Joanna Williams Joanna Williams

Meghan’s youth speech was all about her

(Photo: Getty)

The Duchess of Sussex has been busy. In the past fortnight Meghan has treated us to two new episodes of her podcast as well as a lengthy spill-all interview in the Cut magazine. And now here she is in Britain, making her first speech since leaving the Royal Family.

Battles over security apparently resolved, Meghan addressed the One Young World Summit in Manchester. As far as public appearances go, they do not come much easier than this. One Young World combines the slickness of lavishly funded corporate events with feel good vibes about making the world a better place. Meghan’s association with the NGO stretches back almost a decade. Last night, she was clearly among friends or, perhaps more precisely, fans. Members of the public and journalists tempted to veer off-script were kept at bay.

Make no mistake: there clearly was a script. This was Meghan the actress starring in her favourite and most carefully crafted role: herself. And how she performed! Meghan positively shone in last night’s role as humble ingénue turned duchess and world saviour. The repetition, pauses for effect, smiles and hand gestures were all bang on cue.

Her speech is not professing to teach anyone how to be a leader, but simply how to be Meghan

Sussex Squad please note: it was Meghan herself who recalled her former profession. Once upon a time she was ‘just the girl from Suits’ she told delegates. So what if most of those present were far too young to have any idea what she was on about. The carefully selected future leaders were more than capable of grasping the ‘and look at me now’ subtext.

Meghan is a perfect fit for One Young World. After attending its annual summit, young delegates graduate to become global ambassadors. In this role they are ‘funded, mentored and supported to accelerate change in their communities’. Details as to who provides the funding and exactly what changes will be accelerated are all difficult to determine. It seems safe to assume that One Young World is fully signed up to a shopping list of progressive values: sustainability, diversity, inclusion, equality. What’s missing in substance is made up for in woke cliches. This is Meghan’s comfort zone.

Her summit speech had been billed as focusing on gender equality. On the day that the UK’s third female Prime Minister was announced, Meghan had remarkably little to say on the topic. So what we got, of course, was Meghan.

We learnt of her own journey as a campaigner. We learnt of the transformative potential of One Young World – on Meghan. Back in 2014, when she first hooked up with the organisation, the ‘nervous’ and ‘overwhelmed’ actress did not feel like she ‘belonged’ among the ‘world leaders, humanitarians, prime ministers and activists that I had such a deep and long-standing respect and admiration for’. The ‘girl from Suits’ was overawed to have been ‘allowed in, to pull up a seat at the table’:

I was so overwhelmed by this experience, I think I even saved my little paper place-marker with my name on it. Just proof: proof that I was there, proof that I belonged, because the truth was, I wasn’t sure that I belonged.

How sweet. Sure, the ‘I think’ is a useful cover for accusations that recollections about this anecdote ‘may vary’. But, by this point, who cares if we are getting Meghan’s truth rather than the truth. Her speech is not professing to teach anyone how to be a leader, but simply how to be Meghan. So we learn that it is because Meghan is now a mother that her world view has ‘expanded exponentially’ and she now sees the future through the eyes of her children.

There was the by now habitual nod to Harry, of course. The Duke was there on stage, sat on a bench, firmly relegated to supporting actor. Meghan said that being back in Britain with her husband made ‘it all feel full circle’. I am surely not the only one who detected an eye-roll from the Prince turned trophy husband.

Harry’s presence may provide another clue as to why Meghan did not go big on gender equality. The girl who – according to her own oft-repeated recollections – penned an angry letter to complain about sexism in washing up liquid advertisements before forging an acting career for herself, is now in the public eye solely because of her husband and in-laws. It’s for this reason that every podcast, interview and speech she delivers requires nods to Harry. Hardly a feminist triumph.

But let’s not dwell on this. Let’s get back to the platitudes. The wannabe young leaders gathered in Manchester are the future. And the present. If they just cast off all self-doubt and really truly believe in themselves they can change the world. They just need to marry a Prince first.