Ok, I’ll admit it. I find Meghan Markle, HRH the Duchess of Sussex, irritating. It is for two very important reasons. One; she is painfully worthy and saccharine and I am painfully cynical and sarcastic. Two; she is married to Prince Harry. I fancy Prince Harry.
That’s my excuse.
So what is everyone else’s?
This week has seen the release of the September issue of British Vogue, which has been guest edited by Meghan. There have been rumours swirling that she may be involved – we had assumed the cover; something like Kate’s centenary edition. But, once again, Meghan exceeded expectations and presented an entirely guest-edited issue; covered with a multitude of diverse ‘forces for change’ from Gemma Chan to Jacinda Ardern.
I say exceeded expectations, because as a modern, forward-thinking country that celebrates women for their successes, for pushing boundaries and breaking glass ceilings, you would think we would celebrate a new royal; coming in and championing diversity. But instead of praise, this was met with derision nothing short of bullying, ridicule and vitriol. Here she is, wafting in, thinking she can marry our royalty and edit our magazines? The cheek! She didn’t even put the QUEEN on the cover!
People saw it as overstepping the mark – and grasped at whatever flimsy justification they could.
It left a bad taste in my mouth.
This has been the tone of much of the reaction to Meghan’s editing stint – the audacity of it. It is in keeping with the reaction to most of what she does; from christening her son in private to wearing Dior, to walking outside, holding her stomach, wearing a messy bun, wearing tights, not wearing tights…the list goes on. There has been no mention of her charity work, or the fact that this issue celebrates a diverse roster of seriously impressive women. No, instead, the media-trolling continues, unchecked and, it appears, unaware of its own misplaced cruelty.
My problem with Meghan notwithstanding (seriously Megs, I was this close to bumping into Harry and starting a love affair, promise) I find the criticism of her relentless and disproportionate. Everything she does is spotlighted and found wanting. She is constantly predestined to failure in the eyes of the press and, from the sounds of the most recent surge of backlash, you would have thought she had murdered Prince George rather than merely had the nerve to edit a magazine and not put the Queen on the cover.
“They don’t make it easy” she was recently overheard saying at the Lion King premiere, and never has a truer word been stated. But why is that?
Is it as simple – and as tragically reductive – as the fact she is a bi-racial woman? Though this is rarely ever outwardly expressed, we know this racism exists whether overtly – so much so that Prince Harry was, early on in their relationship, forced to issue a statement – or implicit; with snide and suggestive comments. Are we really so base a nation as to be irked by her race? In 2019? Probably. And that’s more than just distressing – it’s a damning indictment on where we stand as a country.
Perhaps it is just that she is different. Bi-racial yes, but also American, a former actress, older and – now here’s the clincher – independent.
If I’m honest, I think this is the reason. She has dared to stick her neck out; to open her own car doors, to (allegedly) run her own Instagram, to speak out of turn, break protocol – edit Vogue. This is what I believe has most shaken up the public; this foreign woman swooping in and rocking the boat. Meghan was not trained at ‘The Firm’ as the royal family is internally referred to. Unlike her sister-in-law Kate (and we could discuss the unfair binary and contest the press has made out of their relationship for years…) she had a rich, independent and comparatively private life before becoming a royal. Kate effectively tumbled straight from university- where she was dating a prince – to an engagement – to a prince. She was barely stretching into adulthood, barely growing into her voice, when it was – effectively- silenced, by the protocols and expectations of her new position. Meghan’s path was different. She joined ‘the firm’ in her late thirties. She is not used to having her every move both dictated and scrutinised. Though much has been made of her previous life as an actress, not even a die-hard Suits fan (hi there!) could tell you much about her before she became Prince Harry’s girlfriend. The level of global attention she receives now is unprecedented. She is still a private woman who has become, overnight, astronomically and life-falteringly public.
Meghan is used to running her own life and her adjustment to the heavily-mediated and guarded life of royalty – and her resistance to being dictated to – is the crux of the problem. Put simply, Meghan is us. Meghan is every empowered woman out there who takes no BS, and will not be bossed around. She is the boss.
That’s why – in the tightly curated world of our royal family; where toeing-the-line and biting your tongue is required – she’s being crucified. We seem to want her to be boring, to shut her mouth, to know her place. But that’s why, if we’re the proud feminists we are, we should be understanding and supporting her. Boring, quiet women seldom make history. We have, through Meghan, the potential to re-write what it means to be a princess; to make it a true reflection of modern womanhood we would be proud to show our daughters. It would be such a shame to miss that chance.
So long may you irritate me Meghan, I’ve got your back, and so does GLAMOUR.