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Former royal correspondent Jennie Bond on why actress, duchess and mum-to-be Meghan is an exhilarating breath of fresh air

© Dominic Lipinski/PA WireThe Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

So last week, Prince Harry and wife Meghan announced they would be keeping the birth of their first child private. Then came uproar.

Even for Britain’s most pored over family, speculation surrounding the imminent arrival of the latest royal baby has become ever more fevered.

Have the couple decided on a home birth, due sometime very soon as far as we know?

Will they choose traditional royal nannies or, heaven forfend, a manny?

And will Meghan pop out to the gates for a picture just as soon as she can get out of bed?

Here, JENNIE BOND, BBC royal correspondent for 14 years, casts an expert eye over proceedings and hails Meghan as a royally good thing.

A couple of years ago, Meghan Markle was a moderately well-known American actress, starring in a TV show that neither Prince Harry nor many of us in the UK had seen.

Today, as his wife, she is a senior member of our royal family and one of the most famous women in the world.

She has been put on a pedestal, with newspapers and commentators swooning over her Hollywood good looks and feminist credentials. How different she is, we all cooed. How independent and confident, how refreshing for the stuffy old royal family.

And, then in time-honoured media fashion, as soon as the Duchess did indeed start behaving like the mature and principled woman she is, we all set about knocking her off that pedestal as we bleat about her not doing things the “royal way.”

Well, good for her, I say.

Tradition can be seriously over-rated. Many of us enjoy the pomp and ceremony that still surround the monarchy, but there has to be a place, too, for evolution, modernisation and change to ensure that this ancient institution reflects today’s society.

And Meghan Markle represents all of that, wrapped up in one convenient and highly attractive parcel. From the start she has been a potent symbol of how the royal family has learned from its bruising past mistakes.

You only have to compare her treatment with that of Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American so reviled by the establishment that her lover, Edward VIII, had to renounce the throne for her. Being American was bad enough. Being divorced was untenable. The best that could be said is that she was not an actress.

© Jonathan Hordle/REX/Shutterstock
Jennie Bond

Fifty years later, Koo Stark, another American who was, indeed, an actress caught another royal eye. But she, too, was soon deemed unsuitable for her smitten lover Prince Andrew, and was finally shown the door.

And then there are the scars left by the treatment of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Young, innocent and betrayed in love, she proved feisty enough to cling on to her marriage for longer than was realistic but, in a blaze of damaging publicity, she was eventually ejected from the royal family. And her death cemented the harm done to the monarchy’s reputation.

Fast forward to Meghan – not only a divorced American actress, but with dual heritage and a track record as an outspoken feminist.

On paper, she didn’t stand a chance of being accepted, and yet, thankfully, she was quickly welcomed into the family. She was even invited to spend Christmas at Sandringham with her Prince before they were married.

This was the Queen, not Meghan, breaking with royal tradition.

The Queen has stayed true to her pledge after Diana’s death that lessons had to be learned. She is extremely close to Harry, who calls her gran, and understands that he and Meghan want to do things their way.

I don’t think she will be in the least perturbed by the idea that Meghan would prefer to give birth at home. Far from breaking with any royal tradition, this is exactly the way the Queen herself gave birth to all four of her babies.

It was Diana who shook things up by opting to have her children in hospital. And that started the pattern of crowds of photographers, reporters and fans standing vigil outside until parents and baby emerge for the obligatory photo-call.

I don’t think there are many women who would want to submit themselves to that kind of public scrutiny within hours of one of the most painful, if joyful, experiences of their life. So why shouldn’t Meghan and Harry enjoy some privacy during those precious first few days with their new baby? I can tell you, there’ll be scores of journalists mightily relieved that they won’t have to loiter outside a hospital for days on end with nothing to say.

And if the Duchess wants an all-female gynaecological team, there will be no objections. The Queen’s trusted doctors – who all happen to be men – will be no more than a phone call away if needed, along with a helicopter if any emergency arises.

There’s talk, too, of the Sussex’s considering a male nanny…or Manny. So what? It strikes me as a good idea to get away from gender stereotypes. And it’s time the royals moved on from nannies in ghastly brown uniforms and lace-up shoes who look like something from the early part of the last century. Surely he or she should look more normal for the poor child?

Meghan has undoubtedly changed Harry. And for the better.

He is more honest and open about his feelings and failings, more focused on campaigns that mean a lot to him, such as mental health.

As a couple, they have set up their own household, away from William and Kate – spawning rumours of a rift.

There may be brotherly rivalry, but it’s never easy for the spare to the heir to establish his place.

To my mind, Meghan is good news for the monarchy. The Queen Mother was a strong woman, as is her daughter, the Queen. So why should the Duchess jettison her opinions and philosophy about life simply because she fell in love with a Prince?

We shall get word and photos of their baby when they feel like it. And that, I believe, is fair enough.