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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.