It is no longer disputable that the UK Media, online commentators and trolls have been relentlessly attacking the Duchess of Sussex since her romantic involvement to Prince Harry became public. The first I heard of said attacks was via Prince Harry issuing a statement asking the media to respect his then girlfriend, Meghan Markle’s privacy in November 2016. Rather than cooperate the media mocked him and doubled down on the attacks. The tone and nature of the attacks have been virulent, sexist, xenophobic, racist and sustained over three years. One of the most alarming aspects of the attacks is that the underlying -isms are now overt and have become entrenched, with avowed xenophobes and racists like Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins joining the pile on. There’s even a dedicated hate group which I will not dignify by naming, who traffic in conspiracy theories about the Duchess of Sussex and imbue her with ridiculous traits, mock her and share doctored and falsified images of her on social media and have on occasion relished in her demise.
While inexcusable and irresponsible, it could be postulated that the media’s initial response to Meghan was so sensational because, their union was different than practically any previous royal romance. As a result of all the underlying prejudices, the media went full court to portray her as less than, unfit or not good enough to become a royal spouse, with all kinds of racist tropes. Some “experts” openly dismissed her as a fling and nothing more. With the passage of time and the ensuing engagement in November 2017, there appeared to be a turning of the tide in the build-up to and after their most glorious nuptials and into their Oceania tour.
Towards the end of the Oceania tour however, there was an abrupt and unmistakable change in the tone of the coverage. It became noticeably corrosive and vitriolic, more focused on portraying her as a bad person. It was almost as if it was decided that since she was very well liked and seen by many as assuming her role flawlessly, in spite of the earlier “she’s black’, ‘of the wrong DNA’, ‘actress; translate wrong social class’ attempts, then this time they would attempt to corrupt her image by portraying her as inherently unlikeable because she is not a nice person. The racist, xenophobic and sexist undertones remained but the stories became very cutting and personal. A lot has been written about online commentators and trolls. At the foundation however is the UK media’s attitude, which they have miserably failed to reflect on and evaluate. This opinion piece makes the case for why its author is making a considered opinion that the media have likely been handed their orders by the Cambridge court, to hurt the image of house Sussex.
Reporters’ own accounts.
First, the April 2019 Tim Shipman article in The Times which essentially detailed Prince William’s displeasure at The Sussexes’ popularity and the ideas he and his court had considered as a way to put him back in the spotlight. This has been corroborated by the assertions of a few royal reporters when there’s been intense pushback by the Duchess of Sussex’s supporters in response to their virulent attack articles. The salient paragraph from Shipman’s article is shown below along with a tweet from a royal reporter Emily Andrews, in response to a tweet regarding her coverage of private jet-gate, implying that the attacks/ push back was coming from within the family.
Similarly, another royal correspondent on a radio show said “ It is so much easier for them to blame anything uncomfortable on racism rather than address the fact that much of the negativity is coming from within the royal family”. Watch and listen to that account here. This theory/notion is widely held and was even the subject of discussion on a recent episode of Jeremy Vine’s TV show. The relevant part of the transcript is presented here.
For context, this was around the time of the faux private-jet outrage, in August 2019. So we have at least two instances where Prince William/ his court have been named directly and two others when it’s been implied that the negative coverage is instigated from within the family.
Timing of Smear.
Even though the negative coverage around the Sussexes has been chronic, there have been periods of exacerbation temporally related to big Sussex news events. First there was the post-Oceania tour smear. Following a wildly successful tour and understandable buzz around the Sussexes, there was this abrupt change in tone of reports: frankly strange stories of a “diva” bride, sister-in-law, boss, wife, what have you. It was as if someone literally said, ready set go! It was so heavy handed and just so contrary to the known and publicly displayed personality of The Duchess of Sussex that it was obvious someone was out for blood. Further, there seemed to be no logical reason why reporters after the boon of the tour would just happen to be looking for dirt, unless some entity was freely dishing it out.
I can point to several other instances where this dynamic has been in play:
The move to their Frogmore residence, was shortly followed by stories of “unreasonable Sussexes banning staff from using parking lot overlooking Frogmore cottage”( an accuracy complaint by the couple has just been upheld by the IPSO).
Prince Harry posted behind the scenes photos of his trips to Africa; that was a no-no because “they were trying to upstage Prince Louis’ birthday”.
Prince Archie’s delivery was yet another huge media melt-down. Nothing was ever good enough, that the Sussexes did. Whatever it took, they were determined to sour the joy of Archie’s birth with nonsensical gripes. Never mind that his birth and presentation was arguably the most tasteful, well organized and dare I say regal of a royal baby in recent times. Then there was the calculated Wimbledon smear, after the Duchess of Sussex took in a game with her friends, with beautiful pictures and headlines beamed all over. They just needed to cut her down a little bit. By now you get the pattern.
Double standards in reportage(benefiting Cambridges)
Where does one even begin with the double standards? A lot of the perceived “sins” of Duchess Meghan that are prosecuted by the British media are really trivial and immaterial. Very often events are deliberately presented without context, just to make the story fit a certain narrative that they have been trying to build around the duchess.
If you’ve been paying attention, you will notice that whatever issue the media decides to chastise the Sussexes for, it is done in a way that sets the Cambridges up to benefit from it. So whether its clothing or the elusive protocol rule book, Duchess Meghan never gets it right, doesn’t quite understand, isn’t ever as appropriate as her sister-in-law, the English Rose. Nonsense of course, but this pattern has persisted. When SussexRoyal posted about LGBT issues on Instagram, the heavens had to crack open to behold how controversial and political the Sussexes were. However, William was just being a compassionate future king when he shared his thoughts on Prince George hypothetically being gay. Also Prince William could talk about Brexit at his engagement and it was as if the media’s outrage button was out of commission.
Similarly Duchess Meghan’s guest edit of Vogue September issue was dishonestly panned by the media as unprecedented and every other negative adjective they could summon. But we all know it wasn’t. The reporters are the same ones who wrote about previous royals editing print/news magazines but anything to chip at the Sussexes, even lying is apropos.
Then there’s the all-consuming private jet saga. The Sussexes were castigated and called all manner of names for flying private to their vacation but for the Cambridges Caribbean trip, it was just an innocuous and well deserved vacation, fit for a future king! Same applied to Prince Harry’s attendance at Google camp. He was characterized as hypocritical barefoot environmental polluter while, just a couple days prior, when the press thought that the Cambridges had attended the same event, the papers and websites were flush with glowing headlines of the future king and his consort hobnobbing with A-listers in Greek temples and what not. Never mind that regardless of which brother attended, the same events would have taken place. But then again, remember whose profile they are trying to diminish and whose they’re attempting to build. Add to this what seems to be unified script that the press play to. From Wimbledon to Frogmore, to Archie… across the board, they always appear to have the same theme or framing of their most current issue. That in my mind alludes to some level of organization/orchestration.
Cambridges presenting a counter image/ front to whatever the Sussexes are being chastised for.
In the build up to and after the birth of Prince Archie, the media were hounding the Sussexes for access and somehow there were suddenly pictures of the Cambridges out as a family on weekends, several appearances and photo ops with the children in mummy’s garden. Then there was the infamous Cambridge-Flybe fiasco of a PR stunt, when the Cambridges were pictured flying on a budget airline to Balmoral, juxtaposed against Prince Harry and family being lambasted for flying by private jet. It was almost as if they were saying look, we’ll gladly show our kids for the benefit of the almighty taxpayer and it’s fine. We’re modest and environmentally conscious travelers. The model royals, see? Except that they were too busy flexing that they left footprints along the trail of the PR stunt. See news excerpts below.
It really was suspicious but the reporters went to great lengths to convince readers that the trip would have been booked way in advance of the travel date and not done on purpose. Until the report from the Scotsman that detailed the last minute flight arrangements, along with the extraordinary measures taken, including flying two planes empty, to create the “responsible royal” moment. How is that for being caught with egg on your face!
It was recently reported that Prince William had paid the Queen a surprise visit at Balmoral. He was neither pictured getting on his “budget flight” nor was any reporter remotely interested in how he got there. Co-incidence or by design?
Blatant efforts to steal the spotlight/ undermine the Sussexes.
As this media campaign against the Sussexes has worn on, a pattern has emerged whereby, whenever the Sussexes get good press or have major announcements, The Cambridges swoop in to attempt to dilute/dissipate the impact of said event/ announcement. Granted, it’s a big family with busy principals who may have conflicting calendars but some of these announcements from KP have been curious at the very least. E.g. In May this year, in the middle of Prince Harry’s Sentebale Polo match in Rome, KP announced that Princess Charlotte will be going to the same school as her elder brother. Cute, but what was the urgency, given that it was months in advance and towards the end of August, they made the announcement again.
Then there was that Saturday late night ( for both Britain and Pakistan) announcement of the Cambridges Pakistan tour on the same day the Sussexes attended the London series baseball game in aid of Invictus Foundation. The timing seemed odd, almost trying to muscle their way onto the frontpages of Sunday papers, which was a fail by the way. Don’t forget Prince William launching the Heads Together FA project on Duchess Meghan’s birthday, which this year fell on a Sunday, and the announcement of an upcoming mental health collaboration between the Cambridges and some man who Kate met privately, on the day the Smart Set collection was launched. As noted before, it’s a big team and there’s bound to be conflict but some of these really induce head-scratching, and considering that the Sussexes can’t even post pictures on Instagram without being accused of upstaging a first birthday, it’s odd.
There have also been instances where the Cambridge camp has appropriated credit for work done by House Sussex. The most recent example was the ludicrous attempt to credit Kate for the successful launch of The Smart Set Collection. Also remember Shout? Which the Cambridges launched in a manner that almost completely erased the Sussexes from what was at the minimum a team effort. It just seems to be a pattern of stealing the Sussex thunder that frankly arouses questions.
Other Circumstantial Evidence.
Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge claims Tatler the tea table topper gossip magazine as a favourite and is connected to two different people at Tatler: Richard Dennen, the Tatler editor and David Jenkins a writer at Tatler. The picture below shows Richard Dennen, who went to school with William and Kate and has social media posts indicating they are still close. Kate’s current stylist is a lady who lunches and is friendly with Alexandra Shulman, the ex-British Vogue editor-in-chief( with her own past race scandal) and current partner of David Jenkins, the man who wrote a Tatler hit piece on the Duchess of Sussex.
Tatler’s latest hit piece on The Duchess of Sussex which is without merit was posted on Instagram with such overt malice, so offensive and distasteful that they had to delete it on the same day due to objections from supporters of Meghan and even some non-royal watchers. The confidence to post such vitriol about their friend’s sister-in-law indicates to me that at best, the writer had no expectation of dissent from Kate or at worst had the blessing or OK from the Cambridge court. It is worthy of note that about a month before this despicable hit piece, Tatler did a piece about who had the most social capital in Britain and of course the Cambridges were at or near the top of that list. Do you see how that juxtaposes with the whole “Duchess Meghan the social climber” move Tatler made? Coincidence? Maybe but this curious mind thinks someone is actively trying to make and simultaneously break some individuals’ social status.
Also, recall the December 2018 interview granted by Carol Middleton to the Daily Mail, in which she went out of her way to say that royalty is not all about giving speeches, even though the purpose of interview was to celebrate a milestone of their family business? It was clearly seen as a swipe at Duchess Meghan following the wildly successful Oceania tour, during which she made several speeches that drew the admiration of many and led to the inevitable comparisons of the sisters-in-law’s public speaking ability. We now know that speech-making is so inconsequential to the role of a royal that, the complete overhaul of one’s voice and accent in order to become a “confident public speaker” has reportedly successfully taken place. Yes, that was sarcasm.
Another theory that’s been offered for The Cambridges’ seeming collusion with the British press is to hide an alleged affair. The deal with the UK media vultures being that they won’t cover the alleged affair by Prince William as long as they have access to “palace sources” with which to trash The Sussexes, especially Meghan. The Cambridges get to muzzle unfavourable stories about themselves while the Media continue to monetize the Sussexes, the most in-demand couple, with sensational stories: a perfect quid pro quo. See screen grabs of social media posts below for reference.
The Cambridges sweetened the deal further by granting more photographic access to them and their children, a real boon for the media who are essentially double dipping; selling the “wholesome” future, future, family versus the “problematic” Sussexes, so they willingly oblige. The benefit to Prince William and Duchess Kate are clear, becoming more popular( in their estimation) and of course squashing all coverage of alleged affair.
By trashing Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex the UK media satisfies their latent xenophobia, misogyny and racism while hoping to gain access to their private lives. The cynical and Machiavellian calculation by the UK media is that the more negative press they generate about the Sussexes to create an impression, albeit false, that there’s a public relations issue, the likelihood that Prince Harry will be forced to grant them more access to his family to help repair the “PR problem” will increase.
Stunning reluctance of Cambridges to offer support.
Ever since The Sussexes’ relationship became public in 2016, up till their engagement, marriage, birth of Master Archie and the interspersing projects and work engagements with the attendant intrusive, malicious and caustic media coverage and harassment of the Sussexes, not once have the Cambridges offered any words or deeds that could be remotely construed as support for the Sussexes or displeasure at the way the media have treated them. There have been no denials of hurtful fabrications about Meghan making Kate cry or whatever. On the contrary, we usually get some exclusive of how Prince William is unhappy with how his brother and his wife are conducting themselves( with reference to private jet-gate) or how William was not in favour of their marriage. In a sense, the implication was that, whatever the media was parroting had no objection from the Duke of Cambridge.
Of course we cannot ascertain the veracity of these reports and The Cambridges are not the only members of the royal family who have passively observed the media harassment of the Sussexes but, actions speak louder than words and I offer that, the Kensington Palace social media pages are very instructive. There is a plethora of abuse hurled at the Duchess of Sussex in particular, that in spite of their so-called social media guidelines, remain in the comment sections unmoderated. Not the same for comments that are remotely uncomplimentary to The Cambridges or raise touchy subjects. Those are promptly deleted and posters are even blocked. So the guidelines and tools exist but are just not deployed where the Sussexes are concerned. I wonder why. Especially as William has recently launched an anti-cyberbullying campaign. Is it just an unfortunate oversight or a purposeful indifference? Your guess is as good as mine.
So here lie the signposts leading to one obvious palace, in my opinion. Could all these occurrences be down to happenstance? Possible, but what is the likelihood that all these pieces/components just happen to be stacked together? I hear hoofbeats and something comes to mind. What about you?