Loved to loathed: what exactly made the crowd turn against Duchess Meghan Markle 1 year ago

Loved to loathed: what exactly made the crowd turn against Duchess Meghan Markle

It seems like just yesterday that Meghan Markle was hailed as the new Grace Kelly.

In some ways, her wedding to Harry doesn't seem so long ago but, in terms of public attitude towards the Duchess, it might as well have been a whole other lifetime.

Advertisement

So what happened?

In the beginning, it was pretty much all sunshine and roses - Meghan was the modern, intelligent, bi-racial woman that was going to bring the royal family completely into the Twenty-First Century.

Everyone - Harry, Megan, the public, and from the outside it seemed the royal family too - was over the moon. Harry had finally found the love of his life and Meghan seemed the perfect person to be his wife. The only hint of negativity came near the beginning of their relationship when Harry condemned the press for harassing his girlfriend.

A statement was issued by Harry's communications secretary, which said:

"This past week has seen a line crossed. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public - the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments. This is not a game - it is her life and his."

No one questioned the statement - it made sense that Harry would want to protect someone he loved from that kind of ridicule. The British press hasn't had a particularly pleasant history with anyone, least of all the royal family.

However, perhaps this was the first sign that Meghan Markle really had no idea what she was signing up for. As a much-loved celebrity in the US and Canada, the extra attention that came with dating a prince might not have seemed so daunting. But the British press is a very different animal to the American press, which she would soon come to see.

Advertisement

So let's break it down.

November 2016 - Harry pleads with the press to leave Meghan Markle alone, making it clear that this relationship is one that he is taking very seriously.

November 2017 - One year later, Harry and Meghan announce their engagement to the world. Finally, after years of being the brother to the future king, Prince Harry was going to get his very own happily ever after. And no one could be happier for the two of them - Meghan is welcomed with open arms.

November 2017-May 2018 - The whole debacle surrounding Meghan Markle's family unfolds over the months leading up to the wedding. There is constant press attention on Meghan and story after story shows up in the press, about how Meghan's sister says that Meghan is a bad person who abandoned her family when she became rich and famous. However, Meghan's sister comes across looking like a pretty unpleasant sister to have, so the public overwhelmingly sides with Meghan in that regard.

Advertisement

Then Meghan's father is caught posing for paparazzi photos and it seems confirmed that that side of Meghan's family are just press-hungry and looking for attention. So when Meghan uninvites her father from her wedding, no one blames her. The public is very much behind the new princess-to-be.

May 2018 - Meghan and Harry get married at Windsor Castle. It is a beautiful day, a beautiful ceremony, and the bride and groom both look overjoyed to be there. Prince Charles walks Meghan partway down the aisle and the rest she walks herself. The whole world swoons when Harry mouths "you look amazing" to her as she takes her place beside him at the altar.

Sure, there are some mentions of how Kate, Camilla, and William all had a little laugh at the pastor's sermon but so did a lot of us at home so most of us don't read too much into it.

Advertisement

May-October 2018 - Meghan is seen on several royal outings with both the Queen and Kate Middleton. Everyone seems to be having a lovely time together, with Meghan and the Queen even giggling together. It seems Meghan has slipped in seamlessly.

Meghan and Harry visit Ireland where they are welcomed warmly by everyone. This trip marks their first visit outside of the UK as a married couple.

October 2018 - A new royal baby is on the way. Just a few hours after Meghan and Harry land in Sydney for the beginning of their tour of the commonwealth, the couple announces that they are expecting their first child. How exciting! A little cousin for George, Charlotte, and Louis - things are only on the up and up for these two.

Advertisement

But you know what they say: what goes up must come down.

October 2018-April 2019 - Rumours of Meghan's so-called "pushy" nature make their way around the press. The new Duchess is supposedly bombarding her staff with texts, starting at five AM when she wakes up, and bossing people around constantly. The quitting of several staff members only adds fuel to this rumour.

Then come the rumours of a feud between Meghan and Kate. Dotted in with these big stories are little digs at Meghan and how she is apparently showing off her baby bump too much. People are beginning to change their opinion of her - there's no smoke without fire, right? If everyone is saying Duchess Meghan is a bully to her staff and an attention-seeker, there must be something to it.

A story about a certain tiara starts making the rounds. According to certain "sources", Meghan wanted to wear a particular tiara on her wedding day. She was told that, because the origins of that tiara were unclear, she couldn't wear it. The exchange then got so heated that apparently the Queen had to step in and say no herself. With everything else going around, this rumour does nothing to put Meghan in people's good books.

But then - then - comes the real turning point. Rumours of a rift emerge between not the ladies but the men. Yes, Harry and William are supposedly no longer on speaking terms. The cause? Meghan herself. Or, more specifically, William's attitude towards Meghan and his failure to properly welcome her with open arms.

April 2019 - Meghan and Harry leave Kensington Palace, where they were living beside Kate and William, and move to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, their official residence gifted to them by the Queen. This exit from Kensington Palace was supposedly driven by the now-icy relations between the two brothers.

Meghan and Harry make some renovations to Frogmore Cottage which cost nearly €3 million. The angry reaction to this really shows how much the crowd has turned against Meghan. People might be able to put up with a pushy Duchess but they can't put up with someone who would split up their two golden boys.

May 2019 - Baby Archie is born. The world celebrates but there is a negative undertone as Meghan refuses to introduce their new son to the world until she is ready. It seems a fair enough request for a normal mother but Meghan Markle is not a normal mother and Archie is not a normal baby. After Kate Middleton managed to get dressed up, made up, and introduce her newborns to the public on the day they were born - and after months of terrible hyperemesis gravidarum - why couldn't Meghan do the same?

Kate and William realised the public's link to their child and respected that. They acknowledged that the British taxpayer is involved in the raising of their children because they are essentially paying for it. Harry and Meghan's delay in bringing out baby Archie feels like a snub and definitely hits a nerve with a lot of people.

August 2019 - Meghan and Harry use Elton John's private jet to fly on holidays. This may seem standard for members of the royal family but when it's two members who preach about environmental issues and saving the planet, it doesn't come across that well. The two receive a lot of public backlash. In the same year that Greta Turnberg becomes famous and crosses the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-emissions yacht, Meghan and Harry's journey is met with cries of "practice what you preach".

Elton John defends the couple, insisting that their journey was carbon neutral because he made the appropriate contribution to Carbon Footprint. However, this explanation mostly falls on deaf ears.

September 2019 - The couple tour South Africa where they also take part in a documentary, An African Journey, that airs the following month. In the documentary, Meghan and Harry talk about the difficulty of dealing with the British press. Harry relates it back to his mother's death, saying that "every time <he hears> a camera, every time <he hears> a click, every time <he sees> a flash, it takes <him> straight back".

Meghan describes how she was totally unprepared for the onslaught of the British press, despite her British friends warning her that the tabloids would "destroy her life".

"I've said for a long time to H - that's what I call him - it's not enough to just survive something, right? That's not the point of life. You've got to thrive, you've got to feel happy. I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried. But I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging."

Had this documentary come earlier on in her marriage, it's possible that people would have fallen on the side of sympathy in their reaction to watching the interviews. A lot of the damage to her image has already been done though and, while there are quite a few sympathetic viewers, there are also teems of people criticising her for not checking her privilege.

October 2019 - Meghan takes legal action against the Mail on Sunday for publishing one of her handwritten letters to her father without permission. Harry releases a statement that shows his true anger at the press, accusing them of subjecting his wife to a ruthless campaign.

"Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences - a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son.  ... Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

November 2019 - Harry and Meghan announce that they will be taking a six-week break from their royal duties and spending Christmas in Canada, away from the rest of the family. This raises a lot of eyebrows but nevertheless does little to soften the blow of their next big announcement.

January 2020 - Harry and Meghan decide to step back as senior members of the Royal family for the foreseeable future. The couple announce on Instagram that they will be splitting their time between the UK and North America and that they will be taking steps to become financially independent.

There is a huge public reaction and almost 100 percent of the blame is put on Meghan Markle. But why? Does Harry not have a say in his life either? Are we really to believe that Meghan came in, guns blazing, ready to mould the Royal family to her will and, when that didn't work, decided to up and out, dragging an innocent Harry along with her? Not to mention alienating him from his family along the way.

Perhaps it's true or perhaps this is an image that has been steadily but artificially painted for people over a number of months.

Maybe people's reactions are entirely justified but maybe we should stop and consider whether our opinions are based on fact or on stories that we've picked up over the last year and a half.

The public reaction to this news is enormous, no doubt, but is the venom behind that reaction justified?