With so many well-wishers all over the world, photographers are keen to take pictures of members of the royal family as they conduct their official engagements (mainly so we can all note down what they’re wearing, and then buy it immediately).
Meghan Markle has only recently started attending such events, following the announcement of her engagement to Prince Harry back in November 2017. Kate Middleton, meanwhile, is now a relatively longstanding member of the royal family, having been making official appearances since February 2011, two months before she married Prince William.
But as Meghan’s official duties become increasingly frequent, we’ve noticed a big difference between how she and the Duchess of Cambridge have their photographs taken. Kate, you’ll come to notice, never looks directly at the camera.
She always averts her gaze.
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Meghan, on the other hand, often looks right down the lens.
With just four official royal engagements under her belt, there are already several snaps of her direct gaze.
But what does the difference in behaviour mean? We asked body language expert and author of The Body Language Bible, Judi James, why she thinks their paparazzi approaches differ so much, and what it says about them.
“Although Meghan is the same age as Kate, there is a virtual generational difference in their relationships with the camera. Like many young women of the selfie generation, Meghan’s habit of doing what is called ‘camera courting’ (addressing the camera with a direct eye gaze), suggests a desire to communicate openly and confidently in the way that her peers would do via social media and blogs.”
This, James notes, is “the same trait she showed during her engagement interview and press call, when she seemed to not only take the lead in terms of choreographing the body language but she also spoke more readily and eloquently than previous royal brides-to-be.”
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But while you might imagine this “camera courting” is something Meghan learnt from her previous job as an actress, Judi James says it’s not.
“Actors spend their careers avoiding looking straight into camera,” the body language expert explains. “A TV actor like Meghan would behave more like Kate, allowing the camera to court her. If she did accidentally glance into the lens during filming, the whole scene would have to be re-shot as the invisible wall between the actor and their audience would have been breached.”
“There is a moment in an actor’s life when they do have to court the cameras directly as Meghan does, and that is during red carpet appearances. This is the one occasion when an actor will learn to pick out the cameras in the crowds and engage it with prolonged bouts of direct eye contact to get the shot. It could be that this red carpet technique is the one Meghan is mimicking when she works the crowds with Harry.”
So that’s why James believes Meghan engages with the camera in the way she does—but what about Kate?
“Kate’s relationship with the cameras is much more passive,” notes James. “The fact she has even got behind the camera herself to snap some of her children’s’ official photos suggests a slightly more introverted personality than the very camera-confident Meghan.”
“William has always seemed keen to keep the full glare of the press spotlight away from his wife and her lack of direct contact could be a symptom of that. She poses beautifully but there is no regular direct communication from her,” James continues.
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“Kate has sustained an incredible record for not showing emotional leakage in public. She always smiles perfectly and she always looks positive,” says James. “There have been no moments when she has been caught by the camera looking moody or unwell or irritable and when we look straight into the camera we instantly give away more about ourselves and our feelings via our eyes.”
While Judi James notes that Meghan’s technique of engaging directly with the camera can be “more risky” if you’re having a bad day, she also believes it will make her seem “more accessible” to the public.
“By opening up to enable us to read her more directly she should feel more like a friend to royal fans than a remote princess,” the expert explains.
It’ll be interesting to see how, if at all, Meghan’s approach to picture taking evolves through the years.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.