The “Secret but Powerful Message” Behind Meghan’s Last Outfit as a Working Royal

She wore the look two years ago this week.

Meghan Markle
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tomorrow marks the annual Commonwealth Day Service, back this year after a hiatus in 2021 due to the pandemic. The last Commonwealth Day Service, held on March 9, 2020, at Westminster Abbey, was memorably the last engagement Prince Harry and Meghan Markle undertook as working royals. The event capped off a power trio of farewell dresses Meghan wore during her last week as a working royal—it’s hard to forget the electric blue Victoria Beckham at the Endeavour Fund Awards on March 5, the Safiyaa red cape dress at the Mountbatten Music Festival on March 7, and, finally, the bright green Emilia Wickstead at the Commonwealth Day Service, which blew in the wind as she left the Abbey that day. (We know you can picture all three of those looks in your mind.)

But, says royal expert Christine Ross, Meghan used the Emilia Wickstead dress in particular to send a “secret but powerful message,” according to the Mirror.  

“One of the most iconic looks is going to be her green Emilia Wickstead cape dress,” Ross said on the Mirror’s podcast, “Pod Save the Queen.” “That cape blowing in the wind as she walked into the church and then walked out of the church, which was such an emotional moment for so many people as it was their last formal engagement as royals. That green dress will stand out in history books, I think.”

What casual observers of Meghan’s fashion might not know is that there is a deeper message behind the Duchess of Sussex’s specific choice of Emilia Wickstead as the designer behind her finale look. Ross explained there is a “complicated story” between Meghan and Wickstead, which stemmed from an interview the designer did with a magazine.

Ross said that Wickstead described Meghan’s 2018 wedding dress—designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy—as “simple,” a quote taken out of context and used to make readers believe she was criticizing the gown.

“It was a pull quote from a larger interview,” Ross said. “She really didn’t say anything negative. People thought Emilia Wickstead had really wronged Meghan, and it turned out that Emilia Wickstead hadn’t wronged Meghan—it was a pull quote. Maybe a month or so later, Meghan actually wore a custom Emilia Wickstead dress, and that situation shows the power of Meghan’s fashion choices. She was able to say with this fashion choice, Emilia Wickstead and I are great. We’re on great terms. That whole thing was a huge misunderstanding and look at the lovely dress she designed for me.”

In addition to becoming one of Meghan’s more memorable looks, Emilia Wickstead is a longtime royal favorite, particularly of Kate Middleton, who wears the designer frequently. Sophie, Countess of Wessex has also been seen in Emilia Wickstead.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.