When Meghan Markle landed in Chicago for a low-key visit to finalise her UK visa application just a few days ago, she was impeccable as ever – dressed entirely in black, hair tied up, the regulation shades firmly in place, reports Daily Mail.

There was, however, one incidental but very telling detail: a Chicago White Sox baseball cap, blending in with the other travellers at O'Hare International. Meghan, it would seem, had gone out of her way to wear the local team hat for nothing more important than a stroll through the airport.

But then little, if anything, in her carefully constructed world is ever left to chance alone.

From the food she eats, to the causes she adopts, to the hobbies she prefers, Harry's princess-in-waiting has applied a near superhuman level of focus and determination to getting it "just right".


And when on May 19 she becomes a member of the House of Windsor at St George's Chapel, the marriage will be the final step in a quite extraordinary project: the creation of Brand Meghan.

One person who knows better than most just how meticulous Meghan has been in her ascent to international recognition is her friend and one-time professional adviser Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, Meghan's commercial agent from October 2014 to October 2016.

Meghan Markle will join Prince Harry at two key Commonwealth events next week ahead of the Royal wedding on May 19. Photo / AP
Meghan Markle will join Prince Harry at two key Commonwealth events next week ahead of the Royal wedding on May 19. Photo / AP

In their time together, she booked Meghan to speak at corporate and charitable events, negotiated spon-sorship contracts for the Suits star and helped develop that all conquering brand. (At one time Meghan had even considered becoming a lifestyle guru.)

The two women first encountered each other when Gina's agency, Kruger Cowne, worked with Meghan at an international youth conference.

Gina, 52, certainly admires her, describing a cultivated woman whose attention to detail is shown in her love of flower arranging, photography, calligraphy – the art of copperplate writing – and judicious choice of charitable causes.


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But also in her watchful determination to keep her public image polished at all time. If it is a "yes" to human rights, environmentalism and gender equality – Meghan, 36, is a United Nations women's advocate – it is also a clear "no" to promoting fur or animal products, and certainly a "no" to anything that might make the star look, well, ordinary.

"Meghan has strong principles. She set herself standards and she knew what she did and didn't want to be associated with very early on, long before Prince Harry," explains Gina.

"She was always very conscious and protective of her image and rightly didn't want to do anything that would compromise that. She was already developing her role in Suits, but it was clear to me from the start that she expected to become an even bigger star."


An early indicator of Meghan's careful approach came on one of her first trips to the UK, where Gina and Kruger Cowne arranged for Meghan to stay at The Dorchester, the Park Lane hotel favoured by celebs and Royals.

Plans were in place for Ms Markle – who insisted on using an alias even though most Britons at that point had barely heard of her – to check in for free at the five-star hotel where rooms start from £400. It was an offer for which most clients would "give their eye teeth", says Gina.

Miss Markle will join her fiancée at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London on Wednesday. Photo / AP
Miss Markle will join her fiancée at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London on Wednesday. Photo / AP

It came as something of a surprise to her hosts, then, when Meghan wrote to say it simply would not do. It was in conflict with her personal beliefs.

The owner, the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah – whose Dorchester Collection includes the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA and the Le Meurice in Paris – had recently suggested sharia punishments should be meted out to adulterers and those found to be homosexual. Women who had abortions would be flogged in public.

Gina said: "Meghan emailed to say she would never stay at the Dorchester, or any hotels they are involved with. We understood and of course agreed."

Her stance may well have softened since meeting Prince Harry. After all, she broke her boycott last May to watch her Prince play polo at the Sultan's vast Cosworth Park estate in Ascot.

And this is probably just as well as far as the Royal Family is concerned. The Sultan was a guest at the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

In December last year, Prince William welcomed the Sultan at Buckingham Palace and in November the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall made an official visit to the nation where he took tea with the Brunei Royal Family and senior government ministers.


No one understands the power of visual imagery better than Meghan, and like her future sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan is a keen amateur photographer, says Gina. And a painstaking one.

"Most photographs she put on her lifestyle blog, The Tig, were taken herself.

"She would see something she wanted to photograph and she would frame the shot expertly. If she was going to be in the photograph, she would hand the camera to someone and direct them, saying, 'Stand here and point it over there.'"


It wasn't just The Dorchester that met with a degree of disapproval. Gina remembers when Meghan checked in and out of a hotel in Knightsbridge without ever staying the night.

Gina says: "One time we booked her into the Jumeirah Carlton Tower and I had to meet her there to go on to a meeting.

"My colleague and I walked to her room and en route was this parrot sitting in a cage and Meghan looked at this parrot and looked at my colleague and said, "I can't stay here because of the parrot." She there and then checked out and went to the Soho Hotel.

"I realise that she's absolutely right, of course. Wild animals belong in the wild and not in cages."


Meghan has been determined to combine her career with humanitarian causes, particularly women's rights, and was impressed by one actress in particular – Harry Potter actress Emma Watson.

"On one occasion, Meghan and I attended an event where Emma, a committed feminist, was speaking," says Gina. "I could tell Meghan was quite taken with Emma's passion and commitment to her cause. I'm sure she was looking at her thinking, 'Emma is doing this, so can I.'

Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games. Photo / AP
Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games. Photo / AP

"Meghan very much wants to be a role model."

Gina says that one of Meghan's greatest achievements was delivering a United Nations Women's speech in New York, where Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General at the time, stood up and thanked her and shook her hand.

Meghan, whose mother Doria was in the audience, told Gina afterwards: "I just could have died happy in that moment!"


Keen readers of Meghan's blog – now discontinued – would have been left in no doubt about it: brand really matters.

Take, for example, the time she wrote about planning her college friend Lindsay Roth's hen party in 2016 and spoke of her determination to avoid the customary vulgarity.

There would be no gauche "L" plates for Lindsay, explained Meghan. "Headbands of the phallic persuasion didn't seem 'on brand' for us," she continued. "I opted instead to woo the bride-to-be with a more low-key [approach]."


Even when it came to a straight-forward request, like ordering tea, there might be something that caused Meghan's brow to furrow.

Gina says: "We were sitting in a lounge and the waiter came around and offered us drinks.

"There were all these different teas and infusions. Meghan asked for a speciality tea but when it came it was served in this big German-style beer mug, like a tankard you might get at a German beer festival. And they plonked this thing down in front of her.

"She was waiting for a meeting, done up to the nines, looking stunning. She looked at it and lifted it up and said, 'I can't have this. This is just not on brand.'

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce their engagement. Photo / Supplied
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce their engagement. Photo / Supplied

"That was hilarious. It was kind of a joke and we all laughed but she still had the waiter take it back."


"She absolutely knows her own mind," recalls Gina. "At one point we were putting together a proposal for a book based on her lifestyle blog The Tig and if she didn't like part of the plan, she would tell you straight out.

"In the end, it wasn't published because she met Harry and obviously decided it wasn't the sort of thing she should be pursuing right now.

"There were people in the office she didn't gel with and she said it straight, 'I'm not working with so and so any more.' There was no beating around the bush.

"It could be awkward but my job is all about building relationships so I understood where she was coming from."


Was it written in the stars? Her dream of bagging a prince was certainly written in her blog, The Tig.

At about the time of Kate's wedding to Prince William in 2011, she says: "Little girls dream of being princesses. And grown women seem to retain this childhood fantasy. Just look at the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Royal Wedding and endless conversation about Princess Kate."

Humorous no doubt, but prophetic also. Then, referring to a popular children's cartoon, she continues: "I, for one, was all about She-Ra, Princess of Power."

Harry might take note.