Belfast Telegraph

Mary Kenny: If Meghan wants to give feminism a boost, quitting her successful career is an odd way of doing so

By Mary Kenny

I always thought that one of the regrettable aspects of Grace of Monaco's life was that she quit her profession after marriage. Admittedly, women did, usually, resign their jobs on marrying (or were obliged to do so) in those days, but it didn't always apply to women in the arts, and certainly not in the performing arts - some famous actresses even styled themselves "Mrs" for added distinction.

Grace Kelly, before marrying Rainier, was one of the most renowned and striking screen actresses in the world, yet she agreed, on wedlock, that it would not be seemly, or fit in with her regal duties, to be seen continuing her career.

That was then: this is now. And what's changed? Well, Meghan Markle, who marries Prince Harry next month, has also cut her links with the performing arts, and will do no more drama performances in the future.

Meghan says she wants to be a shining example of feminism, yet her first lifestyle change after marriage is to quit her job, reverting to the antediluvian "marriage bar" which was practised in Britain right up to the 1960s (and even longer in Ireland).

If Meghan wants to be an exemplar for feminism, then surely she should put a call through to her agent and tell him that she's available for work when she returns from her honeymoon.

But will she? I don't believe so. Her future now stretches before her, probably focusing on the Commonwealth and touring the world receiving pretty bouquets of flowers from curtsying children in India, Canada, Australia, Africa and the Caribbean, and the rest. I daresay she will do plenty of good for the British brand in a post-Brexit world, where the strategy is to look for trade markets outside and beyond the EU. All nations have to sell their "brands" these days and Meghan's diplomatic role will be an asset. Maybe she feels it's a real job, too.

Judging by her role in Suits, I thought she was a very engaging actress (some women in the performing arts still want to be called actresses, although some choose 'female actor'). The camera likes her face, which is emotionally expressive, as well as very pretty. Suits is not a dramatically taxing series - a bunch of slick lawyers quarrelling about office space isn't exactly on a par with Macbeth, or even The Crown, but Meghan made her mark as the most attractive character amongst a group of, admittedly, shysters.

In one episode she was described as being "the intellectual and ethical superior" to an adversary, and she carried that off very well. I would have thought that she could surely have gone on to more parts, more acting challenges, and an expansion of her career, even as a princess.

As a princess, the casting opportunities must be all the greater - we all have to make the best of our profiles, don't we? So why is she buckling under the royal system and agreeing to bring an end to her chosen vocation? Isn't the very definition of an actor or actress one who is "burning to act"? Should royal wedlock put an end to this? I think not.

Of course, it's possible that Meghan has come to a point in her life which strikes many gals of thirtysomething: you've finally met The One, want to make a formal commitment, and start a family. She'll be 37 in August, and if she wants to "get breedin'" (as the actress Jane Horrocks put it, explaining a pause in her career), it would be sensible to start thinking about babies right now.

Marrying Harry must be great fun, and taking time out from the studios and the auditioning and working on your character's motivation could be restful. Some commentators have even asked if Meghan had gone as far as she was likely to go in TV, and becoming a princess is a shrewd career change. Modern royal women are quite well educated these days, and to have had their own professional lives. Crown Princess Mary of Denmark is a qualified lawyer; the Queen of Spain, Letizia, is a television journalist: the Queen of the Belgians, Mathilde, holds several degrees in speech therapy. But they do tend to resign from their own professions on marriage, citing protocol and the range of other duties subsequently expected of them.

Maybe it's a voluntary choice. Maybe in some cases regal duties are a relief from the daily slog of a regular job: perhaps some women always felt they'd rather not have to graft away at the workplace if there was enough money and comfort to live otherwise.

But I do hark back to Grace of Monaco, who I believe became bored and depressed without an outlet for her gifts - and the camaraderie of her profession. She spent an inordinate amount of time pressing dead flowers and sticking them into copious albums, and the lifeless flowers' symbolism wasn't lost on some of her biographers. Grace seemed like the bird in a gilded cage. In later life, she did a couple of decorous readings, but in a limited and controlled context.

Meghan Markle's biographer, Andrew Morton, describes her as an ambitious and determined young woman who generally gets what she wants. Maybe being a princess (and a self-styled "humanitarian") is what she does want. We shall see, however, if it fulfils her.

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