Throughout, and even after, the Princess and Prince of Wales’ ill-fated marriage, the only thing that perhaps made the People’s Princess more miserable than Charles was the British press. Year after year they hounded her, tearing her to shreds at the slightest hint of promiscuity. Whether it was their reporting on her lover Major James Hewitt smearing her name (it’s even rumoured that the News of the World even tried collecting Harry’s hair to prove Hewitt’s paternity,) or the relentless hounding of her and her partner Dodi al-Fayed after her divorce which literally caused her death, the press’ relationship with Diana is one that is as disgraceful as it was invasive. Moreover, it was also an extremely unprincipled one. While rumours of Diana’s extra-marital affairs were circulated in the newspapers freely, relatively little was published regarding her husband’s affair with his lover, Camilla Parker-Bowles—now Duchess of Cornwall. This despite the affair being essentially an open secret within Royal circles at the time. In fact, Charles reportedly commented to Diana that he “refuses to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress”. This double standard should have been unacceptable then, and it damn well should be unacceptable now.
The thing is, though, is that the press, like many distasteful British traditions (such as football hooliganism or “lad” cultures) doesn’t change. What we’re seeing with Fleet Street’s hounding of Meghan Markle is, sadly, a repeat of past events.
Before we begin, I’m a committed, somewhat old-fashioned, monarchist. However, part of being a committed monarchist is acknowledging that the Royals are people too, and modern people at that. As such, it shouldn’t be entirely frowned upon for their personalities to play into their affairs. Unfortunately, the British press haven’t got the memo and decided amongst them that the Duchess of Sussex cannot do anything right in their eyes. The latest disgraceful dig at Her Royal Highness has surfaced recently at Wimbledon, where Royalty Protection Officers stopped fans from invasively getting close to the Duchess in order to take photographs, and was duly plastered all over The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail as “disgraceful”, “uncouth”, “shocking” amongst other things. What is actually disgraceful, in fact, is the co-ordinated campaign against the Sussexes, which again exhibits the same double standards as were present 30 years ago. To quote The Telegraph:
“If Harry and Meghan are serious about giving any children they may have a normal life, free from public attention, then that means renouncing their titles and the vast privilege (and income) that goes with them.”
This statement is so steeped in double standards that I now have double standards coming out of my earholes. I say this because children belonging to each and every Royal is shielded best as possible from the press by their parents. In every single interview the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge give about their children, the words “as normal a life as possible” will, without fail, crop up. Neither Prince’s Andrew and Edward’s, nor the Princess Royal’s, nor any other Royals have been so vilified by the media for keeping a relatively tight lid on things and no Royal has ever been expected to accept being mobbed by people at an event such as Wimbledon. Why on Earth must Meghan do so? And, if it’s such a faux pas for Meghan to not want unsolicited pictures taken, why is it completely okay for all the others to do the same? The Cambridges sued a newspaper for millions of pounds for taking unsolicited pictures, albeit topless ones, and have had several metre high hedges erected outside Kensington Palace for the sole reason of stopping members of the public and press hounding themselves and their children. Furthermore, fancy taking an unsolicited picture of Her Majesty the Queen on or near her residence? Expect yourself to be ejected promptly by Palace officials. Where is the outrage here? For the record, I’m of the belief that it shouldn’t be socially acceptable to just invade the privacy of the Royal Family for our own photographic purposes, or anyone’s for that matter. Imagine if a stranger, who you had never met before, came running up towards you really quickly with their arms raised and a flash while you’re trying to simply enjoy a day out. It’d be absurd for you not to protest (if you did it to the Queen, you’d probably be shot—just saying). Likewise, Meghan, status or no status, shouldn’t be expected to just sit there and accept it. It’s invasive, lacks deference and decorum (something all traditional monarchists should respect) and is just plainly bloody rude.
Since I’ve mentioned the Cambridge’s renovations to Kensington Palace by the way, allow me to introduce exhibit B to strengthen my case. Meghan and Harry have recently been absolutely slated by papers such as The Telegraph for the sole reason of renovating Frogmore House to accommodate them and their growing family, spending £2.6 million in the process. Now, aside from the fact the Sussexes have probably generated several hundred million pounds for the Treasury themselves, I’m absolutely beside myself with surprise to find that the papers threw absolutely no bile at the Cambridges for their 2014 renovations which cost a whole £2.1 million more. As Paul Joseph Watson would say, “Well, imagine my shock.” (Yes, I did just quote PJW, that is how low the press has made me stoop.)
Again, to reiterate, I am a proud monarchist. I don’t believe that the Cambridges and everyone else shouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing, rather that the Sussexes absolutely and unashamedly should. No other Royal in history has had opinion articles in the nation’s largest dailies demand their titles be stripped, or that they “Get over themselves” (no, really, that is what The Telegraph suggest she do) over simple requests for privacy, or a simple home renovation, or not announcing their due date, or whatever else the shameful British press decide is Meghan’s cardinal sin this week. I shouldn’t speculate (but I shall anyway) as to why on earth the papers are targeting her specifically, except there really is only a few real, identifiable traits that distinguish her from most other Royals. That is, she is American, she is a commoner (as are many Royals-by-marriage) and she is biracial. As I’ve argued above, the press is discriminating against her and Harry which, with those two distinctions in mind, makes the bile against her either xenophobic, sneeringly snobbish (to a Royal!) racist, or some combination of the three. Take your pick.
Meghan’s singling out becomes more apparent when we look at how the press treated her before her wedding to Harry. She was often described as an ‘outsider’ to the Royal Family and was never treated with the respect that a prospective Royal deserved. There was plenty of tea to be spilled about William and Kate’s relationship while studying at St Andrews but wasn’t. Meanwhile, the tabloid (and other) press pored over with a fine tooth comb and reported on every single slightly iffy detail of Meghan’s personal, private and past life as if she were being vetted for the Security Services, not marrying the bloke she’s been going out with for months. Why? As I’ve said aplenty in this article. It’s rude, lacks decorum and is unbecoming of any British institution.
I sincerely hope the press gives up their dogged witch hunt of the Sussexes. After all, they are now, frankly, minor Royals. With Harry the Sixth in line, there is no real prospect of the Sussex household taking the throne. As such, they should be able to do whatever they damn well want. Asking for a bit of privacy and personal space, renovating the house and controlling public announcements of personal information are all things a Royal should be able to do without drawing ire from the press, certainly if it is the case that other, more senior Royals can do the self-and-same thing without attracting bile and spite, and the British press should hold their heads in shame at the dogged, shameful and potentially racist treatment of the Duchess of Sussex.