It's been just over a month since Meghan Markle officially became the Duchess of Sussex, and she's already plunged headfirst into her royal commitments. This week, she made her Royal Ascot debut, arriving in a horse-drawn carriage before joining the Queen in the royal box to watch the opening day of the races. And last week, she took an even bolder step: her first royal outing with the Queen minus Prince Harry, as they visited Cheshire to officially open the Mersey Gateway Bridge. Now the Palace has announced that the Queen and Meghan Markle's next royal engagement will be for the Her Majesty's Young Leaders awards at Buckingham Palace on June 26. So what does it say about their relationship? Why does the Queen want Markle by her side at this particular event?
Well, the Queen's Young Leaders programme celebrates young people from across the 53 Commonwealth nations, so this may be the reason why Markle is attending. It seems fair to say that Markle clearly feels pretty passionate about the Commonwealth. In her engagement interview with Prince Harry, as this full transcript compiled by ABC shows, both of them referenced the Commonwealth in terms of where they'd like to invest their efforts. "With lots of young people running around the Commonwealth, that's where we’ll spend most of our time hopefully," Prince Harry revealed of their plans.
Markle then made history earlier this year,Vanity Fair reported, by attending the Commonwealth Youth Forum in April, an unprecedented move for someone not yet married into the Royal Family. And then in her most personal gesture, Markle's 16-foot wedding veil was hand-embroidered with a flower from each Commonwealth nation. So, could her attendance at the Young Leaders awards have been her idea?
As an annual event, one assumes the date has been in The Queen's diary for some time now, however, it was only confirmed on June 21 that Markle and Prince Harry would be accompanying her. Why the sudden change of plan to include the newlyweds? Could this have been Markle's choice?
As Harry attended the event last year, his own confirmation is perhaps a little unsurprising. But as Markle's trip to Cheshire proves, there's no expectation that if one attends something, the other must go, too. Perhaps Markle did put herself forward to attend this one out of her own personal interest in the area of work.
In his first speech as the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, Prince Harry reiterated that his wife is keen to dedicate more of her time as a new royal to the Commonwealth. He said: "I am also incredibly grateful that the woman I am about to marry, Meghan, will be joining me in this work, of which she too is hugely excited to take part it." Markle is evidently signalling the direction her royal life will take: one closely entwined with the Commonwealth nations.
What exactly are the Queen's Young Leaders awards? Launched in 2014 and wrapping up this year, the official website states, "The Queen's Young Leaders programme discovers, celebrates and supports exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth, leaving a lasting legacy for Her Majesty The Queen."
The awards are given to young people between 18 to 29 years who are making a significant impact in their communities. And it's not just a title, either. According to the website, "Winners of this prestigious award will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their award from Her Majesty, The Queen. With this support, Award winners will be expected to continue and develop the amazing work they are already doing in their communities."
This year's winners include Hauwa Ojeifo, from Nigeria, who launched a mental health support group for women called She Writes Women; Alice Ahadi Magaka, from Tanzania, who set up The Pink Box Project to distribute sanitary products and prevent young people missing school during their periods; Trisha Shetty, from India, who founded the youth-led organisation SheSays to promote gender equality; and Leanne Armitage, from the U.K., who founded Leanne's Amazing Medics to encourage young people of colour and working-class young people to enter medicine.
A month into her royal duties, the Queen and Meghan Markle appear to be getting on famously, going by their previous outings together — even down to their body language, according to expert Dr. Peter Collett. He previously told Bustle when commenting on their trip to Cheshire: "It looks like a granny and granddaughter outing together, they look terribly familiar."
The Queen even guided Markle on royal protocol during their trip, Hello! reported, informing her on who should get in the car first before they travelled together. So, it looks like Markle will continue to embrace her royal duties at the Young Leaders ceremony — and most likely have a jolly old time with the Queen while she's at it.