Oookay, after several days of press stories ricocheting off one another re: the Duchess of Sussex, tabloids and five members of her “inner circle,” it seems like it’s time we covered what’s been going on!
Last week the American tabloid People magazine published a story that quoted five women described as Meghan’s close friends and/or former co-workers on background. They attempted to rebut claims that Meghan abruptly cut off her father, clarify her relationship with her half-siblings and paint a picture of a woman who has not at all let her new royal life go to her head.
That in and of itself is interesting namely because it’s rare for members of the Royal Family to combat negative press stories themselves and it’s clear that these friends had the blessing, if not the prompting, of Meghan herself. It’s debatable whether the Palace knew this was going to happen or not – I’ve seen reports arguing both sides – but if they did go along with this plan then that’s also a pretty big 180 from their usual m/o.
But let’s say Meghan and Harry (who would absolutely have known this was happening) did loop in their staff, then I’m willing to bet this didn’t have the blessing of the Cambridges. Everything else aside, it’s a very clear departure from the way William and Kate have handled their own bad press over the years, who, if they have ever teed up a source, have done so a bit more discreetly. The People interview was meant to cut through the noise and get noticed.
All of this was then followed up with Meghan’s father releasing the contents of a five-page handwritten letter that she reportedly sent in August. I’m of the opinion that Meghan wrote this letter knowing it was entirely likely its contents would be made public – the way it’s written includes enough background information and a point-by-point rebuttal of inaccuracies reported that she’s clearly speaking to both her father and the public. That’s not a criticism – if Meghan didn’t know the letter’s publication was a possibility then she’d be incredibly naive and she clearly isn’t.
The biggest discrepancy in the letter compared to what the Markle family has put out there is the idea that Mr. Markle has been desperately trying to contact Meghan since the wedding. Instead, Meghan notes that her phone number hasn’t changed and she hasn’t heard a peep. Even more, she claims that she learned about the heart attack that kept her father from the wedding via tabloids and that she has financially helped him for years. Her father’s response to this was reportedly to ask for her and Harry to do a photo-op with him.
I’m going to skip minutiae of the back-and-forth because I’m of the mind that Meghan’s family is basically a disaster and I’ve no interest in giving them any more attention. The only reason this warrants a post here is because Meghan and Harry – after nine months of silence – are proactively trying to combat the media storm and it begs the question, why now? Perhaps the Markle nonsense, combined with other negative reports, was finally too much.
Meghan has received a lot of negative attention all of a sudden – more so than Kate did at this point in her marriage – and taken together with how new this is all to her and her pregnancy, it’s not hard to fathom the strain. I would also hazard a guess that Meghan finds it difficult not being able to speak for herself in moments like these and that’s part of what finally brought about this indirect response.
The criticism from the British media is that the last time a member of the Royal Family manipulated the press was the late Princess of Wales and it became a circus. I disagree with that, of course, because I think there are other members who do so but have the cover of press offices and Palace backing. The annoyance and condemnation from some corners speaks to what I think is the real crux of the Meghan coverage – reaction to her inherent foreignness or “Americanism.”
There is fairness, however, to the claim that once you engage it becomes harder to argue for privacy. Not impossible, mind you, but harder. It’s a line that William and Kate have been strict about and this all underlines the increasing gulf between how the two couples mean to conduct their public roles.
I personally don’t have a problem with how Meghan handled this, from the initial People story to essentially prompting the release of her letter by forcing her father’s hand. It was a risky move, but in this particular battle I think she won, so well done her. Hopefully this dies down over the next couple of days, and hopefully there’s not another chapter.