On September 25, 2018, Meghan Markle committed a faux pas so grievous it rippled outward across the internet, causing everyone in its path to absolutely just not even be able to believe it for literally a single second. As you might recall, while attending her first-ever solo event at the Royal Academy of Arts, Markle shocked the public by reportedly going against royal protocol (her typical wont) and closing — odious! — her own car door.
I shudder to recall.
Then, on September 10, 2019, Prince Harry reopened — or should I say reclosed — that same bitter wound. While attending the fifth anniversary of the Invictus Games, Harry reached out with his then-senior royal fingers and slammed shut the door to our hearts, as well as the door to the car in which he’d previously been riding. “Prince Harry shocks onlookers by breaking royal tradition and shutting his OWN car door — a year after Meghan Markle was praised for the same move,” read a Daily Mail headline about the event.
While it’s true that he and Markle shut their OWN car doors, whether or not the door-closing was against official royal protocol or simply against the unspoken way things are done was up for debate. “Usually, if you are a member of the royal family or a dignitary, you have a member of staff to open and close a car door for you,” etiquette expert William Hanson told the BBC at the time, clarifying that it was for security reasons rather than for pomp.
Regardless, Meghan and Prince Harry threw our lives into a tailspin with their reckless door-closing, and we have barely recovered. But now things are different. Since Meghan and Harry have stepped back as senior royal members, and are moving to North America, have the rules changed?
We reached out to Myka Meier, a royal etiquette expert and author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy, to see if she could clarify this for us. She said one of the biggest changes Harry and Meghan will face after stepping down is that, while they will retain their titles, “they will no longer have publicly funded royal aides with them.” These aides are in charge of everything “from holding handbags to opening and closing doors.”
While they’ll still likely have full-time security, Meier said we’re going to see them take a more casual approach to their public lives, and this casualness will not be considered a break in protocol. This new relaxed lifestyle would, yes, include performing activities “such as opening or closing their own doors.”
“Additionally,” Meier said, “the etiquette changes between Harry, Meghan, and the public.” This means they won’t expect a curtsy or bow if you run into them in Los Angeles, cold comfort in the wake of the door-closing news. “Everyone will now follow the protocol in the country and culture they are living in.” So you may offer “a simple handshake,” Meier said, “if you meet them in the U.S.”
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will close their own car doors forever now. But at least knowing there is no royal protocol break — not even a perceived royal protocol break — offers a bit of clarity. Or at least, I hope it does.