Meghan Markle watched her friend Serena Williams's US Open final yesterday instead of watching the Highland Games in Braemar
There are few surprises to be experienced at the annual Highland Games in Braemar, but for its 15,000 spectators that might be part of the attraction – and certainly for the royal family that gathered there yesterday.
The games follow a well-worn schedule of pipes, Highland dancers, caber throwing, setting the stone and of course the notorious tug of war, all played against the backdrop of the heather-clad Cairngorm mountains of Aberdeenshire.
According to the Queen's grandson, Peter Phillips, they are "a kind of World Athletics Championships of a bygone age" – and that's all the better, judging by the photos.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla accompanied Peter, his wife Autumn Kelly and celebrities such as Dame Judi Dench during the festivities. And at the heart of it all was of course Her Majesty, smiling and smiling – resplendent in purple, and an image of relaxation and togetherness as well as dedicated public duty.
Meghan Markle, Serena Williams and Hannah Davis participate in the DirecTV Beach Bowl on Pier 40 on February 1, 2014 in New York City
It is a lesson that the Duchess of Sussex would do well.
For Meghan – once seen as a welcome relief in the midst of the hidden Windsor monarchy – has once again chosen to follow her own, very different route.
It was generally expected that the duke and duchess would take Archie baby to the senior royals in Balmoral, and perhaps even attended this weekend's games.
However, the family was "too busy" – and the four-month-old Archie "too young" to at least consider the trip, according to their spokeswoman, a mystery. The apologies may have seemed more plausible, but due to the fact that the Archie couple had already waved in early August to party Ibiza and to stay in the luxury villa of Sir Elton John in southern France just a few days later.
The Queen watches the Highland Games with the Duchess of Cornwall yesterday and they both opt for a lively dress code
Then, on Friday, Meghan made a 3500-kilometer flight over the Atlantic at the last minute to see how close friend Serena Williams competed in the final of the US Open tennis tournament – perhaps her clearest statement to date, regardless of expectations of her new royal role, this duchess is determined to march to her own drum beat.
If the couple's absence in Balmoral initially seemed only disappointing, it now looks like a downright damn thing. The Mail on Sunday understands that the queen is "hurt and disappointed" at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together. The annual Highland holiday is the Queen's favorite time of year and, according to one source, she was looking forward to "a few days of happy chaos" with the great-grandchildren, including Archie.
It is understood that Her Majesty is already "bewildered" by Meghan and Harry & # 39; s inability to stay away from PR disasters, and is concerned that her beloved grandson and his new wife are not listening to their team of advisers.
Chuffed: Meghan seems to be carefree and have the time of her life as she flies to New York without baby Archie to see Serena. Questions remain about where her loyalty lies between the royals and famous friends
She had to watch the game from a box reserved for the player's friends, family and coaches and the queen said she was & # 39; disappointed and hurt & # 39; is due to the decision not to attend the Highland meeting
Now Meghan & # 39; s spontaneous flight to New York without her son made the situation all too clear: however tempting it might have been to see her friend Miss Williams, it just wasn't the case that the hectic schedule of the Duchess prevented her from traveling to Scotland.
The questions are now inevitable about where Meghan & # 39; s loyalty lies – with the royal family, or with her famous friends, and the VIP lifestyle she had supposed to have reserved for her marriage to Harry.
That it seems that she is increasingly in line with Hollywood – and the world of her famous friends – is a cause for concern. Meghan is said to have told magazine directors of the fashion bible Vogue that she & # 39; wanted to break the internet & # 39; with the edition she had edited by the guest in September – an intriguing insight into how she sees her role.
The duchess stood up to give her an applause while Serena walked to court
Markle spent the last moments socializing and embracing Alexis Ohanian just before the game started
The expression was popularized by the American reality star Kim Kardashian, after she had released an image of herself wearing black latex and appearing to pour champagne into a glass on her buttocks. Is this suitable for a senior member of the royal family?
While the hard-working queen received the prime minister and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds at her summer residence this weekend, it is believed that Meghan has alleviated all stress by attending a hot yoga class shortly after she arrived in Manhattan on Friday.
The new mother joined 60 other so-called & # 39; sweaty souls & # 39; at the environmentally conscious Modo Yoga in West Village. A source told People magazine: "There were many sweet, knowing smiles at some of the respectful customers. She has been going to Modo Yoga for many years and tries to do this when she is in New York. It was the perfect cure for jet lag. & # 39;
It is not known where she will stay during the short trip, but her close friend, fashion designer Misha Nonoo, has a £ 4 million home close to the yoga studio. She had to watch the Miss Williams game from a space reserved for the player's friends, family and coaches.
She met Serena Williams at a Super Bowl party in 2010 and their friendship would have evolved quickly
Serena attends Meghan's wedding with Prince Harry with husband and co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, in May last year
The Duchess, whose ambition, independence, and strength of character primarily drew Harry to her, seems determined to make her own way.
For example, she has brought in a team of her own PR & # 39; s – in addition to the existing ones in Buckingham Palace, including Hillary Clinton & # 39; s former campaign advisor Sara Latham – in an effort to gain control of her faltering public image.
The US crisis management company Sunshine Sachs has reportedly paid £ 6,000 from Meghan to improve its reputation and help launch the Vogue edition.
It also managed Harry's launch for the Sussex Royal Foundation in Amsterdam to promote an online eco-travel initiative, forcing him to defend his use of private jets. A source told The Sun: "This is Meghan's way of getting a Hollywood answer to a question if she doesn't hear what she wants from the palace.
"But that is a dangerous precedent to set, because there is a reason why courtiers and advisers treat members of the royal family differently – they are not celebrities, they are government-funded official figures with a formal role. And they must hear the truth even if this is not the answer they want. That is something that Harry does not like and that Meghan is not familiar with from her previous career. They sometimes seem deaf to criticism. & # 39;
It means that the queen, who has always been close to Harry, has now allegedly been keeping a close eye on his household. The monarch is supposed to believe that the decreasing popularity and frequent accidents of the Sussex people could have been avoided if they had taken the advice of her own trusted team.
The feeling among the oldest courtiers of the queen and that at Kensington Palace is that Harry takes too much for granted and doesn't listen enough, and prefers to make publicity-grabbing gestures, such as his bare feet during the recent Google climate change in Sicily.
Her Majesty's private office regularly gives her updates on their affairs.
Even more worryingly, sources suggest that differences of opinion arise for the first time between the queen and her grandson. The tensions between Harry and William are well documented. The so-called & # 39; separation & # 39; of their respective households were finalized last week when Harry and Meghan moved their offices from Kensington Palace to Buckingham Palace, and the Sussexes also formally left the Royal Foundation designed to harness the power of what was going to happen the & # 39; Fab Four & # 39 ;. But since Harry & # 39; s marriage to Meghan there has been a series of incidents that are also said to have tested his relationship with his grandmother.
The queen publicly endorsed Meghan, welcomed her to the royal family, and supported her transition from Hollywood actress to HRH. Last year, less than a month after their marriage, the duchess was invited to make a joint official visit to the northwest with the queen. The two women traveled overnight from London together on the Royal Train, an important honor.
And it may still be the case, as many hope, that Meghan & # 39; s energy, drive, and fierce intelligence will help strengthen the royal family and increase its appeal to a younger generation.
The bill of £ 2.4 million taxpayers for redecorating Frogmore Cottage (photo), and the Sussexes summer vacation, have also been criticized. The trip to Balmoral could have mitigated this somewhat with the public and with the queen herself
But already there seem to have been tensions. Her Majesty is expected to be concerned about their respective understanding of their roles, rights, and responsibilities.
The problems were small and domestic. The queen had offered her experienced internal team to do the wedding flowers and wedding cake from Sussexes, but Meghan instead employed visionary flower designer Philippa Craddock and fashionable cake maker Claire Ptak. There was a famous quarrel about a tiara when Meghan wanted to wear an emerald green headdress, but the queen wisely advised that the gems were of Russian origin.
The queen also witnessed Meghan rebuking a royal chef over a macrobiotic wedding platter that she claimed contained eggs – and it was the expectant bride who was then puzzled.
As the mood over other aspects of the wedding plans rose, Harry reportedly told the staff, "what Meghan wants, Meghan gets …", with the queen calling him to a private meeting and giving him a grandmother to dress up. Admittedly, the problems were minor. But if the prince thought that this was all before the wedding, she was mistaken – it was just a taste of what was to come.
A year of controversy followed, including the flashy £ 350,000 & # 39; baby shower & # 39; of the duchess in New York, the failed announcement of the work of the duchess (when Archie was actually born) and details of the baptism kept so private that the date was announced too late to attend the queen.
The bill of £ 2.4 million taxpayers for redecorating Frogmore Cottage, and the Sussexes summer vacation, has also been criticized. The trip to Balmoral could have mitigated this somewhat with the public and with the queen herself.
But it is telling that, according to a well-placed source, Meghan is determined to conquer America by storm and is more focused on America than anywhere else & # 39 ;.
It is clearly the case that Meghan works extremely hard, often at five o'clock in the morning – motherhood shows no sign of slowing her down – and that she has the capacity to do a lot of good things.
Take for example the clothing collection that she makes with well-known brands such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis for Smart Works.
The charity is launched on Thursday and offers interview outfits and coaching for women with a disadvantaged background when they enter the job market.
It is undoubtedly a brilliant thing the Duchess deserved, but it has failed to make her feel she is pursuing her own projects, rather than what is expected from a senior member of the royal family. The queen, who has spent 67 years as a monarch, is right to worry.
There can only be one winner in the battle between royal duty and self-interest.
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