As a newly-minted duchess, Meghan Markle is pretty much guaranteed to steal the spotlight wherever she goes – except when in the presence of her famous new family.
Typically, royal engagements are perfectly choreographed and protocol-focused events, with each person firmly relegated to their place.
For Meghan and Prince Harry, this meant they had to sit a row behind the more senior members of the family during Monday’s Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.
With the births of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, Harry has been bumped down to sixth in line to the throne, and was therefore seated near to Prince Andrew, who is seventh in line.
The Queen meanwhile, sat in the front row beside Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince William and Kate; the future kings and queens of the Commonwealth.
Always a step behind
While it may have looked like a snub, Harry and Meghan’s seating simply came down to the royal ‘pecking order’ and shows how the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been pushed further towards the perimeter of the inner-royal circle.
If you watch the royals walk into a formal event, you’ll notice the same thing; as first in line to the throne, Charles and his wife Camilla take precedence, and walk immediately behind the Queen.
They are always followed by William and Kate, who are also expected to reign one day, and are treated with a heightened level of seniority at royal events when compared to Harry and Meghan.
At the family’s annual Trooping the Colour balcony appearance last June, royal watchers were shocked when fan favourite Meghan again stood behind her sister-in-law Kate.
“She was not as prominent perhaps as some people might have expected, but there’s a pecking order,” Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, told PEOPLE .
“There’s no slight intended, but William being the older, more senior brother would go out [first] with his wife.”
Meghan’s physical position at official events is further compounded by the fact she’s not a blood royal and often walks a step behind her husband at official events.
“It is standard practice for British royalty to allow the ‘blood royal’ to walk or stand a few paces in front of the royalty who has married in to the family, as with HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and TRH The Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” etiquette expert William Hanson told the Daily Mail.
“’Even though TRH the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are currently presenting their own, informal, tactile interpretation of British monarchy, they are still adhering to the precedent with Meghan knowing she, as a non-blood royal, should defer to born royalty.”
Indeed, looking back on photos of William and Kate while they are on royal tour, the Duchess of Cambridge can be seen walking slightly behind her husband.
And the practice is even more evident with the Queen and Prince Philip, as the Duke of Edinburgh always keeps a respectful distance from his wife.