Though Meghan Markle is often cited as an example of a working woman who married into the British royal family, she’s far from the first to bear that mantle. The more modern generations set the stage for Markle by giving up their chosen professions after marrying into the family. From Princess Diana to Kate Middleton, it’s no longer a foreign concept for a royal bride to have a successful career before dedicating themselves to The Firm.
Historically, royal brides tended to be upper-class noblewomen from either Britain or from other kingdoms in Europe, so it’s a refreshing change of pace that the latest generation of royal brides worked real 9-5 jobs before marrying into the family. Meghan Markle famously gave up her career as an actress to wed Prince Harry, but she’s not the first working woman in the royal family, nor is she the first actress, either.
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Wallis Simpson, Actress
Queen Elizabeth’s uncle, former King Edward VIII, married American actress Wallis Simpson. Their impending marriage in conjunction with Simpson’s status as a divorcee caused a constitutional crisis, leading to him abdicating the throne less than a year after he ascended to it. The marriage was evidently a loving one, however, as it lasted until his death in 1972. In more recent history, another royal bride worked a much different job before her royal wedding, and she’s a far more beloved figure among royal fans.
Princess Diana, Childcare
Princess Diana married Prince Charles when she was only 20 years old, but she’d already had quite a few jobs under her belt by then. The famously loving mother evidently always had a soft spot for children, as a number of her early professions included working with the youth. She was a children’s dance instructor for a time before suffering a skiing accident, which led to her missing work. She soon found employment as a pre-school playgroup assistant and later worked as a nanny for an American family living in London.
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She also worked as an assistant for a nursery teacher at the Young England School. Alongside some of these jobs, Diana did cleaning work for her older sister and her friends and acted as a hostess at parties. Diana left her nursery assistant job after announcing her engagement to Charles in 1981.
Sarah Ferguson, A Smorgasbord Of Jobs
A few years after Diana’s nuptials, which were televised worldwide and became a cultural touchstone, came Sarah Ferguson’s marriage to Prince Andrew. Before they tied the knot, Ferguson, or Fergie as she’s commonly called, worked several jobs, including working as both a cleaner and a waitress in her teens. After graduating from secretarial college at age 18, Ferguson worked for an art gallery, and two different public relations firms in London before settling in with a publishing company.
Sophie, Public Relations
Another modern royal bride is the wife of Prince Edward, the queen’s youngest son: Sophie, the Countess of Wessex. Sophie worked in public relations before marrying Edward, and in fact, that’s exactly how the two first met. At the time, Sophie worked for Capital Radio in the press and promotions department.
The stars weren’t yet aligned for the future couple as Edward was dating Sophie’s friend. Years later, the two ran into each other again at a different event and hit it off. They enjoyed a long courtship during which Sophie continued to build her career. In 1996, Sophie launched her own PR agency, RJH Public Relations, which she ran with a partner for five years.
Kate Middleton, Accessories Buyer
Outside of Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton is the most recent working woman to marry into the royal family. Middleton and her now-husband Prince William met while in college and enjoyed an on-again, off-again relationship for years, which made Middleton a popular target for paparazzi. Middleton had to deal with the constant barrage of photographers even while on the job, one of her former employers revealed.
The Duchess of Cambridge worked as a part-time accessories buyer for the clothing brand Jigsaw for 12 months after graduating from college. While she and William were in school, they were protected by law from the overreach of the press, but their graduation meant it was open season for the media. As a result, Middleton’s former boss recalled seeing photographers lurking outside to take Middleton’s photo as a common occurrence and commended the younger woman for her grace under pressure.
After completing that job, Middleton curated a photography exhibition, showing that her interest in photography stretches back a long time. Middleton also did quite a lot of volunteer work, which no doubt prepared her for her current busy life as a royal.