Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, is turning 38 on August 4. To celebrate, we reached out to royal reporter Omid Scobie for the scoop on how she might be spending her big day. As a royal contributor for Good Morning America and the royal correspondent for Harper’s Bazaar, Scobie is the authority on all things Sussex. Read on to find out how he transformed his career as an entertainment reporter into the exciting field of royal reporting — and to hear about some of the remarkable projects Meghan has taken on since becoming royal.
Katie Couric: It’s the Duchess of Sussex’s birthday on Sunday. Any idea how she’ll be celebrating?
Omid Scobie: Prince Harry will be back from Google Camp in Sicily, where he gave a speech about the fight against climate change, so they’ll be spending Meghan’s birthday quietly as a family. The Sussexes have been so busy this year that I can imagine her birthday will simply involve a well-deserved day of rest with a few friends — and, of course, precious moments with Archie.
Meghan has already had such an impact on the world, and she’s only been royal for a little over a year. Can you tell us about some of the charities she’s been working with?
I remember a palace aide telling me before the wedding how eager she was to “hit the ground running” with her philanthropic efforts, and hasn’t she just? As well as being patron of four British organisations (The Mahew, Smart Works, The National Theatre and The Association of Commonwealth Universities), we’re also seeing Meghan work on a global stage as the Vice President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. Plus she and Harry are currently busy setting up their Sussex Royal charity, which launches alongside new initiatives for the couple next month.
It seems like her patronage with Smart Works is particularly important to Meghan, since she featured them so prominently in British Vogue. Why does this organization hold so much significance to her? What sort of an impact has she had on them so far?
The aim of Smart Works is to empower and equip women from vulnerable and long term unemployed backgrounds, with the skills and confidence to get back into the workplace. Over sixty percent of women leave the service with a job and it’s that tangible result that Meghan has really connected with. She has even mentored some of the women herself during private visits.
Since Meghan’s involvement with the charity was announced in January, their growth has been rapid — helping over 50% more women in more parts of the country than last year. And expect that growth to accelerate in September when Meghan launches a workwear capsule collection to benefit the charity.
Many Americans have a fascination with the British royal family, but at the same time, a lot of the traditions may seem foreign to us, since we don’t have an equivalent over here. What are some aspects of royal life that Americans might find surprising?
Those traditions can be quite hard to follow for us Brits too! Take hierarchy. Meghan has to curtsy to members of the royal family that are more senior than Harry, including The Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Duchess Camilla, William and Kate. Sounds easy enough, right? But this is where it gets confusing, as the order of succession also has nothing to do with it. For example, if Harry is also in the room then Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie must curtsy for Meghan. But if he’s not, then she must do it for them. I could list several more of these but our heads will start to spin!
Similarly, royal reporting is also quite a unique speciality in journalism. How did you become a royal reporter?
I used to run the European bureau for a popular US magazine and it was there I started covering the royals when William and Kate got married in 2011. Over the following years I attended all of their engagements and overseas trips and got to know them personally at private receptions. In 2017 I decided to focus on the subject, particularly the work that they do, full time and it’s been a mile a minute since! Harry and Meghan’s marriage has brought a modernity to the House of Windsor that makes the royal beat extremely exciting right now.
What have been some of your most memorable moments as a royal reporter?
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some of the most incredible places with the job — from Malaysia to Botswana to India to Fiji. I always say that travelling with the royals is like being on the most surreal of class trips, especially when you’re sharing flights together. I have particularly fond memories of touring South America with Prince Harry in 2014, including the time he found my passport after an engagement in Sao Paolo and had one of his protection officers race it to me at the airport so I didn’t miss my flight.
Will you be traveling with the Sussexes in the fall for their royal tour in Africa? And if so, what can we expect from the tour?
Absolutely! It’s going to be a really varied itinerary covering all of the couple’s areas of interests — animal conservation, environmental issues, female empowerment, gender equality and universal education. Meghan will remain in South Africa with Archie for the trip and take a few solo engagements while Harry will be visiting Botswana, Malawi and Angola, including the same spot his mother Princess Diana walked famously through an active landmine field in 1997. It’s now a thriving town with a medical center and local college.
This interview appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.