Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle probably have a complicated relationship. Especially since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made headlines in early January 2020, when they took to the official Duke and Duchess of Sussex Instagram account to announce their plans to step away from their traditional royal roles. "We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen," the royal couple revealed.
Shortly after the surprising announcement, Buckingham Palace — home of Prince Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II — issued a response regarding the royal couple’s news, stating, "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
While the Duke and Duchess didn’t detail the reason behind their shocking decision, the British tabloids’ treatment of Markle is widely thought to have played a role, as well as rumors of a familial fallout with Prince William and Kate Middleton. However, many royal watchers are most interested to know what the Queen — whose relationship with Markle has long seemed friendly — really thinks of her granddaughter-in-law. Here’s the truth about Queen Elizabeth II and Meghan Markle’s relationship.
Meghan Markle has called Queen Elizabeth "an incredible woman"
Before she fell in love with Prince Harry and transformed from an actress to the Duchess of Sussex seemingly overnight, Meghan Markle was just an American gal chasing her dreams. And, like most Americans, Markle had a fairly limited view of the British royal family, as well as who they are as people — not simply as figureheads. So, one can imagine the nervousness Markle must have felt upon realizing she’d be meeting the Queen of England.
Fortunately, according to a November 2017 BBC interview with Markle and Prince Harry, meeting Queen Elizabeth II could not have gone over any better.
"To be able to meet her through [Harry’s] lens, not just with his honor and respect for her as the monarch, but the love that he has for her as his grandmother. All of those layers have been so important for me," Markle revealed. She continued, "So, [when] I met her, I had such a deep understanding, and of course incredible respect for being able to have that time with her." Added Markle, "She’s an incredible woman." Sounds like Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle’s meeting was a powerful moment.
Queen Elizabeth reportedly prefers to support Meghan Markle in private
In October 2019, the documentary special Harry & Meghan: An African Journey aired in the UK, providing a behind-the-scenes look at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s ten-day tour of Africa. In the eye-opening documentary, journalist Tom Bradby talked with Meghan Markle about the toll the spotlight had taken on her as she tried to navigate both royal life and becoming a first-time mother.
Revealing to Bradby she was "struggling" with the vulnerabilities of being a new mom and the pressures of being in the spotlight, Markle told the journalist, "Not many people have asked if I’m okay, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."
Speaking with Entertainment Tonight, royal commentator Victoria Arbiter said Queen Elizabeth II likely wouldn’t offer a public display of support for Markle. "The Queen has always said, ‘Never wear private grief on a public sleeve,’" Arbiter revealed. Regarding Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle’s relationship, she continued, saying, "While I do think she will be sympathetic to what Harry and Megan are going through, I think she would like to offer support from behind the scenes, without airing too much for public appetite."
Meghan Markle’s "vim and vigor" reportedly impressed Queen Elizabeth
Everyone wants to make a good impression on their in-laws, especially if their grandmother-in-law just so happens to be the Queen of England. There’s no question that Meghan Markle had quite the job to do in proving to Prince Harry’s family, as well as the general public of the UK, that she had what it takes to be a member of the royal family.
However, according to sources, Markle wasted no time in earning the Queen’s respect. In June 2018, just one month after Prince Harry and Markle’s royal wedding, a source told Us Weekly that the prince’s grandmother was impressed with his new bride. "[Meghan’s] enthusiasm towards living a life of service and humanitarianism excites the Queen and it’s just the type of vim and vigor she likes to see in someone," the anonymous source revealed.
In October 2019, a royal insider dished to Us Weekly that Queen Elizabeth II continued to be pleased with her new granddaughter-in-law. "She’s seeing a more mature, responsible side of Harry, and she’s really impressed with how Meghan’s upped her game," the source revealed to the publication. Sounds like Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle hit it off!
Queen Elizabeth allegedly made an "unusual effort" to ensure Meghan Markle felt welcome
While Meghan Markle’s former career as an American actress familiarized her with being in the public eye, nothing could have prepared her for having the world watch as she married into the British royal family and learned to navigate her new role as the Duchess of Sussex.
However, according to royal commentator Duncan Larcombe, Queen Elizabeth II made it a priority to ensure Markle felt like a welcome part of the royal family. "The Queen, last year in the first few months of Meghan’s entry into the royal family, made a particular and slightly unusual effort to welcome her in," Larcombe told Fabulous Digital in August 2019 (via The Sun). Larcombe revealed that the Queen had requested Markle accompany her to various events in order to "signal the fact that she was welcoming her into the royal family."
According to the royal commentator, part of the Queen’s insistence on publicly welcoming her new granddaughter-in-law to the royal family could possibly be traced to "the lessons of the past where Princess Diana pretty much felt like an outsider in the royal family."
Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle share a love for dogs
You don’t have to be a royal expert to know that Queen Elizabeth II has an affinity for corgis, which reportedly started when she was gifted a Pembroke Welsh Corgi for her 18th birthday. That corgi, named Susan, would go on to become the common ancestor for each of the famous corgis owned and loved by the Queen throughout her years on the throne (via Vanity Fair).
In a November 2017 BBC interview, Prince Harry revealed that Meghan Markle had received the royal corgis’ stamp of approval. "The corgis took to [her] straight away," the prince said. He continued, joking, "For the last 33 years, I’ve been barked at, [but Meghan] walks in and [they do] absolutely nothing." Added Markle, "[They were] just laying on my feet during tea. It was very sweet."
And, in an adorable turn of events, it seems Queen Elizabeth II also gets along well with Markle’s pup, a beagle named Guy. As spotted by Lainey Gossip, Guy was seen riding in a car with the Queen herself at Prince Harry and Markle’s royal wedding, truly living his best beagle life and marking one of the best moments from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. So, did their shared love of dogs help bring Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle together?
Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle’s relationship progressed more quickly than the Queen and Kate Middleton’s
According to royal insiders, Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle formed a bond in a much shorter timespan than the Queen did with Kate Middleton — wife of her grandson Prince William. In fact, as noted by The Sun, Middleton reportedly didn’t meet the Queen until 2008, when she was five years into her relationship with Prince William. Two years later, Middleton and Prince William were engaged to be married.
Considering Markle’s relationship with Prince Harry progressed at a much faster rate, it only makes sense that the former actress’ relationship with her royal grandmother-in-law did, as well. Less than a month after her wedding to Prince Harry, it was announced that Markle would be joining Queen Elizabeth II at multiple engagements, including a theater opening, a Chester Town Hall lunch, and the Mersey Gateway Bridge opening (via The Telegraph).
Royal commentator Duncan Larcombe told Fabulous Digital that Markle was even invited aboard the Queen’s royal train to attend the June 2018 engagements (via The Sun). Calling the train ride "unusual," Larcombe revealed, "I’m 99 percent sure [the Queen has] never afforded that offer to Kate."
Queen Elizabeth was once called one of Meghan Markle’s "closest friends"
While Meghan Markle’s relationship with her in-laws has long been fraught with rumors of a royal rift, there was once a time when the former actress was said to be on very good terms with the royal family — especially her grandmother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II, as well as sister-in-law Kate Middleton, who has had a stunning transformation since joining the royal family. That was fortunate as both before and after her wedding to Prince Harry, media outlets were buzzing with reports that Markle and her father were no longer speaking, with Meghan Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, reportedly saying in an interview, "She’d be nothing without me. I made her the Duchess she is today."
Of course, the public interest in her familial relationships didn’t exactly make for a smooth, drama-free transition into royal life. But, according to royal insiders, Markle had shoulders to lean on in Queen Elizabeth II and Kate Middleton.
"What’s characterized these months are the two great relationships that she has struck up with the Queen and with [Kate Middleton]," Robert Lacey, historical consultant for Netflix’s The Crown, told People in August 2018. Continued Lacey, "They seem to be her closest friends and partners in the official set-up."
Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle’s relationship was rumored to have suffered due to alleged jewelry drama
In April 2019, The Sun published a report alleging that Queen Elizabeth II had "banned" Meghan Markle wearing jewelry pieces famously donned by the late Princess Diana. Adding to the largely negative UK media coverage of the Duchess of Sussex, the report quoted an "impeccably placed" royal insider as saying, "It is at the discretion of the Queen and trusted advisers which items in the Royal Collection she chooses to loan out and to whom."
The so-called insider purported that the Queen "was not impressed with some of Meghan’s demands," telling The Sun, "As a result, Buckingham Palace has decided that not all items from the Queens royal collection will be opened up to Meghan." Was Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle’s relationship in trouble?
However, according to a royal insider who spoke to Express in April 2019, the claims of a jewelry feud were false. "It is worth noting that the Queen lent Meghan a tiara for the wedding, gave her earrings for her first royal engagement, and had just agreed to partly fund her new household," an anonymous source told Express.
Did Queen Elizabeth throw subtle shade at Meghan Markle during her Christmas Day speech?
While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s January 2020 announcement that they would be stepping back as senior members of the royal family took most people by surprise, some royal watchers had suspected the rumored royal family riff was reaching its boiling point. And, when Queen Elizabeth II delivered her annual Christmas Day speech in 2019, viewers couldn’t help but notice Her Royal Highness had chosen not to include a photo of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex among photos of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, Prince Phillip, and the Queen’s late father, King George VI.
Royal expert Anna Whitelock told BBC News (via Express) that the Queen likely didn’t mean to snub Prince Harry and Markle with her photo choices. "You could read into that that, simply, she is focused on her father and then the direct heirs to the throne," said Whitelock.
While Queen Elizabeth II may not have meant any harm with the photos, it’s worth noting the Queen did include a picture of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during her 2018 Christmas Day speech (via Harper’s Bazaar).
Queen Elizabeth reportedly felt blindsided by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s surprise announcement
In an interview with Today, royal expert Victoria Arbiter said Queen Elizabeth II was likely blindsided when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took to Instagram to announce they’d be stepping down as senior members of the royal family.
"They did have a discussion with the Queen, Prince Charles, [and] Prince William, saying, ‘Look, we want to do something different here,’ but I don’t think any of this information certainly that’s been listed on their website was shared with the senior members of the royal family, and that’s where [royal family members] were blindsided," Arbiter revealed.
However, according to journalist Tom Bradby, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had informed the royal family of their desire to become financially independent within a slimmed-down monarchy following the couple’s six-week break from royal duties. As Bradby wrote for The Sunday Times, Prince Harry was encouraged to write down "some ideas for discussion," despite his concern the document would be leaked to the press. And, according to Bradby, the private document was leaked to the press, prompting Prince Harry and Markle to take swift action and make their own announcement.