Whether it is the non-stop stories about her coming from the tabloids’ need to sell drama (made-up or otherwise) or her family cashing in on their connection to the new royal, the Duchess of Sussex has taken the brunt of some unrelenting rumour-mongering. She has been portrayed as everything from a mean boss to a greedy social climber and pitted against her sister-in-law Kate Middleton in a sexist feud.
A similar feud was fabricated between Princess Diana, mother to Harry and William, and Duchess Sarah Ferguson. Like Middleton and Markle, they were sisters-in-law. And like Middleton and Markle, their relationship was an endless source of headlines speculating over whether they were best friends or enemies, to the annoyance of everyone involved.
Royal celebrity is not like other forms of celebrity; an actor is able to respond in a statement through a publicist, whereas royals are often asked to remain silent. In Markle’s case, the feud has been dispelled in a rare move by Kensington Palace, who also openly requested the press check their racist reporting ahead of the Royal Wedding. One can see the racism in how the press critiques Markle; in referring to her as “difficult,” the tabloids tap into a characterization of Markle as an angry Black woman. Despite growing up in suburban California and attending private school, headlines like “Harry’s Girl Is (Almost) Straight Outta Compton” emerge. Her role on Suits has been hypersexualized, a centuries-long problem for Black women, with scenes from the show illegally posted on porn websites.
Markle’s family has also plagued her with unnecessary drama as they drag the conversation of her past into the gutter. Her sister, Samantha Grant, has provided the press with an irresistible cocktail of public pleas, name calling, and promotion for her tell-all book. Their father has claimed to have hung up on Prince Harry and asserted that the royal family is cult-like for their secrecy. Her family drama is fodder for the idea that she comes from a dysfunctional background. All of these pieces add up to suggest she has a complicated home life from the wrong part of town — the basis for class-based discrimination. While untrue, it is exactly the kind of spin that tabloids look for, and Meghan Markle’s family has provided ample commentary.
Let’s indulge the tabloids for a moment. If Markle is as “miserable” as they claim (and we wouldn’t be surprised given the year’s worth of drama she has had to put up with), it is only natural Prince Harry would empathize with her. They are married, and it follows that her happiness is his happiness. So, perhaps that’s why he’s on board with her challenges to the status quo — he has been known to be a royal rebel himself.
Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are challenging the expectations and outdated rules around royals. She is Black, American, and has been married before, and as any Crown viewer knows, the latter used to be a no-go for marrying into the royal family. She expresses her political opinions and is a proud feminist. Prince Harry has spoken openly about mental health. All of these things would have been unimaginable mere decades ago. The royal family is changing, and while many people are celebrating it, there are people who find something to hate about it. Prince Harry shouldn’t feel responsible for that.