The 360: How bad is the bullying of Meghan Markle?
“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.
Eighteen months after her marriage to Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s honeymoon period is well and truly over. If initial claims that she could single-handedly modernise a centuries-old institution were overblown when she joined the royal family, now it seems the Duchess can rarely do anything right.
That is, at least, if you read the British press or scroll through the replies to the Sussexes’ Instagram and Twitter posts. Whether it’s guest-editing an issue of Vogue, taking a private jet or how she holds her baby — the scrutiny has been consistently negative.
Now, Prince Harry has taken the highly unusual step of taking legal action against the Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter which Meghan wrote to her father. He adds: “Put simply, it is bullying.”
Why there’s debate
For some, the criticism of Meghan is justified. She’s a taxpayer-funded duchess (Britons contributed £2.4m to her Frogmore Cottage renovations) who should be held to account. The criticisms she faces, some argue, are the same as those Kate Middleton and Princess Diana had to deal with. She also chooses to speak out on political and social issues that many believe cross the line in terms of a royal’s duties.
Critics in the press — and the tabloids in particular — are keen to point out what they perceive to be hypocritical behaviour. In a story about Harry and Meghan taking a private jet to Ibiza and France, The Sun labelled the pair “eco-warriors” who went on “gas-guzzling” trip, all wrapped up under the headline: “Dumbo Jet.”
The Times also featured a story about Meghan being a “nightmare” at Wimbledon and headlined on her “All England etiquette” by wearing jeans to the tennis tournament.
For others, the relentless condemnation and abuse Meghan receives is driven by a deep-seated and either conscious or subconscious racism, which is then further amplified by the fact she is American and a woman with a celebrity status attached.
The bear pit of social media is equally as unforgiving as the press.
Research commissioned by Sky News found that Meghan is the subject of consistent racist attacks on social media, with multiple accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sharing abusive comments about her.
What the royals have said about it:
“Never complain, never explain,” was once the motto of the Royal Family, but times have changed recently.
Prince Harry’s letter on Tuesday represents a heightening of the tensions between the Sussexes and the press. In it, he says the duchess has “become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences”. He criticises the “ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son”.
It’s not the first time Prince Harry has challenged the media. In 2016, he condemned the “racial overtones” in the constant abuse aimed at his then-girlfriend Meghan stating she had “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.”
And while much of Harry’s ire has been aimed at the newspapers, the Royal Family also had to outline a set of new guidelines in March this year aimed at making the monarchy’s social media accounts a “safe environment”.
With other royals escaping criticism, race may well be a factor.
“How have [other] royals avoided relentless Meghan-style b*****kings on account of, variously, execrable judgment, bad taste, susceptibility to wealth and/or flattery? There must, surely, be something more to it than having white skin.” — Catherine Bennett, The Guardian
Meghan has shown that she is not interested in Britain.
“Whatever her real motives, it’s becoming clear Meghan isn’t interested in us or our way of life. It is said she plans to spend more of her time in America, to which I say, why not all of it? It is now time for her to leave and she can take poor Prince Pussywhipped with her.” — Camilla Long, The Times (£)
Royals are meant to stay out of politics.
“Meghan’s purpose in guest-editing Vogue is not, as she claims, to simply change the world; it’s to make it the PC-crazed one she wants it to be, and to drag us all with her to ‘woke’ Utopia. Yet by forcing her radical liberal opinions upon us, she’s playing a very ill advised game that I can guarantee will end in tears.” — Piers Morgan, Daily Mail
The actions of Meghan’s father reflect unfairly on Meghan.
“No family deserves to go under somebody else’s microscope. Every family - yours, mine, Meghan’s, Harry’s - is complicated. Full of difficult truths and half-truths and unspoken truths.” — Alix Walker, Stylist
UK tabloids are biased against ethnic minorities.
“The tabloids are scraping the bottom of the barrel for any possible dirt on Meghan and in doing so are practically at war with themselves, desperately trying to reconcile Britain’s unquestioning reverence for the royals with the nation’s deep-rooted biases against ethnic minorities.” — Yomi Adegoke, Washington Post (£)
Criticism may be racist but it is right to call out privilege.
“There is a certain irony in so many being so alive to every nuance of white privilege but seemingly so blind to the privilege that flaunts itself through the hereditary monarchy. Making inherited privilege more ‘diverse’ is hardly a step forward in the battle against racial inequality.” — Kenan Malik, The Guardian
It is easy to blame criticism on racism.
“Harry has been bristling about even the smallest criticism of him for some years now, and he has the thinnest skin of any member of the Royal Family. It is so much easier for them to blame anything uncomfortable on racism, rather than actually address the fact that much of the negativity towards the couple is coming from within the Royal Family.” — Dan Wootton, executive editor of The Sun, speaking on Talk Radio
Meghan’s background immediately went against the norm.
“She wasn't seen as a suitable addition to the royal family. She was an actress, a divorcee, an American, a biracial woman. The press coverage perpetuated the myth that she was too impure to join the crème de la crème of British aristocracy. She was a scandal that would shake up the House of Windsor beyond repair.” — Serina Sandhu, The i
Royal wives are usually seen and not heard.
“Royal wives are expected to stay quiet, have babies, and submit to endless commentary on their wardrobes. By guest-editing the September issue of British Vogue, Meghan Markle has decided to reject the first rule and embrace the last one—but on her own terms.” — Helen Lewis, The Atlantic
Meghan is attacked because she is a ‘snob’.
“It’s not Meghan’s skin colour that annoys people, but the fact that she thinks nothing of donning an outfit that costs more than most people in the UK earn in a year and then getting her minders to order the public not to take photos of her. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex happily spend £2.4million of taxpayers’ money on renovating their house but then keep the press away from their son’s christening.” — Joanna Williams, Spiked
Meghan is not playing ball with the British public.
“The arrangement is as follows: we furnish you with the funds and prime real-estate to live a life of luxury and undertake not to cut off the heads of you or any of your relatives. In return, you let us coo over baby Archie and try not to get all shirty when we ask who the godparents are. So far, we, the people, have fulfilled our side of the bargain. You, my dear, not so much.” — Sarah Vine, Daily Mail