Now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have settled in Los Angeles, there are many questions about their new life in the States (starting with confusion over Harry’s tax and immigration status, for example). Many are wondering how Harry will handle the transition from a life in the British spotlight to a more relaxed existence in Southern California. Fortunately, Lady Julie Montagu, an American who married into the British aristocracy, can offer Harry some advice on what to expect from his new American life.
Montagu is a television host, yoga teacher, former cast member of Ladies of London, and author who grew up in Illinois and is now married to Lord Luke Montagu, heir to the Earl of Sandwich—so she knows a thing or two about the differences between an expressive American culture and a more formal British sensibility.
“I always say whenever you meet an American, you know their life story within 24 hours,” Montagu says. “We’re very emotionally open, which I think for Harry is actually a really good thing. He’ll be able to talk about his feelings, probably more than he was able to talk about over here. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to hear a little bit more about how he feels about losing his mother at age 12, and maybe how he and Megan were treated in the press over here.”
We’re very emotionally open, which I think for Harry is actually a really good thing
Montagu also knows what it’s like to raise children with both British and American traditions, something 11-month old Archie will also inherit from Harry and Meghan. For one thing, Harry will likely impart the importance of British manners onto Archie.
“My husband grew up knowing you should be fully dressed for meals, socks and shoes on,” Montagu says. “We set the table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And when I say set the table, I mean set the table. We have placemats, all the cutlery out, the glasses, and we serve everyone as our guests.” (A nice thing for Meghan, who loves to cook.)
As for American parenting styles, Montagu imagines Meghan’s approach might be similar to her own. “I remember one thing my husband said to me when we were dating is that every time I spoke to my parents, I’d hang up the phone and say, ‘I love you mom and dad,'” she recalls. “I’m like, yeah, that’s what we do! My kids say ‘I love you’ all the time, and we hug.”
There’s also an energy to American cities and towns that Harry will probably enjoy, Montagu says. “That cheery, optimistic outlook on life is everywhere in America and it’s so contagious. I love it. And my kids always notice how much people greet each other on the street.”
A surprising aspect of stateside life that Montagu misses (and one that Harry might come to appreciate) is the customer service. “America has the best customer service in the whole wide world. It’s three rings on the phone and someone is there on the other end, or you go into a shop and as soon as you walk in, they greet you, and when you leave they say ‘oh, have a great day!'”
Still, one thing the Brits have on Americans is their history (Montagu herself is chronicling the rich legacies of the country’s storied homes and castles in her new television show An American Aristocrat’s Guide to Great Estates, which debuts in the U.S. next month.) Harry will obviously want to retain that sense of heritage and pass it down to his son.
It will certainly take some time for Meghan and Harry to balance their different cultures and for Harry to adapt to American life, but Montagu is optimistic for the couple. “I feel like he has found somebody that he can be emotionally open with and I think that’s a really good thing,” she says. “Family becomes the most important thing.”