A Body Language Expert Explains Why Meghan Markle Is Always Touching Prince Harry

My original doctoral dissertation topic was touch. I loved consulting on this Media story!

No matter who Time magazine decides to put on the next cover, in my book, Meghan Markle, the new Duchess of Sussex, is the unequivocal person of the year. The American actress who stole the heart of a British prince, and ours in the process, has become a beloved presence at royal functions, breathing new life into a stale monarchy. People all over the world are obsessed with the duchess' every move, but they are especially enamored with Markle and Prince Harry's genuine love for each other.
"The reason why we are fascinated by them is because they are so likable, and their love is so real," Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma tells Refinery29. Wood studied a number of photos of Markle with her new husband and family and emphasized the couple’s habit of congruent touching, which means “They each go to do the exact same touch to each other, and that leads to high marital satisfaction," she says, adding, "That’s an incredibly good sign for them."
According to Wood, Markle’s connections with Harry can be categorized into two different types of contact: She offers Harry a comforting and reassuring touch on the hand or the arm when she senses his anxiety. Or she reaches out to get comforted by him in large crowds. “She does it in both directions — she’s not just a taker, and she’s not just a giver,” Wood explains, making special note of Harry’s reciprocation of the same type of contact.
Even though Markle was an actress and used to the public eye, the heightened level of scrutiny she's now being subjected to is a whole new world. "I don’t think the world even knows the sound of all the cameras that she hears...and the shouts. It’s terrifying," Wood says. The fact that Markle is able to find a comforting presence in her partner is a testament to the health of her relationship with Harry.
What about the critics who turn their noses up at the hand holding and public displays of affection? Is Markle acting needy, as naysayers have claimed? Wood shrugs them all off. "Needy would be her reaching, with a look of longing, and him not reciprocating." Markle is just reaching out with affection, and "she looks absolutely satisfied." So that's that.
Ahead, Wood analyzes how Markle's body language has changed throughout her years in the public eye, tracing the evolution of the American who became royalty and her relationships.
With Ex-Husband Trevor Engelson at the Anti-Defamation League Awards Dinner in October, 2011

Markle was married to Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013, and the photos of them together tell a different story than her photos with Harry. "Comparatively, her [shoulders are] down rather than up, and her smile is restrained," Wood explains. She made special note of Markle's stance with Engelson: "There’s tension in her body, and she’s slightly pulling away, even turned away." Where she's constantly looking at Harry with a gaze of affection, that warmth was missing from photos with her ex-husband.

Meghan & Harry at Their Engagement Photocall at Kensington Palace in November, 2017 

Wood puts a heavy emphasis on a couple looking into each other's eyes, establishing a sign of great liking and attraction. "They’re finding each other’s gaze and looking at each other at the same time and the same moment," she explains. "They do it to the exclusion of those outside the photo. They’re looking at each other not because they want to be photographed looking at each other, but because they’re having a moment. They’re alone in this bubble, just the two of them."
Harry, Meghan, Kate, & William at the Royal Foundation Forum in February, 2018

The duchess' contact with Harry's arm would normally be an admonishing touch; she is turning downwards and clinging slightly. "Harry might have said something embarrassing or funny, and [Markle] might have felt it was slightly inappropriate. But that is not her standard pose," explains Wood.

While Kate Middleton and Prince William are further apart, it's more due to their personalities and position. Royalty is typically given a larger space bubble due to status.

"[Markle and Prince Harry] are different people than Kate and William. They’re much more extroverted, they’re gregarious, they’re influencers. Kate and Will are affectionate with each other, just not to the same degree," Wood says, making a special note of Middleton's public displays of affection towards her children.
The Duchess of Sussex with Queen Elizabeth during her first engagement with the Queen June, 2018

The internet went into a tizzy when adorable pictures from Markle's first solo royal event with Queen Elizabeth flooded Twitter. The images of a genuinely joyful, delighted, and giggly Queen were the surest sign yet that Markle had been truly accepted into the family. "The Queen is turning her head towards Meghan and orienting slightly towards her. She rarely does that," says Wood, adding that Markle seemed a little bit anxious and nervous, hence her raised and guarded arm. "She’s having a moment with Meghan, [and] if you’ve read the Queen, you know that’s rare."
The Duchess of Sussex with the Duchess of Cornwall at the Royal Ascot in June, 2018

Of all the relationships with her new in-laws, none have had the level of true affection that we've seen between Markle, Prince Charles, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. "Meghan is doing that open-palm gesture. It’s called a symbolic reach. She’s reaching as if she wants to touch, and Camilla is doing a similar kind of reach," Wood explains, adding that Camilla is not as open and expressive with other people as she is with Markle. "The facial expression is in the moment, and the heads are slightly bent towards each other. That’s a relationship that’s going to be okay, it’s not fraught with tension."
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Royal Ascot in June, 2018

"I love that he’s doing that formal royal hands behind the back thing, usually when men do that they stand ramrod straight," says Wood. Prince Harry holds his hands behind his back but Wood said it's clear that he just wants to be touching Markle. "Both of them are trying to be restrained and formal, but they just can’t help themselves. He can’t help looking at her, and she can’t help but love his gaze."
The Duke & Duchess of Sussex at the Royal Ascot in June, 2018

This photo of Markle and Harry is Wood's favorite of the bunch because of the level of intimacy it shows between the newlyweds: "There’s a part of him that is very intent with shaking hands with somebody. He’s leaning forward, he’s got eye contact with this person, his intent is going to his next formal interaction. But he’s got his arm behind him touching her. It tells me that she is ever present for him, that he doesn’t turn on and off. There's a continuity of touch, I love that. That to me says healthy relationship."

Much attention has been paid to Markle's mother during the wedding ceremony, but in the frenzied days leading up to the Royal Wedding, Markle made a brief public appearance with Doria Ragland as the latter arrived to meet the Queen for the first time. Wood said this blink-and-you'll-miss-it video said a lot about Markle's doting relationship with her mother: "I loved that she didn’t feel the need to protect her, go behind or in front. They were mostly walking side-by-side. What the arm around her mom’s back said is 'You’re the most important person to me.' The timing, as well as the kind of loving, supportive around the back touch told me that she feels very comfortable with her mother, loves her mother, and doesn’t feel less powerful or more graced than her. There was a lot of kindness and tenderness here."

Patti Wood, MA - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net. Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com.