Stories like Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry aren’t just wonderful news — they’re a welcome distraction to many from the endless horror show that is 2017’s political news.
But there’s something about their engagement that stands out among other royal engagements, and it isn’t Meghan’s race or nationality or status as a divorcee.
And, though it’s a break from tradition, it’s actually incredibly sweet.
People have noticed that MegMar and Prince Harry are affectionate in public. They hold hands.
You know which royal couple we basically never see holding hands?
William and Kate. And, for that matter, Elizabeth and Phillip show an even greater degree of restraint.
This isn’t a Duggar fertility cult scenario where royal couples are restricted to side-hugs or anything like that.
But there is a tradition of showing a “stiff upper liff” and displaying a degree of severity when you’re a member of the British Royal Family.
To a lesser degree, British culture is relatively reserved compared to US culture when it comes to emotional displays.
In both cultures, hand-holding is typically reserved for children and for romantic couples.
(In most places, hand-holding between adults is reserved for straight couples in particular, as there are many places where same-sex couples remain at risk of random acts of violence)
And, in appearance after appearance, Harry and Meghan seem to be almost physically inseparable.
Royal etiquette expert Myka Meier explains to People the significance of their public displays of affection.
“While Prince Harry and Meghan holding hands is atypical for royal engagements, it is a seemingly welcomed gesture to show unity and celebration of their engagement period.”
That’s a polite way of saying that perhaps Meghan Markle’s American-ness is rubbing off on Harry.
“There is no protocol that says they can not show affection on official engagements, and this gesture makes them relatable and lovable to the public.”
Relatable is a good word, there.
“Meghan and Prince Harry holding hands at a royal engagement is a refreshingly modern approach to their new role both as a couple and as representatives of the royal family.”
Many people feel that, just as British taxpayers should not be funding the royal lifestyle and security, those born to royal families should not have their entire lives predetermined by their birth.
Basically, Prince Harry holding hands is a welcome sign that the times are changing.
“It is rare to see royal couples holding hands on official outings.”
(Notice that William and Kate are friendly and cordial, but stand apart during most public appearances. Honestly, we’d never thought much of it until the contrast was pointed out, but now it’s hard to not notice)
The royal etiquette expert (we wonder how one becomes qualified for that and also how useful it is in real life, but we all have skills that you could say that about) continues:
“While we are much less likely to see The Duke and Duchess holding hands in public, we often see Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall holding hands.”
So Harry takes after his father, in that respect.
“It’s all simply a matter of preference for each couple and is also likely dependent on the nature of the event they are attending.”
That makes sense. Most of us let the event that we’re attending tell us how to dress and how much to drink, not whether we hold hands.
But most of us aren’t in line to become monarchs.
“A more serious engagement would warrant a more serious level of professionalism, which each royal is sure to follow.”
Compared to the resurfacing of Meghan Markle’s “racy” pics or to the fact that she’s (gasp!) been divorced, a little hand-holding between engaged adults is not a big deal.
It is, however, a deviation from the norms and something that people are going to talk about.
In fact, as the royal wedding date approaches, all eyes will remain on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And you can bet that people are going to find more things on which to comment.
Remember that Harry isn’t just a royal — he’s handsome and considered so very desirable that there was once a reality competition series whose premise was that the winner would ostensibly marry him.
And Meghan Markle is a biracial, divorced, American actress. While none of those are bad things, they are different.
“Change” and “progress” aren’t usually words that people associate with monarchies. So people are going to take note when the Royals do things differently.