You can always tell when two people have chemistry. It charges the atmosphere around them, every bit as undeniable as the mysterious forces that compel salmon to swim upstream.
It’s vital, primal, dangerous, exciting. And there’s no doubt Meghan and Harry have it.
Take these new royal engagement pictures released by Kensington Palace yesterday. One hardly knows where to look.
It is more like a publicity shoot for a steamy Hollywood movie — Fifty Shades Of Windsor? — or one of those over-the-top perfume TV ads you see around this time of year. It’s certainly not the kind of thing I’ve ever seen in any Court Circular.
Harry and Meghan have chemistry. Take these new royal engagement pictures released by Kensington Palace yesterday. One hardly knows where to look!
It is more like a publicity shoot for a steamy Hollywood movie — Fifty Shades Of Windsor? — or one of those over-the-top perfume TV ads you see around this time of year
What with the sweeping ballgown, tumbling hair and come-hither looks — not to mention the hand-holding, arms clinging and general lip quivering — you almost expect dear Harry to rip off that bespoke jacket of his and plunge, Darcy-like, into the lake.
Harry’s mother, Diana — a devotee of sweeping romantic sagas and a woman with more than a taste for melodrama (think of that famous pose by the Taj Mahal) — would have loved it. I’m not so sure. To my mind, the British public tend to like a little more decorum and dignity from their royals.
Of course, no one expects Harry and Meghan to demonstrate the same level of restraint as his great-grandmother did on her engagement, in which Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon sat next to her fiance, not so much as giving him a glance. But a tiny nod to protocol would have been nice.
Instead, we have an almost deliberate, some might say petulant, flouting of convention. Starting with that over-the-top ballgown with the Marie Antoinette-style price tag of £56,000.
What with the sweeping ballgown, tumbling hair and come-hither looks — not to mention the hand-holding, arms clinging and general lip quivering — you almost expect dear Harry to rip off that bespoke jacket of his and plunge, Darcy-like, into the lake
Not for Meghan a nice bit of LK Bennett or even a Catherine Walker. Oh no. This is from the stable of Ralph & Russo, a label deliberately created to help the very rich dispose of their cash by dreaming up ever more extravagant ways of stitching together a few pieces of fabric.
Espousing the principle that more is rarely enough, R&R specialises in the most expensive materials and laborious techniques. There is not a creation of theirs that isn’t dripping with crystals, feathers, or floor-sweeping trains. Some take 3,000 hours to make. All for something that, in this case at least, barely covers the wearer’s modesty.
But who cares? Harry and Meghan are on a mission to modernise the monarchy, even at the risk of turning it into a cross between Strictly and Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Which is probably why, as well as selecting R&R and Victoria Beckham for Meghan’s wardrobe, they also chose New York photographer Alexi Lubomirski — famed for portraits of Hollywood’s leading women.
Harry and Meghan are on a mission to modernise the monarchy, even at the risk of turning it into a cross between Strictly and Keeping Up With The Kardashians
The result is a set of shots that, while undeniably slick, have an air of cheesiness to them. Meghan, of course, is used to the idea of ‘making love’ to the camera. She’s been doing it for a living for 20-odd years; Harry seems a little less certain.
Nevertheless, bless him, he’s giving it his all. There is more than a hint of a James Bond smoulder in the one where their hands rest on his knee, a studied wolfishness to his smile as she leans in, her perfect pearly whites putting his English dentistry somewhat to shame as she caresses his beard and allows him to envelope her in the warmth of his coat.
As they hold hands, sharing a joke or perhaps fresh from an embrace behind the shrubbery, they could easily be promoting some slick Jermyn Street tailor, or maybe one of those watches that can get you to the North Pole while also making you the world’s greatest tennis player.
That the Prince is utterly besotted, I have no doubt. As, I’m sure is she. That the couple will unleash winds of change in the stuffy House of Windsor I equally have no doubt. It’s that those winds might turn into a hurricane that worries me.
If only there were something a little less artful about the studied lopsidedness of Meghan’s smile, the way she closes her eyes, angles her head, the actress in her impossible to tame.
These extraordinary pictures were taken by a brilliant celebrity photographer. The trouble is that once the royals become celebrities, they risk turning a monarchy that has endured for centuries into a soap opera.
And soap operas, as we know, are alarmingly subject to whim and fashion.