How Meghan Markle changed the Royal Family forever in just 40 months

As Meghan Markle walked alone down the aisle on her wedding day it was clear she was a royal bride like no other.

A woman of colour and divorced Hollywood actress with a strong feminist voice was marrying into a family rooted in tradition and shackled by protocol.

Prince Harry , waiting nervously at the altar, already knew his wife would break the royal mould, as his mother had 37 years earlier.

But the rest of his family had no idea how the Markle Sparkle would change their fortunes forever.

Or that the breath of fresh air she brought to the monarchy would soon become a whirlwind of change.

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In 40 months Meghan Markle transformed the House of Windsor and changed the old world order.

She made a stuffy institution relevant to a new generation, gave the monarch her first-mixed race grandchild and championed different causes.

Until her husband, haunted by Princess Diana’s fate, felt he couldn’t protect his wife and child or “thrive” in the royal spotlight.

So, at the end of this month the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will take the unprecedented step of “abdicating” for a new life with Archie, in America.

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And when they waved goodbye at Westminster Abbey on Thursday it brought a lump to many throats.

Because it felt like only yesterday that we first saw our favourite bachelor prince with the woman who’d stolen his heart. It was December 2016 and the couple, secretly dating since July, had snuck out to the theatre in London’s West End.

The following September Meghan broke with tradition by talking about Harry in a Vanity Fair magazine interview. “We’re a couple,” she said. “We’re in love.”

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Later that month they went public, holding hands at the Invitctus Games in Toronto.

Meghan’s ripped jeans and white shirt were an instant hit with fashion conscious youngsters who made her a style icon.

Photos of the couple smooching at the closing ceremony convinced us Harry had found “the one” and two months later the engagement was announced.

Their first joint interview proved Meghan was a natural communicator, determined to use her voice to promote unconventional causes.

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Christmas at Sandringham saw her trending on social media when she arrived for church in a hat compared to the poo emoji.

And after being criticised for wearing the wrong colour tights at a garden party she vowed to stick to her own style – be it bare legs, a “messy bun” or mixing Topshop with designer outfits.

Harry and Meghan’s wedding ceremony was utterly unique – with a gospel choir and that charismatic American preacher.

And her feminist independence shone through when she chose to walk herself down the aisle after the bitter fall out with her father and gave her own speech at the reception.

Following the wedding she broke with convention at official engagements by hugging strangers, telling people “Call me Meghan” and – shock, horror – shutting her own car door.

But she also made private visits to women’s charities and regularly joined volunteers at the community kitchen supporting those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

In February Meghan visited a charity supporting female sex workers. While helping pack food parcels she delighted staff by writing uplifting messages like “You are loved” and “You are special” on the bananas.

Throughout her pregnancy she was happy to show of her baby bump in figure-hugging dresses – a far cry from Diana’s smocks and voluminous coats

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But she also drew controversy by unconventionally jetting off to New York for a lavish baby-shower with celebrity pals.

The Sussexes broke with tradition again by refusing to reveal their plans for the May 2019 birth.

Instead they presented baby Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor – a unique name and no royal title – at the briefest photo call.

They had started to control their own publicity – using a personal photograph and releasing pictures on social media.

Like the one of Archie being introduced to his grandparents the Queen, Prince Philip and Meghan’s mum Doria Ragland – a touching image summing up the new face of the royal family.

And then it all started to get a bit stormy.

On their tour of South Africa with Archie last Autumn it was clear Meghan was struggling in the spotlight.

Harry complained of her being hounded and Meghan revealed her deep unhappiness to ITN’s Tom Bradby.

Storm Sussex was starting to build… and the wind of change was about to rock the monarchy.

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