OPINION: If Harry pops the question, Meghan should say no
PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle - an actress known for her role on Suits and seen this month on the cover of Vanity Fair - seem to be on the brink of matrimony.
The couple was seen for the first time at an official royal event recently (the Invictus Games), which means an engagement announcement is likely imminent.
But if he pops the question, I hope she doesn't accept.
Not that it wouldn't be thrilling to see Prince Harry, 33, marry a bi-racial, American divorcee who is three years his senior and a graduate of Northwestern. It would be! Markle seems like a fun-loving, interesting, talented human being. Unfortunately, these are qualities that can easily be stamped out, or at least severely tamped down, by becoming a princess.
No one, surely, can forget how unhappy royal life made the spirited Princess Diana after she married Prince Charles in 1981. Before their divorce in 1991 her misery grew so deep that she developed an eating disorder. According to tapes published in the Daily Mail, she also engaged in a range of other self-harming behaviours - from cutting to throwing herself down the stairs.
It would be nice to think that times have changed since Diana was chased by the paparazzi and driven into a tunnel 20 years ago, crashing and dying as their flashbulbs still popped. You'd think the pressures of constantly being in the public eye, scrutinised by an invasive press, would somehow lessen after that shocking incident.
Sadly, that's not the case.
Chelsy Davy, who Harry dated for seven years, told The Times that the spotlight she was under during their relationship was "crazy and scary and uncomfortable".
After that, Cressida Bonas and Harry split because "she could not take the public scrutiny and being judged by total strangers," according to the Daily Mail.
Markle has already been on the receiving end of abuse. Only a few months into her royal courtship, she was bombarded with tweets laced with racism and sexism.
It was so bad that Kensington Palace had to issue a statement condemning the attacks, declaring: "Some of it has been hidden from the public - the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker and loved one in her life."
If Meghan does marry Harry, the harassment will only get worse. And then she will have no way out.
Because it's unlikely that Markle, who also appeared in the movies Horrible Bosses and Remember Me, will be able to continue acting. So far, there hasn't been a single female commoner who has married into the highest echelons of the Windsor family who has maintained a successful career.
Sophie Rhys-Jones - who got hitched to Prince Edward in 1999 - had a PR company before they met. But that business went kaput in 2015 after she made indiscreet comments about the in-laws, proving that business and royalty don't mix.
Kate Middleton worked as a photographer and web designer for her family's party planning business before her marriage to Prince William in 2011, quitting shortly after they became engaged.
Now that Kate has become a full-time duchess and mother of royal spawn, her sister, Pippa, (who has no royal title) has taken the heat for trying to find gainful employment. Her book on party planning, Celebrate, was released in 2012 and panned by critics who claimed she was trying to capitalise on her royal connections.
After being named a Vanity Fair columnist in 2013, Pippa gave it up; friends told the Daily Mail she was "reined in" by Prince William. Today, Pippa no longer even writes a blog for her parents' business.
Educated at private schools and shaped by Hollywood, Markle can't help but bring to mind Grace Kelly, another US-born actress and commoner who married into royalty. After Kelly wed Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, she was unable to continue acting and was reportedly disliked by many in the principality for being American. As her friend Lee Grant told the Huffington Post, Grace "was so lonely and unhappy."
That's not to say that there aren't perks to being a royal. Marrying Prince Harry would afford Markle access to plenty of houses and jewels. But if they mean giving up the work you enjoy and dealing with constant needless vitriol, those houses and jewels come at a very high cost. (Plus, she's on TV - she can already buy houses and jewels.)
Still, I'm all for true love. And for that I have a solution. If the royal family is as modern and evolved as it now claims to be, why don't Harry and Meghan just skip marriage altogether and simply "live in sin"? It would be in keeping with relationship trends in the UK.
According to the Office for National Statistics, as of 2014, one in eight British couples live together out of wedlock.
By simply shacking up with her prince, Meghan can avoid the institution that results in women being put under the most terrifying microscope. She could even keep her job and maintain the freedom she has enjoyed for so many years.
That sure seems like a better chance for happily ever after than the alternative.
This article was originally published on The New York Post