All of the excitement over Prince Harry's engagement to American actress Meghan Markle comes paired with the sadness that his mother, Princess Diana, isn't here to share in the joy.
"It is days like today when I really miss having her around and miss being able to share the happy news," Harry said during a recent sit-down interview with the BBC. The prince only recently started speaking about his grief over losing his mother at such a young age.
We asked Diana's biographer Andrew Morton what advice the Princess of Wales would have had for her son about marriage: “She would have told him to know your own heart," Morton says. “Because when Diana listened to her heart, she realized she didn't want to continue in this sham of a marriage. I think that with Harry, she’d be thrilled that he’s followed his heart. That's what she always wanted for her boys to do."
Morton also points out that Markle is in a very different position than Diana was when she was first engaged to Charles back in 1981. "She’s 16 years older, she’s her own woman," Morton said.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during the BBC interview that followed the announcement of their engagement.
Markle is also far more media savvy and camera ready. "In the first engagement interview between Charles and Diana, Diana was 20. She was shy, she was nervous, she was blushing. She was the quintessential blushing bride to be," says Morton. "Now, look at the 2017 version of a future princess. We’ve got a woman who is glossy, groomed, and glamorous. She's camera-ready, and she’s a walking advert for the benefit of tooth-whitener."
Then there is the fact that Markle isn't marrying a direct heir to the throne. Harry is fifth in line—and will be sixth when George and Charlotte's younger sibling is born this spring—and their distance from the hot seat means they are slightly further from the bright spotlight that is trained on the monarch. "With every year that passes, Prince Harry is further away from the throne," says Morton.
Nonetheless, Markle and Harry could change the royal family almost as profoundly as Diana did in her time. "Meghan has a very powerful task because she symbolizes modern Britain. The fact that you have a biracial princess is a genuine and profound step change for the royal family."
She also has the tools to take up Diana's mantle as a princess of the people. "Far more than Prince Harry or even William in a way, Meghan is used to the camera, and so she will connect with the public in a way that other members [of the royal family] find more difficult," he says.
Harry and Meghan in Diana’s memorial garden at Kensington Palace.
Morton, who rightly predicted on Twitter that Markle and Harry would wed next May in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, also thinks the wedding venue says something about what type of royal couple Markle and Harry would like to be. "It’s a signal to people that they’re not going to be full-on attention seeking royals," he said. "Because they could have had the option of Westminster Abbey, like his brother, but to do so would have been to say 'We are now fully minted public figures.'
"With St. George’s Chapel, it’s more like the wedding of Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones. They’re a more low-key couple," Morton explained.
"But all that said, I think they’re going to find it very difficult to keep a lower profile because Meghan has blossomed into this role, and people, women especially, in Britain, are genuinely excited by her arrival into the royal family."
In addition to his books about Diana, Morton has written about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Madonna, and Monica Lewinsky, among others. His next work, Wallis in Love, shares "the untold life of the Duchess of Windsor, the woman who changed the monarchy." The book is out in February, but you can pre-order it here.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.