Meghan’s secret revealed in Hollywood moment
As the morning African sunlight flickered through the trees at the University of Johannesburg and cheering young students shoved to catch a glimpse on the penultimate day of the royal tour, Meghan Markle slid out of her royal Range Ranger and gifted us a peek at someone we haven't seen in a while: movie star Meghan.
Everything about this day was out of whack. To quote that nun from Madeline, something was not right. The day began back in time, and it also ended that way - with her husband releasing an extraordinary statement and launching a lawsuit against a publication for publishing a private letter from Meghan to her father, Thomas Markle, a man in desperate need of attention and a clean outfit. This isn't royal behaviour we've seen before. It's old Hollywood action. A no-nonsense power move that would send a firm message.
But before Harry stepped up and took matters into his own hands, Meghan was solo. Her husband was still in Malawi and wouldn't be reuniting with his family until he flew in later that evening. So Meghan took the reins in JoBurg.
Her royal Range pulled to a stop and out she hopped. The springtime sunlight does amazing things for the complexion and the Duchess was positively glowing. It takes a lot to impress apathetic arts degree students but even these undergraduates ran to an overarching concrete bridge to witness the royal arrive. It wasn't cheering that echoed through the campus - it was ear puncturing screaming. The kind your mum and her drunk mates would let rip at a Fleetwood Mac concert.
There have been crowds on this tour. Mainly at places where the couple has done official walkabouts through the streets to meet the public - more specifically, in Cape Town's cultural hub Bo-Kaap where the royals were accosted by a sassy dancing clown. But this appearance was different. It wasn't a public meet and greet. Still, word spread around the university campus like a sexually transmi- … it spread like things that spread around university campuses.
"Meghan! Meghaaaaan! We love you! Oh my god!" young women howled from above as the lone Sussex smiled and waved.
She hasn't had this kind of treatment since she walked red carpets back in Hollywood. Usually the events she attends as a royal are dignified with polite admiration. But university students don't care about reverence and these yahoos got wild.
Meghan immediately slipped into movie star mode. She effortlessly managed the cool breeze and held down her Banana Republic trench coat mini dress while her hair blew in the wind as if it were a '90s music video clip. The more she smiled and waved at the growing crowd, the louder her fans roared.
Today's red carpet was a well-worn 1970s brick driveway and she strutted over it in stilettos without a quiver. Easy breezy.
Maybe it was the weekend away from the ol' ball and chain that made her feel so carefree and in control - able to relax back into the old Meghan of yore. More accurately, perhaps it was some time away from that frazzled palace minder Marnie that really allowed her to loosen up.
Oh, haven't you heard? Marnie had a breakdown. I lie, Marnie's too in control and wouldn't allow a breakdown to interfere with her rigid schedule. But she has had to take a time out in Botswana over the weekend with Harry. As much as she wishes she could, not even Marnie can be in two places at once.
Marnie has really become the star of the show and you all deserve as much Marnie coverage as can be provided. Don't fret - she'll return tomorrow and I'll live another day to annoy her.
But Marnie doesn't just go away without ensuring her spot is adequately filled. Readers, meet Julie, who is the official Marnie 2.0. She's not as frazzled as the old Marnie. In fact, she's rather meek. Meek but in control. We can attain that from her practical footwear. She seems timid but don't even dare try pull tricks with her. I'm talking from experience.
If the tabloid reports are remotely true and Meghan is actually in fact a diva, she would've met her match in Julie today. Julie would've snipped something British at her and that Duchess would've been knocked right back to Canada.
A lot of supporting characters have been introduced in these recaps over the tour and we should probably do a roll call. We've accounted for Marnie and her stress leave. We've ticked off her substitute Julie. Oh, we almost missed Graham. He reckons his main job is PPO - which is wanky palace lingo for "personal protection officer" - but from keen observation, his key duties include guiding the royal Range Ranger into a parallel park and opening Meghan's door. He's basically a random over-protective dad.
Look, Graham's a total dreamboat and I'm hoping to secure a date with him by tour's end. I should note, the only time we've spoken is when he identified me as a security risk and asked for proof of identity. It was electric.
Meghan hung out inside the university for a long time. For the duration of the roundtable, the royal Range Rovers sped off and hooned around JoBurg. Where'd they go? Probably the Maccas the drive-thru. I don't know, prove me wrong.
Up north, Harry finished off his solo work in Malawi while we chilled with his missus. What has he been up to? Oh, this and that. He took over the National Geographic Instagram feed as guest editor and his posts actually reveal a lot about who he is as a person. Everyone has a schtick on the 'Gram. For some, it's being a thirst trap. Others are really into latte art. Harry's thing is sky porn. Every photo he posts has been taken while lying on the ground looking up at a tree as it sways in the sky. It was lovely the first three times but everyone needs some variety in their #kontent and he could've spiced things up with a Speedo pic in the bathroom mirror with the toilet in the background. It's simply timeless.
Maybe all that time staring at the sky allowed him time to think. No, scratch that. It allowed him time to stew. Stew over everything - the bad press, the criticism of his newly installed Freedom kitchen at Frogmore Cottage. But most importantly, he stewed over his mouthy father-in-law Thomas. Something had to be done.
Back inside the concrete walls at his wife's roundtable discussion in Jozi, Meghan championed gender equality and access to higher education before announcing a series of "gender grants".
"When a woman is empowered it changes absolutely everything in the community and starting an educational atmosphere is really a key point of that," she said, after checking her note cards - the first time we've ever seen her refer to prompts. Huge.
"It's very exciting today, and I will use a note card for this because, my goodness, this last bit I can't screw up," she gushed earlier.
It was a milestone for the Duchess. Solo and in control, she harnessed her own success, experience and wisdom and used it to inspire other women studying to be the best in their fields.
For masters student Tumi Mampame - who was involved in the roundtable - there was one obvious bottom line.
And she revealed the Duchess's secrets. They weren't like my secrets - the ones I keep written in a notebook on my desk and are mainly just mean observations about my colleagues plus some magic spells. These secrets were different. The keys to her success! They're unattainable, so don't even bother trying. Not today, ma'am.
We asked Tumi what she gleaned was the most inspirational trait of the duchess and her takeaway was loud and clear.
"Besides the fact that she's beautiful?" she laughed. "She's also really smart and she seems genuine and caring enough. But beauty helps."
Indeed, beauty is the only thing that matters. All of us are screwed.
James Weir is in South Africa covering the royal tour. He is a guest of South African Tourism and Cathay Pacific.
For more observations about his relationship with Graham and being a high security risk, follow him on Twitter and Facebook: @hellojamesweir