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The Maligning of Markle

If the eleven year old Meghan Markle was hurt and angry when she first saw that dish soap advert implying that women’s place was in the kitchen, one wonders what she would have made of the media onslaught against herself just days after announcing her engagement. This period should be one of the happiest times in her life, but I wonder how much hand wringing is going on behind the walls of Nottingham Cottage as media outlets root and dig in to every chapter of her past in a gleeful attempt at sales.

There are always those people in everyone’s life who are best forgotten. The friend who let you down, the sister who got jealous… we all have them. We hope, however, that in a moment of public scrutiny, such people would have the dignity to keep their (and your) past to themselves, no matter how much the bribe. Sadly for Meghan Markle, the people in her life she would probably like to forget are right at the top of the parapet, waving dirty linen and scattering old photographs down on the populace like confetti.

Over the weekend, newspapers have printed private photographs from practically every part of Markle’s life – from chubby cheeked toddler to smiling schoolgirl; gangly teenager to wedding day joys. These photographs have been supplied by an ex-best friend, who has clearly completely sold out the woman she once loved and was inseparable from. It is probably the most bitter pill for Markle to swallow, and she is now unable to reply as a future member of the royal family. It would be unseemly for her to try to explain why their friendship disintegrated – and it is really nobody else’s business. The shame lies with the ex-friend, who has shown to all the world her true sense of loyalty and that she has a price. She has taken her thirty pieces of silver.

She has a price, but Markle has a prince.

Jealousy is a cancer that unless acknowledged and dealt with, will fester and destroy. One hopes that Meghan Markle has the sense to know that this onslaught is born from this – and that she, in her cosy cottage making plans with her royal fiance, has already won the war.

Surely Harry will have told Meghan that this would happen. That the media would dig in to every nook and cranny of her life, unearthing unsavoury characters and unflattering photographs, and if they can’t find anything juicy enough to feed the masses – they might just make it up.

The salivating over every past cleavage shot or sexy scene in Markle’s acting past has a horribly misogynistic undertone, driven by a male dominated media. The wish to reduce a woman who has also worked for the UN to just her body, or what she might do with it, reeks of a wish to demean and to humiliate. It is telling that the young Meghan objected to the wording of a television advert years ago, yet womankind are still being reduced to one dimensional characters in order to sell products. It might be dish soap or it might be a newspaper, but you can get your stereotype here, everyone! At bargain prices!

The latest debacle has been the ‘discovery’ of Markle’s father – a man who clearly lives a quiet life and has stayed out of the spotlight. This hunting down of a private person to see what more can be found out about possible rifts or instability reminds me of a Victorian Freak Show. Roll up, roll up – here is the hermit dug out from his cave! Look at him, wonder at him! It’s shameful and inhumane, yet still the people stare.

Meghan Markle must do what she has done many times in her life – pull her shoulders back, switch on that smile and get her ‘boots on the ground’. As a person, as a three dimensional real person, she is warm, charismatic, kind and hard working. She must not allow herself to be reduced to a cardboard cut out or salacious headline. She must prove the naysayers wrong and push the cupboard skeletons firmly back in as she sashays past with a determined eye on the future.

It is what her younger self would definitely expect.

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The Very Remarkable Ms. Markle

A very chilly morning in Nottingham saw the debut of a new royal star – as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle began their first joint royal engagement since their announcement on Monday.

With the type of warm pizzazz not seen from a royal lady since 1997, Meghan approached the waiting crowds with a big smile and huge appreciation for their friendly welcome. Whether with Harry beside her, or dealing with the crowd alone, she oozed confidence and seemed like she had slipped in to the royal role just as easily as Cinderella’s dainty foot once slid in to her glass slipper.

Markle, however, is no fairytale maiden. She is already a self-made woman, who has travelled the world on humanitarian visits and spoken at the UN as a self-declared feminist. She does not need Harry to prop her up or lead the way. She has got it sorted, and her eagerness to get out there and meet the people already speaks volumes about her perception of her role and how she intends to go about her future work.

This royal fiancee is hands on, with her sleeves already metaphorically rolled up. She has said previously that she does not want to be a lady who lunches but a woman who works. Harry has chosen someone who will give him personal joy along with providing him with a professional team player. She has his way with people, his sense of fun and his determination to make a difference.

Their team is going to be the best thing to hit the royal family since Diana looked out from under her swept fringe and started shaking the hands of the people without wearing gloves. Her son has inherited that down to earth yet sparkling way with people -and he has chosen a partner who will join him in that mission.

While certain forums and parts of the media seem determined to dismiss Ms. Markle as a ‘princess pushy’ or unfit for royal life, she has answered that in the best way she can – by going out there, doing a first class job and winning people over. There can be no better way to answer critics than to silence them with your success. Just as her eleven year old self once wrote to the First Lady to complain about the sexist language used in a dish soap commercial, Meghan Markle’s clear self belief shows a predilection for doing what is right, doing what needs to be done and doing it with style.

In comparison to her future sister in law, Kate, who still seems nervous and unsure in her public role, Meghan’s professional capabilities are a refreshing change – and just what is needed from a modern woman coping with a very traditional family in a somewhat already defined role. Her ability to embrace tradition yet still sprinkle enough contemporary magic to appeal to old and young is what will help the monarchy to survive and evolve in the way it must, if it is to continue to play a part in our future as a nation. And for that, Her Majesty the Queen must be breathing a large sigh of welcome relief.

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The Chosen Two

At 10am yesterday morning, after weeks of fevered speculation, a statement was finally released by the Prince of Wales, confirming what we had all hoped – that Prince Harry was engaged to marry Meghan Markle. On a very chilly, wintry November morning, the engaged couple made their way to Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden to prove to the world that it was true – the world’s most eligible bachelor was off the market, and on the arm of a woman who is going to change the face of the royal family in the way that her soon to be mother in law once did. This girl has got charisma and heart in buckets.

With a photocall that proved their genuine connection and joy, Harry and Meghan brought a new sparkle to the House of Windsor – and not just with the three diamond sparkler on Ms Markle’s finger. If Charles and Diana’s engagement announcement can be remembered as awkward and formal, then this one will be remembered as natural, warm and full of promise. Not even William and Kate’s announcement can hold a flame to this dancing fire of cosy togetherness.

Meghan’s American easy nature and willingness to share brought anecdotes of the couple’s life to us all, from corgis lying on her feet at a tea with the Queen to the surprise proposal over a roast chicken. This exuberance and friendliness came through the television like that breath of fresh air we all talk about – the magic of being a people person just like Diana once was. Harry and Meghan brought us in to their Nottingham Cottage with tiny glimpses of the life they are sharing and the plans they make, in a way that makes us invest in them and their connection to us.

It is this connection with the people which makes the monarchy survive, and which some members of the family, in their eagerness to seek privacy, sometimes fail to see. It isn’t that we need to know the Queen uses Tupperware at breakfast. It is that we need to see the human side of their characters, and their willingness to share a small part of their ups and downs with us – their extended family and nation.

With her ‘boots on the ground’ mentality, Meghan has already engaged with the role she now must undertake – that of an ambassador for the country she will marry along with her prince. For we will all be metaphorically standing at the altar with Harry, as she walks up the aisle – and her promise to him is also a promise to us. As Diana embraced this role with natural warmth and dedication, Meghan also proves that, with her background in humanitarian and women’s rights work, she will do the same.

There may be those who feel it is Meghan’s career as an actor, her mixed race heritage or her divorced past that will have an impact on the royal family. But for me, none of that matters. As the lady herself said yesterday, this is just ‘noise’. The real truth is that she will impact the family with a new vigour – confidence, kindness and commitment.

And that can only be a good thing – for us for them and most importantly, for Harry.

You can watch the whole engagement interview here.

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Hurry Up Harry!

Well, her Toronto home has been packed up and closed and Meghan Markle has officially said goodbye to her role as Rachel Zane in Suits. With all accounts suggesting she is now cosily ensconced in Kensington Palace’s Nottingham Cottage with Prince Harry, all bets are off that an engagement will be announced any day now.

When I say ‘any day now’, it genuinely feels like every single day royal observers and commentators have been on tenterhooks from dawn til mid morning, debating on Twitter and other social media platforms whether today will be THE DAY, and have thus far been sadly disappointed.

To go by previous royal engagement announcements, should Harry and Meghan choose to follow the traditional form, the day is usually a Tuesday or Wednesday, with an announcement coming around 11am. Traditionally, the royal parent of the engaged party will announce it – so I would expect the announcement to come from Clarence House rather than Kensington Palace itself. However, Prince Harry has been known to do things his own way – which leaves those waiting unsure how this is going to work.

The royal family don’t tend to make big announcements on days when there are political events, such as the budget or an election. They are also unlikely to announce on a day of crisis internationally, as it would draw attention away from the reporting of such an event and would therefore be unseemly.

An announcement seems likely to happen before Christmas, and as such is likely to happen in late November or early December since there will be plans for festive parties or celebrations the closer to Christmas we get. The House of Commons is also on their traditional Christmas recess from 21st December until the 8th January, so an engagement announcement seems unlikely to occur between those dates.

With all the anticipation and holding of breath that is going on within interested circles, an announcement seems sensible sooner rather than later. With newspapers reporting that Prince Harry wants Meghan to be protected by royal protection officers, an official status for her would not only be helpful, but also has been traditional in such cases. Royal fiancees have generally been left to run the media gauntlet until the moment the ring was officially twinkling on their finger.

After an eighteen month courtship, with two people who are in their thirties and have both expressed the desire to be parents, a swift engagement and wedding would appear to be on the cards.

And so, we continue to sit and wait. It could be Tuesday or Wednesday.

Or Thursday. Or Friday…

 

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The Meaningful Marketing of Meghan

With a confident, easy smile on her face and some very well placed confidantes at her side, Meghan Markle looked every inch the official royal girlfriend last weekend, as she watched Prince Harry play polo at Coworth Park in Ascot.

The Audi Polo Challenge was attended by both Prince William and Prince Harry, so it was hardly a low key event. The very presence of Meghan Markle might be seen as a typically tactical royal nudge to observers and media alike that:

A. She and Prince Harry are definitely a ‘thing’.

B. They don’t really care who knows it.

And

C. Their partnership might well be heading for a more official status.

Despite Prince Harry releasing a statement last autumn describing Ms. Markle as his ‘girlfriend’, some royal watchers have taken it upon themselves to believe that the relationship was already over/never really began. If you don’t believe me, check Twitter! Personally, this seems an odd presumption, since the couple have been seen on various occasions since – a date in London, Meghan wandering around near Kensington Palace, the pair attending a wedding together etc. It seems pretty clear to me that there is something going on, and actually something pretty serious. Sorry, Harry fans – but there it is.

Having been a royal watcher since the heady days of Lady Diana Spencer in her pie crust collars, I think it is fair to say that this semi-official polo appearance has quite big implications. Not only was Harry’s brother, William, also in attendance, but Meghan was standing alongside Mark Dyer, the Prince’s trusted friend and mentor for many years.

Quite an endorsement.

And let’s face it, would Prince Harry – a man who grew up with frequent pictures of his mother in the media while sunbathing, sitting on car bonnets, playing with her sons at polo matches – not know that those moments when he decided to cuddle and kiss his girlfriend next to his car would be captured and shared by any photographer present?

The royal family like to send messages without saying a word. They like to micromanage our beliefs about them without actually saying anything. Who remembers a certain Sarah Ferguson being asked to accompany The Princess of Wales on a visit to HMS Brazen to see Prince Andrew in 1986 before any engagement had been announced? That was a big indication that Miss Ferguson was being accepted in to the family as an ‘official girlfriend’.

I see this polo match attendance as a similar move. The reports that Meghan will also attend the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews as Prince Harry’s partner is also a significant step.

Perhaps we are being prepared for a move from ‘official girlfriend’ to something more?

I, for one, very much hope so.

 

 

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A Fond Farewell to The Tig

Yesterday, I received an email. It was an email that has caused a certain ripple of excitement in some quarters and positive alarm in others. In simple terms, it was an email from Meghan Markle’s lifestyle blog website The Tig, announcing that it was closing the doors and exiting with grace.

The significance of this move – the sudden closure of Markle’s successful passion project – suggests new things may be ahead for the actress and philanthropist. And that these new things might just involve a certain red-headed prince.

The Tig in itself was successful because it combined enough of Markle’s personal anecdotes with an aspirational lifestyle theme; readers were addressed as friends and encouragement given which suggested that they too could live a charmed life if they embraced an ethos of positivity and strength.

While some have derided the website as a PR project for the actress (which of course, in some sense, it was), they miss the point that The Tig had good intentions at it’s heart. The tone of inclusion, diversity, personal motivation and self-belief stems from Markle’s own background as a mixed race woman trying to find her own voice. Her success in reaching a position of influence, and her belief that she can use this to help others to improve their own lot in life, underpins much of the content on The Tig.

It is to be hoped that she will continue to work towards this aim, whether it is as the consort to a prince or not.

I am sorry there will be no more chatty, cheery emails regularly popping in to my mailbox with a bright ‘Hello Sweetie!’ – but I understand the reasons why there can’t be. It saddens me a little that this woman must shut down her blog and silence her twitter, but since she stepped on to a much bigger stage, her words have taken on unintended significance and caused much negative comment. That her original intentions as an actress building a positive online presence could be so misconstrued in her new position speaks volumes about the kind of society we are, and our still cynical attitudes towards women who push themselves forward.

So – a thank you to The Tig for all the words of wisdom, and a cheeky wink of good luck towards it’s founder. Knock ’em dead.

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The Markle Question

Nobody can have escaped the last few months of media fascination and sensationalist reporting of Prince Harry’s relationship with new girlfriend, Meghan Markle. The flurry of stories has ranged from the sublime (“She spoke to the UN!”) to the ridiculous (“She’s on Pornhub!”). Onlookers appear to fall in to two opposing camps – those who see Ms Markle as a potentially refreshing addition to the royal family, with an already existing track record of philanthropy and people skills; and those who see Ms Markle as a social climbing, media manipulating, naive prince accosting harridan. The fact that Meghan Markle is slightly older than Prince Harry and has been married previously AND has mixed race parentage AND a possibly dysfunctional family has caused some royal traditionalists to have apoplexy on a scale akin to the days of Princess Margaret daring to wish to marry the debonair, divorced Peter Townsend.

However, times have changed. We now have several members of the royal family who are themselves divorced – The Prince of Wales is famously married to his ex-mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, following his disastrous union with the luminous Diana Spencer; The Duke of York is also divorced, as is the Princess Royal. The royal family is in no position to take the higher ground on divorce issues these days.

For a modern royal family, the emphasis has to be on how this centuries-old institution can adapt to stay meaningful in an ever-increasing world of diversity and relaxed rules on gender, sexuality and identity. In the internet age, the world has shrunk, so that everything that happens globally is transmitted to screens around us within  hours, if not minutes. The institution of monarchy must be able to move alongside this generation of information, while still maintaining mystique and majesty.

It seems to me that the addition of a clearly intelligent, charismatic woman who happens to be mixed race, who happens to have experience of a wider world, who happens to have already shown a capacity for humanitarianism and can give a decent speech might just be one of the best things to happen to the royal family for a very long time. In fact, possibly since a very young Diana Spencer tripped nervously down the palace steps wearing her huge sapphire engagement ring and an ill-fitting bright blue suit while clinging on to the arm of her “Whatever love means” prince.

Let’s not give up on Ms. Markle yet.