It has been a historic week for women in the United States.
August 18 marked the 100th anniversary of them winning the right to vote and at the Democratic National Convention, the first woman of colour accepted her nomination to a position on the presidential ticket.
A century after suffragettes fought tirelessly for equality, not only are two of the most influential voices in American politics women but they are women of colour – namely vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
However this election cycle, there is another increasingly prominent voice joining the fray — a woman of colour whose ascension to the upper echelons American political sphere would have been unthinkable only a year ago: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
Recently, Meghan has spoken at the Girl Up Global Leadership Summit, appeared in the pages of American marie claire to talk about why she would be voting, saying "I know what it's like to have a voice, and also what it's like to feel voiceless"; interviewed the founder of The 19th, a new news site focused on gender and politics; and on Friday, Australian time, appeared as part of Michelle Obama's voter participation initiative, When All Women Vote.
To be clear, the duchess has not thrown her support behind either party or candidate, rather she has been focusing on encouraging her fellow American citizens to actually vote come November 3 this year. (Only 55.7 per cent of eligible US citizens actually cast a vote in the 2016 election.)
Given what we know of Meghan's personal values and interests – in gender equality and social justice – her entree into the political realm makes complete sense. Freed of the polite restraints of royal life, Meghan was never going to spend her days simply plugging nice charities and demurely standing behind Harry on Zoom calls.
What is marked about her political foray is how she has chosen to be billed: Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex.
(Let's ignore the cognitive dissonance of her using a title she received from a hereditary monarch to promote one of the most fundamental cornerstone of the democratic process.)
The issue here is the underlying contradiction in the Stateside Sussex brand: They have made it very clear they want a life and future independent of the royal family yet are maintaining a vice-like grip on their royal titles.
Back in January, after Harry and Meghan had announced they wanted out of full-time working royal life, the Queen convened the so-called Sandringham summit where she, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry hashed out the practical details of the Sussexes' exit.
One of the decisions made by Her Majesty was that Harry and Meghan would no longer use their styling as His/Her Royal Highness and that they could not brand themselves as Sussex Royal (the proposed name of their foundation at that stage).
The changes seemed to be a slightly bitter pill for the couple to swallow with them putting out a statement in February hinting at their disappointment over events. The statement went to lengths to point out they still retained their HRH status and stressed that despite the changes, Harry's royal status had in no way been diminished.
"As the grandson of Her Majesty and second son of The Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex remains sixth in line to the throne of The British Monarchy and the Order of Precedence is unchanged," the statement read in part.
Earlier this month, the Sussexes' transition from senior working royals to American go-getters was completed when it was revealed the duo had bought a home together in the upscale city of Santa Barbara, home to dozens of yoga studios and Oprah.
It was a symbolic moment: The Sussexes putting down US roots, leaning in (in Californian parlance) to their new future.
All of which is great. If Harry and Meghan want to spend their days doing dawn asanas by their koi pond followed by hours spent chipping away at their various blue-sky humanitarian projects, good on them.
The sticking point here is that they are starting new, gloriously independent lives while clinging on to vestiges of their old life, that is, their titles.
Like the original half-in/half-out model of royal life the duo proposed way back in January, they want the shiny nice part of royalty without having to prostrate themselves to the rigidity and protocol of palace life.
To badly paraphrase Marie Antoinette, they want to have their titles and the reflected lustre that comes with that and their lovely freedom too.
Imagine how powerful a statement it would have been if, as they started their sunshine-dappled new lives, they had chosen to not use their titles? That is, not hand them back churlishly to the Queen but simply not use them a la their HRHs.
If they had gone down this path, it would not have been a repudiation of the Queen or Harry's family, rather it would have served as a signal of intent in regards to how they saw their future identity and careers. It would have been a sign to the world they wanted to be defined by their achievements and success, not by who his grandmother happens to be.
It would have been their own personal declaration of independence if you will.
Instead, the couple are plugging away on their various causes, titles resolutely in tow.
(Earlier this month, Harry penned a piece for Fast Company magazine about the need to remake social media into a kinder and more humane space. At the end, the standard short description of the author simply read "Prince Harry is the Duke of Sussex.")
There is precedent for Harry and Meghan eschewing a title. Last year when their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born they decided against styling him as the Earl of Dumbarton, as they would have been entitled to, instead arguing they wanted him to enjoy a more normal life.
What I don't understand is why Meghan, an independent woman whose career has been marked by her work ethic and drive, is happy for her public identity to be so deeply linked to a family and institution that, allegedly, made her life a bit miserable.
'Meghan Markle' is always going to be one of the most famous people in the world – the first bi-racial woman to marry a senior member of the royal family, only for the couple to refuse to pliantly toe the line and choose a life of their own making instead.
Meghan does not – and will never – need a title to remind people of her journey or her who she is. To wit, the New York Times recently ran a story simply calling her 'Meghan' in the headline. When the paper of record knows that they only need to use your given name for the public to immediately identify you, a title seems … well, redundant.
Yet, still they obstinately persist with presenting themselves to the world as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
This title question reflects a broader issue for the couple: They still seem caught between their old lives and their new one, reluctant to let go of the trappings of the past while simultaneously forging ahead.
One hundred years on from women getting the right to vote, Harry and Meghan are likewise facing the question of their own self-determination.
At some stage they are going to have to decide how they want to primarily define themselves to the world: As royal? Or as people who have achieved remarkable things for a troubled world and got to hang out with Oprah along the way?