At the end of part one, I posed a few questions: Was the spare and his wife outshining the heir? Also what is the connection between ITV and the Markle family? Why does this mainstream channel consistently give them a platform? And what about the Royal Rota – they exist to sell the Monarchy to the public while also subjecting them to the appropriate scrutiny. Did they not think the negative coverage surrounding Meghan would have a negative impact on the Monarchy? Where was the Royal Family in all this? When Diana and Sophie were faced with negative media coverage, the Queen and the palace asked the editors to ease up on them. Even Kate was given a grace period to settle into her role as a Royal. Why were they not offering Meghan the same protections?
By now it was clear Meghan was under attack by the UK media and each story was picked up and amplified across the entire world. It had been earlier reported that the Queen had invited Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother to spend Christmas at Sandringham. Shortly after that story made the rounds, Thomas Markle Sr. would once again feature in the Daily Mail courtesy of Caroline Graham. He revealed the heartfelt notes his daughter once sent him and makes another attempt to ‘tell his side of the story’ and present evidence that he did indeed have a heart attack and that is why he missed the wedding. But he would go on to claim that he had been frozen out by Harry and Meghan, and any attempts he had made to get in touch with them had gone unanswered, and that he was living in fear of never seeing his daughter again.
Thomas would once again appear on ITV’s GMB with Piers Morgan, who has now switched his tone of commentary on Meghan Markle. The brilliant young woman – his words – was now a conniving ruthless social climber who had ‘ghosted’ her father just as she ‘ghosted’ him after she met Prince Harry. Interestingly, Thomas Markle is now using the same term ‘ghosting/ghosted’.
Harry and Meghan press forward with their royal duties and in early January 2019, the palace announced Meghan’s patronages – a total of 4 that include two – the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the National Theater – that she took over from the Queen. Around this time, they suffered a major violation of their privacy. Emily Andrews of the Sun (currently mail on Sunday royal editor), revealed the location of their country home in the Cotswolds, and the Times actually published pictures of the house taken via a paparazzi helicopter. This was a residence that they privately leased, not one gifted by the Queen or some taxpayer funded whatever, and there was absolutely no justification for breaching their privacy in that manner. It later came to light that Prince harry sued and received “substantial damages” for the invasion of privacy. It was revealed that the couple surrendered the lease early because of security concerns once the location of the home had been revealed.
With the media onslaught carrying on into the new year and new recruits like Piers Morgan aboard the anti-Meghan train, five of Meghan’s friends in an anonymous interview expressed their concern for Meghan and called out the global bullying by the media and the stress it was putting on 7-month pregnant Meghan. The article also mentioned, contrary to existing narratives, that Meghan did not ignore her father and had made attempts to reach out to him, begging him to stop attacking her via the media so they could repair their relationship. In a rebuttal to this article, the Mail on Sunday published parts of a private letter Meghan had written to her father. The excerpts revealed her anguish and confirmed the lengths she went to to keep in touch with her father. On the other side, under the charge of Piers the press was putting pressure on Meghan to call her father.
Kensington Palace welcomed a new communications secretary, Christian Jones to the Royal Household. Following his appointment we begun to see even more leaks. Firstly, pictures of Meghan and Christian leaving lunch were published in the UK papers, a highly unusual move because according to the Royal Rota, there is an agreement with the palace not to publish paparazzi pictures of the royal family. Meghan being pictured was significant in that, we know from multiple reports that she paid several private visits to her patronages( before becoming patron). They, as well as the women of the Hubb Community kitchen but not a single picture was ever seen, until they were ready to publicize the visit.
In mid February, Meghan quietly traveled to New York and for 3 days had gone undetected, that is, until the Daily Mail published paparazzi pictures. With her location revealed she was forced to move out of her friends residence into a hotel, where the media created a spectacle of themselves to the extent that back-up security had to be provided by US officials.
Then, ever so eager to break “exclusives”, Emily Andrews wrote a story about the events at Meghan’s baby shower, that appeared on the front pages of the Sun. Only problem was that, the story, complete with details of guests in attendance and games that were played, was published a day too early. The baby shower hadn’t taken place yet. According to Emily, she was told by her source at Kensington Palace was to blame for the mix-up and had apologized to her for getting the dates wrong. Interestingly, all of Emily’s tweets between 1st February 2019 and 23rd February 2019 have disappeared from her Twitter timeline. The baby shower was on February 20th, and we know she tweeted about it.
The baby shower attracted a lot of criticism from royal reporters and experts with claims it was ‘unroyal”, ‘lavish and distasteful”. And as if that wasn’t enough Kensington Palace in covering an engagement William was undertaking published UK poverty statistics, prompting Piers Morgan to weigh in accusing Meghan of living the high life while the Queen’s subject languish in poverty. The Daily Mail even went as far as criticising her for not inviting her mother in favour of her ‘New A-List Celebrity friends’.
Shortly after returning to London, Meghan was on a plane with Harry headed to Morocco to carry out another Royal visit at the request of the UK government. As for the royal press, on the one hand, they continued to complain about lack of access to Meghan – continuing a narrative they created at the time of the cookbook launch – while hopping on planes to go cover their events. According to the likes of Arthur Edwards, since Harry met Meghan he had changed and was no longer “one of the lads” who used to hang out with them in the pub. So what if the press had written a few unflattering pieces about Meghan – it was all a part of the game and the two needed to loosen up.
Expectation is building up for the Royal baby and the royal reporters are trying to close in on a due date. The only thing they know came by way of a chat during a visit to Bristol, when Meghan told a lady during a walkabout the baby was due late April early May. Besides waiting for the arrival of their baby, Harry and Meghan were forced to leave their Oxfordshire home(as stated earlier) after the media published pictures of their house. In the same month, Buckingham Palace finally announced the split in the royal household commonly known as Kensington Palace and the creation of a new household for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex based at Buckingham palace, with Sara Latham as their head of communications.
While the focus was on Harry and Meghan, it seems other royals were up to the usual royal shenanigans. The Sun’s Dan Wootton run a story on Kate’s fall out with a local rival, Rose but just like the “Meghan made Kate cry” story no reason was given. The story did not generate much interest until in an attempt to bury the story, Richard Kay in a Daily Mail article downplayed the fall out and instead tried to use it as another opportunity to slag off Meghan and Harry. The story gained momentum on social media and of particular interest were tweets from people within the Norfolk set, stating that the affair between William and Rose is well known but nobody talks about it. These tweets would very quickly disappear over the following days but never off the internet.
A royal affair is not surprising considering 3 of the Queen’s 4 children are divorced in part due to infidelity. The surprise was nobody in the UK press was covering this story. No follow up articles, no TV debates, not even a tweet from the Royal Rota who claim to be journalists covering the royals without fear or favour. The same reporters who had spent the past months giving us behind the scenes stories about Meghan, where no story was too big or too small or too nonsensical to be written about. Subsequent media reports indicated that Prince William lawyers threatened the media with legal action if they covered the story. And just like that, the story was buried. We witnessed the full strength of the palace unleashed to protect William from the media, while the same press continued to attack Meghan. The so-called royal family mantra “never complain, never explain” was applied to Harry and Meghan but the rest had the freedom to complain.
In early April 2019, Harry and Meghan finally moved away from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage. Harry and Meghan had strong social media support where people worked hard to highlight media lies, challenge narratives and call out the racism, sexism, classism Meghan was subjected to. Given the nature of stories that were being written about the couple, the volume of leaks coming out of the palace, the petty displays of jealousy and double standards applied by the royal family and the media, there was a sense the two were working together to bully and harass this young couple and to undermine their achievements so they do not outshine or outperform the heirs, specifically William. This was mainly social media chatter as people attempted to connect the dots around everything that was happening, each circling back to Kensington Palace.
A few weeks later suspicions would be confirmed via an article by political journalist Tim Shipman that appeared in the Sunday Times titled, “Revealed: Palace’s Africa plan for Harry and Meghan”. In the article he mentioned how the palace was struggling to harness the popularity of Harry and Meghan. That their popularity was a source of concern for William, whom courtiers had to assure, telling him the current situation was “peak Harry, and the popularity would fade”. He also confirmed William’s displeasure at Harry’s appointment as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador the year before. The palace was therefore considering creating a position for them somewhere in Africa. Other continents had been considered but even Australia was not far enough given the internet age, and Canada was too close to the US, Meghan’s home country. The article went on to reveal efforts William was undertaking in preparation to be King after the death of his grandmother and then his father. Part of this involved reaching out to the very same editors that had been harassing his brother and sister-in-law for the past year, a move that the palace supported, and one which saw the media side with William and the palace, and advancing the most negative coverage of Meghan’s father.
The portrayal of Africa in the article as this backward, out of the way continent where Harry and Meghan could be “banished” to, attracted the ire of social media and forced the palace to issue a denial and the online version of the article was re-framed with the contribution of royal correspondent Roya Nikkah. Another area of interest within the original article were the lengths the palace was willing to go to make William (and Kate) more comfortable, which is understandable considering William will one day be king. But it begs the question, why an institution that was looking to modernise as they had boldly claimed to the world would suddenly find problems with the modern ways of Harry and Meghan, who in a short amount of time had brought attention to the royal family and were quickly attracting a demographic of the UK population and the world, that had until now felt disconnected from them? It seemed counterproductive that a move like this would be in the works.
About two weeks later, Meghan delivered the couple’s baby on May 06 2019. Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor was introduced to the world two days later in a photo call at Windsor Castle. That they were able to travel to the hospital, have the baby and be back home without so much as a peep, underscores what a tight inner circle they had and most importantly, what the distance from other households had done to stem the leaks.
The day after the photo call Harry traveled to Netherlands to launch the Invictus Games 2020. Initially, A day or two before the IG 2020 launch, Harry was scheduled to undertake an engagement in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam engagement happened to be on the same day William and Kate were to travel to Wales, and Charles was concluding a tour of Germany. In a move that was reminiscent of the Winter of 2017 where the media informed us of William’s fury at a scheduling conflict with Harry and Meghan, the Amsterdam event was cancelled, citing logistical difficulties for reporters covering all three events. Charles’ and William’s went ahead as planned with no scheduling complaints.
Another summer as a royal brings another round of attacks on Meghan by the media. Her crime this time; while less than a month post-partum and on maternity leave, the Duchess did not participate in any events during Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. The scheduled events would see appearances from the Queen, her two heirs in-waiting and a brief appearance by Harry at a luncheon hosted by the queen. Somehow, it was the absence of Harry and particularly Meghan that the press was focused on. They accused the Duchess of absconding from her Royal duties, while on maternity leave.
On the work front, Emily Andrews would “exclusively reveal” that Meghan was working on a project with Vogue and went on to speculate on the details. As far as their charitable endeavours were concerned it was announced that, Harry and Meghan would step down as, joint patrons of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and work towards creating their own charitable vehicle. While the royal reporters feigned shock at this news and and wondered why this was happening, a review of the recently released financial reports of the Foundation told a story. Most of the income and successful impactful projects were attributed to the efforts of Harry and Meghan, plus the financial health of the foundation was found to be lacking.
Around the same time, 2019 financial reports, revealed the impact of The Sussexes’ wedding on the royal family. The Royal Collection Trust, which oversees visitors to the palace and other royal exhibitions reported “a bumper year of royal celebrations”. Retail sales increased by 19%, the Queen’s official residence enjoyed a record 3.3 million more visitors mainly driven by Windsor, and admission income grew by £7.5 million. Contrary to earlier media reports that Meghan’s wardrobe budget estimated at about £1 million (suggesting she cost the RF a lot), the Royal household expenditure only increased by £85,000. From the looks of things, Meghan joining the Royal family had been good ‘for business’.
This did not matter one bit to the UK media when the review of capital expenditure of under the Sovereign Grant showed that £2.4 million was spent to renovate Frogmore Cottage – a building that had been already been earmarked for renovation( regardless of the Sussexes’ occupancy) for the year ending April 2019. The media used this as an opportunity to demand access to Meghan, evoking the taxpayer/publicly funded argument and accusing her of having unrealistic privacy expectations. This criticism reached fever pitch when it was revealed that Archie’s baptism would be a private affair, with portraits to follow. Piers Morgan used his TV platform to tell Meghan “Go Back to America”. The media however didn’t appear to care that £1 million was spent to refurbish a Kensington Palace driveway. Harry and Meghan had obtained consent from the Queen to use her private chapel and keep details of their son’s godparents private. So desperate were the media to get details of the event that, Richard Palmer went as far as accusing the Queen of breaking the law. No matter how the media felt about this decision, the fact is both Harry and Meghan made this decision jointly with consent from the Queen but it was Meghan who bore the brunt of the criticism.
In July 2019, Jeffrey Epstein a New York financier accused of molesting dozens of minor girls was arrested and charged with sex trafficking by federal prosecutors. Jeffrey Epstein was a friend to Prince Andrew and the two had been pictured together in London, on a boat with topless women in Thailand, walking together in Central Park shortly after Jeffrey’s release from an earlier prison sentence for similar charges. Once again Prince Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein was generating international media interest. When the Royal Rota were asked why they were not covering this story, their response was he has not been accused of anything. Nobody was asking them to accuse Andrew of anything and the public was pointing out a story that deserved their attention. Rather than address this growing concern, the palace instead threw a bone to the media by announcing that Meghan was to guest-edit of the prestigious September.
About a month later Jeffrey Epstein died in his prison cell and the following day the UK tabloids that had by and large ignored this story published pictures of a smiling Prince Andrew riding in a car with the Queen on their way to Sunday service at Balmoral. Royal experts tell us the royal family uses a lot of symbolism. The pictures themselves were taken at such close range, which could only have happened with palace approval. In allowing these pictures to be published, the message from the royal family was loud and clear – Prince Andrew had the full support of the Monarch herself. When Richard Palmer accused the Queen of breaking the law, the palace communications did not feel it necessary to respond but here was a whole Prince with credible rape allegations receiving a public showing of support from the Queen, the royal family and the media.
Still reeling from being left out of the baptism celebrations and choosing to ignore the Jeffrey Epstein – Prince Andrew association in light of Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest, the media would once again turn their attention to Meghan and Harry. This time round accusing them of hypocrisy for going on holiday using a private jet while advocating for climate change and environmental conservation. This is a common criticism of the rich and famous by the UK media. But in this instance it was problematic because as usual the bulk of the criticism fell on Meghan accusing her of “lecturing” the British public about climate change, never mind that never once has she spoken publicly on climate change which is her husband’s area of focus. Secondly, Princes Charles and William use private jets all the time but are not subjected to this level of criticism. The double standard was exhausting, the attacks equally tiring. Elton John was compelled to address them publicly, posting on his Instagram that he had paid for their private jet and its carbon emissions and called out the media for their relentless attacks on the couple. He was one in a list of public figures to come out and defend Harry and Meghan, while the Royal Family sat back and watched this happen.
Not to be outdone by the media and in what appeared to be a calculated move to capitalize on the negative reporting on Harry and Meghan for the Cambridges’ benefit, Kensington Palace under the leadership of Simon Case made last minute arrangements for William and is wife fly a budget airline to Balmoral to visit the Queen. Of course, they just “happened” to be pictured carrying their own bags as the walked across the tarmac. On cue, the media went into phase 2 of slag Harry and Meghan off. This was clearly a publicity stunt and as much as Royal Rota attempted to defend the situation it was comical when a Scottish paper broke the backstory of this very conveniently timed flight. Two planes were flown empty for hundreds of miles so as to position an aircraft for The Cambridges’ flight to “maximise publicity”. Their expertise in carbon emissions were suddenly non-existent. The Royal Rota were so far up that Kensington tree that they continued to make ridiculous excuses for the stunt. They were squirming.
The release of Meghan’s Vogue issue provided the media with the perfect segue to get away from flights and stunts to resume their attacks on Meghan. All manner of criticism were thrown her way. She was being political, woke and all that nonsense. So-called journalists, were provided platforms by TV networks to lie about commonly known facts. It was a manufactured hysteria, that was designed probably to sabotage the issue. All the dry heaving did very little to dissuade the public and Vogue September 2019 issue “Forces for Change” went on to become fastest-selling issue in the history of British Vogue, selling out in 10 days and the biggest-selling issue of the past decade.
The ridiculous display by the British media had now attracted global attention and the media received a lot of push-back. The racism, misogyny, sexism and classism was rightfully called out and so was their double standards and hypocrisy criticising Meghan for doing everything every Royal had done in the past. The British media pushed back. Dan Wootton who happened to attend University with Jason Knauf, a senior official in William’s court and had a mutual friend with Christian Jones, Communications Secretary at Kensington palace accused Harry and Meghan of playing the victim card when in fact it was the family and their courtiers that had been briefing different parts of the media about them. His colleague at the time Emily Andrews eagerly informed the public that, the palace had been angered by Harry and Meghan’s actions and nobody was supporting them.
It wasn’t the Prince hanging out with the convicted paedophile; or another Prince allegedly having an affair with his wife’s friend; nor was it the fact that in 7 years of marriage said wife had not done anything meaningful in her royal role that had angered the palace. It was Meghan’s admirable qualities of feistiness, can-do attitude and work ethic that had angered the family and the household.
In spite of all the media criticism and angry family members briefing the media against them, Harry and Meghan pressed forward with their royal duties and each day they had to come into contact with the very same people who constantly bullied and harassed them. Meghan gave the public a glimpse of a project she had been working on with Smart Works Charity – one of her patronages – while Harry traveled to Amsterdam to finally launch Travalyst a sustainable travel project whose earlier launch had been postponed due to scheduling conflicts within the royal households. For the media this was another opportunity to undermine Harry’s work like they have done with his achievements in the past. Not being one to shy away from tough situations, Harry stood up in front of the world media and acknowledged the criticism surrounding his use of a private jet stating majority of the time he traveled commercial but occasionally it was necessary to travel via private in order to ensure the safety of his family – as simple as that.
Almost a year after the successful launch of the cookbook that raised more than £500,000 for the ladies of the Hubb Community kitchen, Meghan in partnership with John Lewis and Partners, Marks and Spencer, Jigsaw and her friend Misha Nonoo launched the Smart Set Collection; a 5-piece capsule collection using the 1:1 model with the aim of providing Smart Works Charity with enough units to dress the women the they support for a full year. It came as no surprise when some of the items sold out within an hour of launching and in only 8 days the target was realised with only 4 days left to the end of the sales period.
Another successful project under her belt, together with Harry they would embark on their fourth foreign visit in a little over a year. This time traveling to South Africa as representatives of her Majesty the Queen and her government at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Over the summer period the UK media had gone to even greater lengths to deny what was a clearly racist agenda against Meghan. It was racist because Meghan was being relentlessly criticised for doing the very same things that all other royals did; guest editing a magazine, using a private jet, not making a public appearance immediately after birthing her child (the public didn’t see Prince Charles until 3 months after his birth), addressing issues such as feminism, climate change, sustainability, mental health. The critics called for the palace to fire their PR team led by Sara Latham because according to them, Harry and Meghan had fallen out of favour with the public. In the words of Eamonn Holmes, “Harry and Meghan needed to consult with media types like them” to get their PR straightened out.
That narrative was difficult to square with the fact that, the press pack that would accompany the “out-favour couple” consisted of 80 accredited traveling media and 300 local media. It was even more shocking to see the number of people that turned up to the events. Interestingly though, there was a slight change in tone of coverage with Meghan gracing most front pages back at home (but then she always did), but missing was the scathing words and the name calling we had become accustomed to over the past year. The media finally had a public appearance by 5-month old Archie prompting the likes of Sarah Vine to claim that in doing so, the couple had turned things around.
On the penultimate day of the tour, in the presence of a global audience, Prince Harry released a statement in which he called out the UK media for launching a smear campaign against his wife and informing the world that his wife was taking legal action against the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers for the publication of a private letter she had written to her father. The UK media was livid to say the least. While the rest of the world media covered the last day of the tour declaring it a success, their UK counterparts wallowed in self-pity choosing to make themselves the victims and questioning the timing of this announcement. As they went on and on about the action of Harry, they failed to mention to the public that a week prior to this latest announcement, Harry had filed a lawsuit against the Sun and Mirror group for phone hacking. Although the media called this a highly unusual move and warned Harry and Meghan “would draw the ire of editors”, this was not the first time the royal family had sued the press. In July 2019 Harry was paid substantial damages after suing Splash News and Picture Agency for invading his privacy when they flew a helicopter over the Oxfordshire property. William and Kate, Prince Charles and the Queen have all filed privacy suits before. Just Meghan apparently doesn’t deserve or have privacy rights.
Across the pond another Duke and Duchess were preparing to embark on a tour to Pakistan, their “most complicated tour to date”. In keeping with royal family requirements not to overshadow other working members, Harry and Meghan kept a low profile throughout the month of October. Tom Bradby a journalist and friend to Harry & William, had been traveling with the couple and making a documentary about their Southern Africa tour. Naturally he covered the new legal action as well as the behind the scenes goings on. When ITV’s release of the promo for the documentary coincided with the last day of the Pakistan tour, William and his army of reporters turn their ire towards Harry and Meghan, instead of the media company, The Royal Rota accused them of intentionally overshadowing a very important tour by the future king and his consort, as if they are responsible for programming at ITV. Unsurprisingly, the royal press pack in Pakistan told of William’s displeasure; a comment that by now, we’ve come to expect. Protocols were invented for this specific occasion with Rhiannon Mills claiming “There is an unwritten rule in the royal family that you don’t do anything too high profile when other members of the family are on tour”. And yet only 5 months ago, while Prince Charles was on tour in Germany, William himself held high profile engagements. The sky didn’t fall out and neither of them lost their place in the line of succession. Also, remember that Princess Beatrice announced her engagement during Harry and Meghan’s Southern Africa tour. It wasn’t a problem and shouldn’t be. But oh that Harry and his wife Meghan…
The UK media reviews of the documentary were scathing but globally, Meghan’s authenticity was welcomed. The hashtag #WeLoveYouMeghan trended for two days with many calling out the UK media for their blatant racism and refusal to take accountability. On the part of the royal family, customary silence as far as Harry and Meghan are concerned. When social media users pointed out that the palace was quick to put out statements in support of Prince Andrew, there were leaked reports mentioning William’s apparent “concern” for his brother. So concerned was he that he had apparently not reached out to his brother(see Finding Freedom) but was able to reach out to the media with this information using unnamed sources. When the documentary finally aired, Harry made it categorically clear that “he would not be bullied into playing the game that killed his mother”, the third time he would reference “the game” – meaning the relationship that exists between the royal family and the media.
The British establishment were unwilling to acknowledge the blatant racism Meghan had been subjected to over the past year, but we were starting to hear outcry that the media scrutiny had been relentless. 72 cross-party members of parliament wrote a public letter of support to the Duchess. Rather than take accountability for their actions, they once again blamed Meghan. In November 2019 it was announced that Harry and Meghan would be taking a 6-week break and would not be spending the upcoming Christmas holiday with the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. A decision that was roundly and dishonestly criticised by the media.
Again, why is it that other members of the royal family can do things – anything – but Harry and Meghan dare not? What is the basis of the blatant discrimination? It certainly isn’t seniority because Andrew and Beatrice, who are 8th and 9th in line behind Archie and his father get a pass. And so did Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips when they spent Christmas away from the Queen. WHY?