Ok, bridesmaids dresses for children. Let’s get into it. On May 14, 2018, TMZ reported that Thomas Markle, father of The Duchess of Sussex, suffered a heart attack six days prior (so, May 8). This came on the heels of the publication of embarrassing tabloid photos and, as we later learned, an anguished back and forth between the Sussexes and Markle.
The same day the news was reported, according to Spare, the now-Princess of Wales texted Meghan to say that Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress needed altering. The dresses had been created by Givenchy based on measurements of each little girl, not in-person fittings. Upon trying them on, the dress didn’t fit. Meghan doesn’t respond. According to The Duke of Sussex, she was mostly wrapped up in dealing with her father.
On May 15, Meghan finally responds to Catherine that a tailor is on standby at Kensington Palace – where the then-Cambridges lived – to make any necessary alterations to Charlotte’s dress.
We don’t know the details, but apparently something about that didn’t work for Catherine. The two women “set up a time to speak that afternoon.” Speaking, apparently, meant more texting – that, or Harry is paraphrasing the conversation as told to him by Meghan.
According to Harry, Catherine told Meghan that Charlotte’s dress was “too big, too long, too baggy.” Charlotte had apparently cried when she tried it on.
Meghan responded, “Right, and I told you the tailor has been standing by since 8 am. Here. At KP [Kensington Palace]. Can you take Charlotte to have it altered, as the other moms are doing?”
Catherine said, “No, all the dresses need to remade.” Out of quotes, Harry adds that Catherine told Meghan she had discussed the issue with her own wedding dress designer, Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen (I’m assuming in this case), and the designer agreed with her.
Again, out of quotes, Harry says that Meghan asked Catherine if she knew what was going on with her father. Catherine said that she did, but the wedding was in four days.
Meghan responded, “Yes, Kate, I know…”
They then got into a back and forth about a party for page boys. From what Harry says, it sounds like Catherine thought there should be one, while Meghan couldn’t focus on that detail given her father and besides, most of the page boys were traveling from North America and hadn’t arrived in London yet.
Harry writes, “It went back and forth.”
Finally, Meghan said, “I’m not sure what else to say. If the dress doesn’t fit, then please take Charlotte to see Ajay. He’s been waiting all day.”
Catherine responded, “Fine.”
Harry says that when he returned home – again, he wasn’t there for this in real time – Meghan was sitting on the floor sobbing.
Three days later, Harry writes that he spent the eve of his wedding at Cowarth Park Hotel, a private cottage, with a few of his friends. William had been invited to join, but kept refusing. His excuse was that he needed to be home with Catherine and his children – for context, at this point in time, Prince Louis was less than one month old.
Harry made it clear to his brother that his presence would mean a lot to him, but William kept saying no. He wasn’t sure why – whether it was because of the fight between Catherine and Meghan over the dresses, whether it was because William was still upset Harry was able to keep his beard for his wedding, or whether it was because Harry had asked his best friend to be his best man and William only took on the role for “show” – the third being an issue we’ll return to another time.
At the last minute, William relented and joined Harry for a walkabout to greet the crowds (which he had texted earlier he didn’t think was necessary and didn’t know why Harry was doing it, even though the two had done the same at his own wedding seven years earlier). He then joined Harry and his friends for dinner, but left to return home to sleep.
The next month, the two couples met in William and Catherine’s home to discuss ongoing tension. Of the issues that Harry and Meghan were aware of, the bridesmaid dresses are included as one. As it turns out, William and Catherine were upset over other things as well. One of them that was that around the time the bridesmaid fiasco had happened, Meghan and Catherine had discussed a meeting for a wedding rehearsal and Catherine forgot the details. Meghan responded that it was okay, Catherine must have “baby brain.” Catherine, apparently, found this to be incredibly offensive and said they weren’t close enough for Meghan to discuss her hormones with her. Meghan apologized, saying she meant no offense.
Four months later, after the Sussexes returned from their first overseas tour and after Meghan’s pregnancy with Archie was announced, a news story ran in The Telegraph by Camilla Tominey that stated an argument at a bridesmaid dress fitting had reduced Catherine to tears.
In December 2018, a second meeting between the two couples took place, this time at Nottingham Cottage. Catherine, according to Harry, said, “I know, Meghan, that I was the one who made you cry.”
Meghan responded that while she appreciated the apology, “Why isn’t your office standing up for me? Why haven’t they phoned this execrable woman who wrote this story and demanded a retraction?”
Catherine is described as being flustered and not answering, while William jumps in with evasive, albeit comforting, language. Harry says that the real issue is that if KP staff did so, it would open the door to what, then, was the real story and raise the possibility of Catherine getting bad press.
They then discussed who could have planted such a story. The list was small. William then says that while the Sussexes were in Australia and New Zealand, they had had dinner with Charles and Camilla and told them about it. It then became clear to all four – again, according to Harry – that the leak had come from Clarence House. And, given the context of the rest of the claims Harry has made against Camilla, it is likely he means to pointedly indicate his stepmother.
That is the extent to which bridesmaid dresses are mentioned in Spare, but it’s certainly a more comprehensive story than what we’ve been told thus far. It’s also one that doesn’t capture how Catherine or William remember the chain of events. Nevertheless, I will offer some semblance of analysis and you can do with it what you will.
I find the text exchange between the two women to be rude from both sides. Setting everything else aside, they are both being passive aggressive to the point of actual aggression, particularly on Catherine’s part. For example, I’m not sure why telling a bride a few days out from her wedding that the ill fit of a dress made your daughter cry is helpful or kind. And while Meghan is clearly not giving Catherine the answers she wants, given what was going on with her father, I have a lot more sympathy for her position here – she sounds overwhelmed and attacked.
But I’ve seen other people read the above exchange and have the opposite reaction – that Meghan was being rude to Catherine by not responding and her answers showed a lack of concern for the issue at hand. That issue, I assume, being that Charlotte and the other bridesmaids would look sloppy in front of a global audience in just a few days.
What I suspect is that from Catherine’s point of view, she was trying to be helpful while also extremely stressed by the timeline. She viewed these dresses as an emergency situation, having already experienced the immensity of global attention as a royal bride, and the bridesmaid dresses (and pageboy party) were the portion of the landscape that most directly impacted her because of Charlotte and Prince George.
For Meghan, of course, there was hundreds of details, and her first concern was the breakdown of her relationship with her father.
If you look at it like that, then even if you believe one or both women was/were behaving badly, neither had bad intentions. Which is why, as I’ve said since I first chimed in on this, you either have a bride or a postpartum woman having a short-lived meltdown – hardly groundbreaking or indicative of a character flaw.
But one more thing I will add, again, if we accept this version as gospel, is that when you look at Catherine’s words and then zoom out to the later conversations, Catherine was in somewhat regular contact with Meghan over the wedding. We now know that Catherine was already offended by the “baby brain” comment, and it stands to reason there were other personality clashes/cultural differences given context that were putting her off. So, her texts didn’t exist in a vacuum and were perhaps the result of already being exasperated and upset. They were still rude, in my opinion, but less startling.
However, Spare isn’t gospel. So, I will also say this:
- It’s a bit of a red flag that there are portions of this conversation that Harry chooses to quote versus paraphrase.
- The original story reported that Catherine cried at a dress fitting. It was very specific. According to the Sussexes, Meghan wasn’t at the dress fitting. It’s possible, then, that Catherine did cry at the dress fitting and perhaps over the back and forth with Meghan.
- How did Catherine know that Meghan cried? We never get that detail. Their conversation was via text. So, did Meghan tell her? Did Harry tell her? Did Harry tell William, who then told Catherine? There’s clearly details missing here.
- During the Mail on Sunday suit, it was disclosed that text messages from this period don’t exist any longer due to privacy software put on Meghan’s phone back in 2016 when she began dating Harry. So, are these even quotes? Or are these pulled from memory, much like the rest of the conversations that are quoted in this book? As such, we have no idea what Catherine or Meghan’s actual language was during their conversation.
As for the leak of it all, well, look, if Harry’s version is true then sure, it would be great if the KP staff had stood up for Meghan. In theory. But it didn’t serve the greater Royal Family well to begin digging into the she said/she said of it all. Obviously it didn’t serve Catherine, but honestly, it didn’t really serve any of them. This was a stupid story. It became symbolic to the Sussexes, but had there not been other issues between the couples, this would have blown over. Hence trying to repair the actual relationship. Again, in a vacuum, this should have been a non-event.
And for Camilla, it’s a bit like Harry’s accusation that she leaked details of their first meeting. Did she? I guess that’s possible. It’s also possible that either she or King Charles told someone in their household who told someone who told someone. The reason I’m not wholly convinced by this idea is that the details are wrong – not just the Catherine v. Meghan, but the fact that the original story stated Catherine had been reduced to tears during a dress fitting. It’s a very specific adjustment to the truth for someone to have decided to share with the press.
It’s also taking the argument that Camilla made this choice out of either a distinct dislike of specifically Meghan or jealousy of her. Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, it serves Camilla better to take Catherine down a peg or two.
I guess my conclusion is that after reading what is meant to be a word-for-word rundown of events, I think we know about the same as before: not much. Unless you were looking for confirmation that Catherine and Meghan aren’t each other’s cups of tea.
So, thank you, Harry.