Why Can’t Meghan Markle Have A Job?

Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images.
This week, as Meghan Markle arrived at her first solo royal engagement at the Royal Academy of Art, the new duchess did the unthinkable: She closed her own car door. According to a million screaming headlines, this was a major breach of royal protocol.
While that may bring a chuckle to some, dramatics aside, it does pose the question of what, exactly, is Meghan (a 37-year-old woman who has closed many a car door in her life) not allowed to do, versus what she has chosen not to do now that she's a royal. When she and Harry announced their engagement, Meghan shut down her social media accounts, her lifestyle blog The Tig, and announced she would be retiring from Hollywood. But did she need to? Was the Queen commanding it? Specifically, can the new Duchess of Sussex have a job?
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As Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry can attest, being a royal is full-time work, and then some. The castles, fancy holidays, and million dollar tiaras are nice, but ask Kate if she really wanted to pose for a photo call hours after giving birth.
Being the face of the monarchy comes with a grueling schedule of appearances and events that often take the young royals away from home for weeks at a time. And it's not all galas and tax-payer funded couture dresses, either. In the next few weeks, Meghan and Harry will embark on a jam-packed, official two-week visit to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and the Kingdom of Tonga. She'll be busy.
There is no specific rule that keeps Meghan from acting or working. In fact, Prince William, second in line to the throne, had a day job as an ambulance pilot; Kate was an accessories buyer for a fashion company and was in the Middleton family's party planning business before her marriage; and Harry served as an Army Corps pilot in Afghanistan. But all three have since leaned into full-time royal work, as it doesn't leave much free time for anything else. Kate's occupation is listed as "Princess of the United Kingdom" on all three of her children's birth certificates.
Other royals down the line of succession lead much more normal lives. Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, William and Harry's first cousins, have careers as the director of a London art gallery and in the technology sphere, respectively. Zara Phillips, another first cousin, is a silver Olympic medal winning equestrian, and her brother Peter followed an 11-year career in Formula One with his current position as the managing editor of a sports entertainment company. The more minor the royal, the smaller the subsidy from the Sovereign Fund. Meaning, they probably have to work.
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Meghan is not prohibited from working, but she's enthusiastically encouraged to keep her pursuits in line with the charities, awareness campaigns, and programs the rest of the royals support.
The good news is, the duchess was already heavily involved in philanthropic work long before Prince Harry was a blip on the radar.
The Suits actress' years of work with UN Women, the World Bank, and even then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's team is where her heart lies. Her trip to Rwanda, months before she met Harry, brought attention to the plight of girls and women in the country. Becoming a royal has only increased her profile and ability to impact change. She can now get involved in more charitable endeavors without a full-time job cluttering up her schedule. Plus, with Harry recently taking on a new role in the Commonwealth Heads of Government, Meghan and the causes she holds dear now have an audience of 53 sovereign nations and around 2.4 billion people. Meghan has gone global.
In her and Harry's first interview as an engaged couple with the BBC, Meghan said it's "been really exciting as we talk about the transition...out of my career but into the role that as you said the causes that have been very important to me, I can focus even more energy on. Because very early out of the gate I think you realize once you have access or a voice that people are willing to listen to with that comes a lot of responsibility, which I take seriously."
And what about the "immense change" moving countries and giving up her career would bring?
"I don't see it as giving anything up, I just see it as a change," the now-Duchess of Sussex answered.
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