Opinion: Why I find it (incredibly) hard to feel any sympathy for Meghan Markle
It was her interview in South Africa last year that cemented my feelings towards the Duchess of Sussex.
There, slap bang in the middle of a continent where children still die in the thousands from something as basic as lack of clean water, one of the richest and most privileged women in the world found it timely to moan to ITV's Tom Bradby about how she is "just surviving, not thriving".
("I've said for a long time to H— that's what I call him – it's not enough to just survive something, right? That's not the point of life. You've got to thrive, you've got to feel happy. I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried. But I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.")
And yes, I know she had just had a baby, and, having had two, I know that is an intense time for anyone. You are exhausted and emotional and probably not at your most rational, and maybe someone close to the couple should have advised her not to give that interview in the first place. However, the fact is that she did. Harry and Meghan – An African Journey aired, and what that last interview did, unfortunately, was make Meghan come across, in my opinion, both self-absorbed and very, very entitled.
Let this be said: I don't know Meghan. I have never met her and my entire opinion of her is based on what I have read and seen of her through media and social media, be it articles written, or interviews she has given. But what I have seen has done little but confirm my overall sense that this is someone who clearly loves the sound of her own voice. Who loves the media – when they swoon over her, that is, not so much when they dare question and critique.
To me, Meghan comes across as someone who perhaps thought that being a royal would be very much the same as being a celebrity, only even more tiara-wearing and princessy-y, only to discover that being a functioning member of the House of Windsor really is just about 'getting on with the work.' And now she has second thoughts.
I know some will feel that I am a woman tearing down another woman, but my problem with Meghan and her diva-ish ways has nothing to do with her being a woman – but rather everything to do with her striking me as someone who puts herself first, front and centre, ahead of history, traditions, family, responsibility and even other women. And that isn't a quality I admire in anyone, be it a woman or a man.
The rise before the fall
Of course, the press and myself – all of us – initially fell head over heels for the Harry-and-Meghan fairytale. I mean; here was this incredible woman, who not only was stunning and successful in her own right, but that had even been known to fight for women's rights as a teenager. She was mixed-race, she was driven, and really, wouldn't she make the perfect, modern-day addition to the institution that is the House of Windsor?
As well as that, I think we all just wanted Harry, this prince we have collectively cared for in an almost family-like way since he lost his own mother so young, to find true love.
The engagement shots and interview were both dreamy. I mean; weren't they? Or, when you think back, was it all a bit Hollywood?
Still, we were enchanted by the fairytale of it all. Even when Meghan managed to say that when her friend had set herself and Harry up on a date, she "barely knew who he was" – which I just don't believe.
The wedding was one even Disney princesses would go green with envy at. The magical Windsor Castle, the Givenchy dress, the string of celebrity guests. Heck, we even thought the slightly too enthusiastic preacher and his long AF speech was adorable. How unique. How un-stuffy, unlike the rest of the royals and their bound-by-tradition ways.
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Happy one year anniversary to Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex! Today marks the one year anniversary of the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Their Royal Highnesses exchanged vows at St George’s Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle on May 19th, 2018. The selected song “This Little Light of Mine” was chosen by the couple for their recessional. We hope you enjoy reliving this moment, and seeing some behind the scenes photos from this special day. A message from The Duke & Duchess: Thank you for all of the love and support from so many of you around the world. Each of you made this day even more meaningful. Photo credit: Chris Allerton/Joe Short (B&W); PA (color) ©️SussexRoyal (B&W images and video)
Rifts and rumours
However, the last drops of wedding Champagne were hardly drunk before whispers about Meghan being a bit, shall we say, difficult started.
There were rumours about a tiara she wanted to wear, but that the Queen had said no to – offering her a different one instead. People close to the royals recalled a conversation where Harry informed royal household staff that "what Meghan wants, Meghan gets." And then there was the issue of several of their staff leaving, fuelling rumours that the newly minted royal might not be the easiest person to work for.
When little Archie arrived, it was claimed by royal insiders that his parents went through three nannies in the first five months of his life. Yikes.
However, I think what made most people feel like maybe Meghan wasn't all doe-eyed and gentle-hearted, was when the media started hinting there was now a rift between the Cambridges' and the Sussexes. A supposedly chilly relationship between Meghan and sister-in-law Kate had led to a brotherly fall-out between Harry and William, a duo that had up until now seemed like one set in stone. Even long before Harry met Meghan, we all collectively fell in love with the trio that was William, Kate and Harry, and marvelled at how close they all seemed and how much fun they had with each other.
Then Meghan entered the equation, and dynamics shifted.
Perhaps it was just a case of growing up and entering a new phase. The Sussexes split their household from Kensington Palace, setting up their own at Buckingham Palace with a separate head of communications and their own social media presence in the form of SussexRoyal Instagram account. Next up was the Sussex' departure from the Cambridges' Royal Foundation.
Insiders were quick to deny there was a rift, but the rumours still persisted.
In the spring of last year, Meghan and Harry moved out of Kensington Palace and into their new home in Windsor, Frogmore Cottage, after renovations amounting to £2.4 million of taxpayers' money were completed.
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“Welcome to our official Instagram; we look forward to sharing the work that drives us, the causes we support, important announcements, and the opportunity to shine a light on key issues. We thank you for your support, and welcome you to @sussexroyal.”- Harry & Meghan
Fuel to the fire
Controversy followed them, with Meghan and Harry coming under fire for telling their social media followers to care about the environment and be more mindful of the impact of their actions on the planet, before when it was revealed they had been on several foreign holidays using a private jet.
In general, people who preach but don't practise it themselves tend to lend themselves easily to ridicule. The Sussexes discovered they were no different. But then complained about it and tearfully declared how hard it is to "keep a stiff upper lip" among the media frenzy.
I mean; I applaud Meghan and Harry for feeling passionate about the environment and wanting to help the rest of us do so too. But best keep in mind that the rest of us can't just get Elton John to pay a carbon offset fee when we use his private jet for holidays. Just saying.
In their latest bid to distance themself from 'The Firm,' Harry and Meghan revealed last night that they plan to step down as 'senior royals' and now divide their time between the UK (where they will, in their own words, continue "to fully support Her Majesty The Queen") and North America, where the couple just spent several weeks over Christmas.
I get their need for some space to an extent. They want their child to feel connected to both his dad's and his mum's roots. Fair enough.
But isn't it a little strange that someone who has cut ties with many of her own family, now also seems eager to do the same with the members of her husband's family? Looks like little Archie won't exactly be having weekly playdates with his cousins George, Charlotte and Louis.
And based on the hasty statement released by Buckingham Palace last night, this major move by Harry and Meghan was not something they had informed the royal family about prior to sharing it with the wider world. Putting aside royal protocol, surely your granny, dad and brother deserve a bit of notice before you declare you are leaving the country, Harry?
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“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA
We are all the masters of our own lives, and Meghan, like all of us, has the right to make decisions for herself and her own family. However, when someone so incredibly privileged seems so utterly whiny about their (glorious) lot, it is hard to feel any sympathy. Maybe she never fully understood the true nature of being a royal, you might argue, which may well be true.
But it seems that, while wanting to step away from the responsibilities and scrutiny that come with being a senior royal, Meghan is more than happy to keep her Duchess title (as revealed by the launch of their shiny new website last night) and her lovely new digs at Frogmore Cottage (for when she visits from Canada, that is).
Ultimately, I think Meghan just missed the bright lights of Tinseltown, where she was the star of the show and didn't have to answer to century-old traditions and adhere to rules she never really understood. I give it six months before she is on the cover of Harper's Bazaar – or being comforted on Ellen's sofa – with another tear-dripping tale of how hard life with 'a stiff upper lip' really was.