"There's a false assumption that she lives in some gilded palace with staff and ladies-in-waiting and all these royal perks," says a close confidante of the Duchess of Sussex

Friends who have spent time at home with Meghan Markle get a first-hand look at her day-to-day routine — and it’s not what many outsiders might expect.

“There’s a false assumption that she lives in some gilded palace with staff and ladies-in-waiting and all these royal perks,” a close confidante of the Duchess of Sussex tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “It’s simply not true.”

The confidante explains that Meghan and Prince Harry‘s Kensington Palace home of Nottingham Cottage, where the couple have lived since their engagement, is “small” and “cozy” – and doesn’t come with the staff outsiders may expect from a royal household.

“Meg cooks for herself and Harry every single day— there’s no chef or butler,” says her close confidante, one of five members of Meghan’s inner circle who spoke to PEOPLE.

The Duchess Of Sussex Visits The Hubb Community Kitchen
Credit: Neil Mockford/GC Images

The royal mom-to-be’s longtime friend adds that Meghan is just as easygoing when it comes to her beauty routine. Aside from her wedding, when close pal Daniel Martin perfected her natural makeup look, she does not rely on a makeup artist.

“I was with her last month, and she was going on a public engagement. Harry and I were sitting with the dogs, and we were all chatty, and she’s painting her nails,” the friend explains. “Except for her wedding, she does all her own makeup. Dresses herself, styles herself.”

Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Visit Edinburgh
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
| Credit: Owen Humphreys/WPA Pool/Getty

The friend adds, “I said, ‘People think when you come out of the car that you went through some metaphorical reverse car wash. Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, and everyone’s doing all this stuff to you. They’re not picturing you sitting by the space heater doing your own hair and nails. She’s very self-service.”


After maintaining their silence for nearly two years, the five women who form an essential part of Meghan’s inner circle have spoken with PEOPLE to “stand up against the global bullying we are seeing and speak the truth about our friend,” says a longtime friend and former costar.

“Meg has silently sat back and endured the lies and untruths,” her former costar says in this week’s cover story. With Meghan and her husband expecting their first child this spring, “we worry about what this is doing to her and the baby,” adds the costar. “It’s wrong to put anyone under this level of emotional trauma, let alone when they’re pregnant.”