As written by Sarah Vain…
The really modern thing about Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle is not — as so many have said — that she is mixed race or American or a divorcee.
What’s truly remarkable about her — and what makes her almost unique in the history of royal spouses — is that she is not some unknown ingénue plucked from a sanitised line-up of carefully selected debutantes.
She is a real woman, with real world experience, who comes to the marriage as a fully formed individual in her own right.
Perhaps that explains the grin of joy on Prince Charles’s face as the news broke: his own wife, Camilla, is cut from similar cloth.
The tragedy for Charles is that he had to tear his family apart to be with his one true love; his son, by contrast, is free to follow his heart.
That alone would be progress — but Meghan takes it to the next level. Because even before she met Harry, she had already made her mark on the world. Not only that, she has earned, not inherited, her success, having been brought up in less-than-ideal circumstances in a tough environment.
As a young girl growing up in Los Angeles — a city obsessed with thin, white blondes — she overcame prejudice about her mixed-race parentage and went on to forge a name for herself in a notoriously cut-throat industry.
What a contrast to the upbringings of Harry’s mother, Diana, and Meghan’s future sister-in-law, Kate, both of whom were groomed from the very start to be aristocratic consorts — Diana by dint of her high social status, Kate through the ferocious ambitions of her mother.
Education for Meghan was not simply a way of passing the time until fulfilling her destiny as a royal brood mare; it was her ticket to better things, a chance to equip herself with the tools to be a success on her own terms.
The result? Britain is about to get its first ever feminist princess.
Because, make no mistake, this is a union of social equals. That much is already clear, not just in the way Meghan responded to questioning in Monday’s post-announcement interview — comfortable, confident, open — but also in the body language between her and Harry.
There’s very little sense of royal patronage here. If anything, the reverse is true. Harry has really fallen on his feet. Meghan is the one doing him a huge favour by marrying him.
After all, she doesn’t need the profile, the money, or, quite frankly, the hassle. And she will be giving up everything to marry the Prince, since she will now cease to work as an actress.
Materially, there is very little Harry can offer his bride that she cannot already obtain by her own means. This makes her ideally suited for a young man who, by contrast, has always struggled with his own identity.
And while Meghan clearly respects his royal position, she is not in thrall to it in the same way that a British woman might be.
There is something else, too, that binds this couple, something that goes far deeper than career or status. Both saw their parents divorce at a young age (Meghan was six years old when hers split, Harry eight) and both suffered the absence of family stability.
No doubt that shared experience brings with it a greater empathy for each other’s vulnerabilities, and that is vitally important in a marriage.
They both know what it feels like to have an essential something missing from their lives and, therefore, they each have a better chance of understanding the other’s emotional needs.
And — despite the fact that she’s obviously fabulously sexy — there is definitely a hint of the mother-son relationship in Meghan and Harry, who at 33, is three years her junior.
His desire to protect her, expressed last year in his open letter to the Press and evident in the way he looks at her and holds her, echoes the instinct, present in every little boy — but especially pronounced in Harry — to shield his mother from harm.
As he made clear in the revealing documentary he and William made to mark the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death this summer, he wanted desperately to be his mum’s little soldier, to safeguard her from the publicity that hounded her, in his mind, to her death. Part of him will always blame himself — wrongly, of course — for not being old enough to protect her.
He will not make the same mistake twice. And it’s clear in the way that Meghan reassures him with her eyes, the way she comfortingly stroked his arm as they stepped out to face the cameras on Monday — even in the way she was cooking roast chicken when he proposed — that she understands his need to be mothered as well as married.
The fact that she is a good deal more worldly-wise than the Prince is probably a good thing, too, and a part of the chemistry between the couple.
An older, stable female presence is exactly what Harry needs in his life, and that is what Meghan will provide. She will help him mature and move forward and, with any luck, lay his old demons to rest.
After all, most men are, deep down, just big babies. Underneath all that bluster and testosterone, they just want to be mothered. And Harry has for so long been a little lost boy.
How appropriate, then, that, once married, they plan to set up home in Kensington Gardens, famously the home of Peter Pan.
For what else is Meghan if not Wendy Darling to Harry’s restless Peter Pan, and — all the signs are — a wise, experienced and generous soul who will be as much his protector as his Princess.