the royal family. Of course, Meghan is her own person, with her own goals, fashion and parenting style — and her own path, especially now that she and Prince Harry have quit being working royals and are focused on building a different future for themselves. But we think there is plenty about the Duchess of Sussex, wife to her beloved youngest son, that Princess Diana would be proud of, and they’re worth pointing out.
We can sit here and try to imagine what kind of relationship she would have with Meghan (Harry thinks they would have been “thick as thieves, without question,” as he said during the couple’s engagement interview) and it’s too sad that it will never happen, and that Meghan doesn’t have Diana’s advice and help as a still relatively new wife, mom, and public figure on a global stage.
Princess Diana died 22 years ago, much too early to meet her sons’ wives, of course, but as the world’s most famous woman during the time she was alive, at least we have plenty of interviews, books, and videos of her to have a good idea about who she was and what she valued, in her own words and deeds.
That means that there are things we’d believe she would have valued in her daughter-in-law Meghan. Here are ways that Princess Diana would be so proud of the wife, mom, philanthropist, and person that Meghan has become over the years.
She’s Open About Her Struggles
When Meghan gave an unexpectedly emotional interview about her postpartum struggles and battle with the media, while on tour in South Africa, many were shocked. After all, the last royal to be that open was Diana, who openly talked about her battle with bulimia and mental health issues, and most infamously, her crumbling marriage. Connecting with and relating to people on a deeply emotional level was Diana’s superpower, and while she was a member of the royal family, she was its humanizing face. She would be proud that Meghan doesn’t adhere to the policy of keeping a stiff upper lip, and shows relatable qualities.
She Fights for Social Causes
Meghan has been fighting for change since she was a kid, and was doing advocacy on an international scale as an adult long before she joined the royal family, whether it was traveling to India with World Vision to bring awareness to the lack of access to education for girls, or meeting with refugees and female parliamentarians in Rwanda as part of her work with UN Women. Her remarkable philanthropic track record would have impressed Diana, who made charitable work a cornerstone of her life. “Everyone of us needs to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves,” she once said.
She Goes Above & Beyond To Help
Meghan didn’t just bring awareness to the plight of families affected by a deadly fire at a public housing apartment building, she got in their community kitchen and put out a cookbook whose proceeds went to help them. She also put out a capsule fashion collection to benefit a charity that helps women join the workforce. Diana would have loved that kind of personal commitment, given that she practiced it in her own work, whether it the simple act of shaking the hand of an HIV patient to dispel the stigma around the disease, or selling 79 of her own gowns to raise $3.25 million for cancer and AIDS charities.
She Pushes the Royal Style Envelope
Sleeveless dresses. Pantsuits. Off-the-shoulder tops. Flats. Messy buns. Barely there wedding makeup. Dark nail polish. Wine-colored lipstick. Minimalist jewelry. Sustainable brands. Meghan’s royal style has been a breath of fresh air, rolling modern looks into a wardrobe that also includes more traditionally conservative pieces. Diana would have been all about it, especially given that she became a fashion icon thanks to her bold mix of colors, patterns, and cuts at a time when royal fashion was not much to look at.
She Travels With Archie
Prince William was 9 months old when Diana refused to leave him behind while she and Prince Charles went on a 45-day tour of Australia and New Zealand. She took him along, and he became the first royal child ever to travel on an official trip. So we’re pretty sure Diana would have applauded Meghan’s taking Archie on her and Harry’s trip to South Africa when he was just 4 months old, making him the youngest ever royal baby to make an official trip. “Family is the most important thing in the world,” Diana once said.
She Protects Her Family
What people are derisively calling Megxit, Diana would probably have approved of Meghan and Harry’s decision to effectively quit being working royals, after years of brutal treatment in the press (remember when a picture agency hired a helicopter to photograph the inside of their country home and they were forced to give it up?). Photographers chased Diana, spit and hurled insults at her, blocked her path — anything to get a reaction for a picture. So like Meghan and Harry, in 1993 she decided to largely step back from public life, and focus on her boys. “My first priority will continue to be our children, William and Harry, who deserve as much love and care and attention as I am able to give,” she said in her speech announcing the move.
She Stands Up for Herself
Meghan sued the Daily Mail for publishing part of a letter that she wrote to her dad, which is copyright infringement in Britain, and the case is pending. Diana, who once successfully sued The Mirror for publishing secret photographs of her exercising in a gym wearing workout gear (those were simpler days!), would have appreciated Meghan refusing to take the tack that the royal family usually takes: grin and bear it.
She Overcame a Dysfunctional Family
Families don’t get much more damaging than the trashy Markles: Her father has sold her out to the press time and again, for money, and her estranged half-sister, half-brother, and cousins — all on her father’s side — have taken turns bashing her or trying to profit off her fame. Somehow, she built a different, successful, and meaningful life for herself despite them. Diana, whose mother left the family when she was small, had a similarly dysfunctional upbringing. Like Prince Charles, who nicknamed Meghan “Tungsten” after the nearly indestructible metal, Diana would have admired Meghan’s resolve.
Diana didn’t do two-minute meet-and-greets or weak-sauce handshakes. She sat with people she met, and actually listened to what they had to say about their lives, and shared herself. So she would have been touched by Meghan’s own approachability, whether hugging and chatting with people who show up to her official visits or even corresponding with a Suits fan for years.
She’s a Feminist
Much of Meghan’s philanthropic work has focused on bettering the lives of women and girls, whether that’s encouraging entrepreneurship or advocating for girls’ education, or speaking out on equal pay. Diana would have loved that. She might have been shy and innocent when she got married, but over the years became a strong woman who fought for respect for herself and women in general. “Her view, in essence, was that so many issues and problems in a male-dominated world derive from the aggressive, secretive and often insensitive masculine ego,” wrote Andrew Morton in his book Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words, for which Diana herself was the secret source.
She Loves To Write Letters
Diana was a dedicated writer of thank-you letters — she penned thousands over the years. It was all part of making people feel connected, seen, and appreciated. And she had distinctive handwriting and signature that made the letters beautiful instant heirlooms. So she would have loved that Meghan, a calligraphy expert with her own ornate signature, has had the same habit since she was young, carried it on when she was an actress and continues it to this day.
She’s an Animal Advocate
Meghan has long encouraged people to buy rescue dogs — like her two own pets — rather than pay hundreds or thousands for a purebred dog from a breeder. One of her four initial royal patronages was a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of dogs and cats. Diana gave her sons lots of pets when they were kids, and she spoke up for animals, and like Meghan is rumored to, despised the royal pastime of hunting pheasants and other animals. She would have liked Meghan’s compassion for all creatures great and small.
She Carved Her Own Path
When Diana became the Princess of Wales, she was determined to change the role into one that really mattered — and she did, by making it more personal and informal. Along the way, she transformed herself from “Shy Di” to the “People’s Princess.” So she would surely have admired how Meghan used her successful but modest acting career to launch a philanthropic career, start her own lifestyle site, and create two fashion collections for a Canadian retailer — all before becoming a working royal.
She Cares About AIDS
Meghan’s first joint official royal event with Harry, just days after their engagement, was a visit to charity fair organized by the HIV/AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, marking World AIDS Day. Diana would have beamed at Meghan showing love to one of her top causes (Meghan had also attended AIDS events before meeting Harry), which she worked hard to bring attention to and raised millions for throughout her life.
She Hit the Ground Running
Meghan made headlines when she started taking on duties even before her wedding to Harry and raised eyebrows for her “American work ethic” — waking up early and texting ideas to staff. We think Diana would have been proud of her willingness to dive into her role, as Diana herself did hundreds of events a year and worked hard to turn her royal role into one that would be meaningful not just to her, but anyone affected by a social ill or willing to do something about it.
The Arts Are Important To Her
One of Meghan’s first four royal patronages included The National Theatre, no surprise, given her background as an actress. She was also the guest of honor at the opening of an important exhibition of art from Oceania, and often attended performances of musicals like Hamilton and others. Diana was a classically trained pianist and accomplished ballet dancer, and patronized the arts, as well as raised money for different arts organizations, throughout her public life. She likely would have loved that the arts were such a part of Meghan’s life.
She’s Not a Snob
Meghan made headlines for closing her own car door when exiting a car that took her to her first official solo engagement. Another time, she met the co-founder of the One World Summit, an organization with which she’d previously worked. As the woman curtsied, Meghan waved it off and went in for a hug instead. It’s the kind of informality that Diana would have liked since it was part of her mission to humanize the royal family.
She Takes Care of Harry
Meghan was making Harry a roast chicken when he proposed. According to reports, their life in Vancouver is all about cooking together and hanging out as a family. And in public, Meghan looks at Harry like he’s the best thing since sliced bread, and often lays a protective hand on his back, as if in encouragement. We think that Diana, who often worried about Harry’s place in the world as the son who wouldn’t be king, would love the fact that someone takes care of her youngest boy.
She Set an Example for Girls
When she founded the Tig, her lifestyle blog, Meghan decided to go beyond giving fashion and beauty tips, by interviewing female leaders working in different industries and including pieces on self-empowerment. “I was hoping to integrate social consciousness and subjects of higher values than, let’s say, selfies,” she once said. Social consciousness was, of course, one of Diana’s top priorities in public life and as a parent, and she would have been proud that it was one for Meghan as well.
She Knows Exercise Is Key
Meghan famously gets up at the crack of dawn to do yoga and keeps fit through other exercises and a healthy diet (and she’s inspired Harry to give up unhealthy habits as well). She is a Cali girl, after all. Diana would approve whole-heartedly. She was an avid gym-goer and established a healthy diet with the help of her chefs after struggling with bulimia for years.