Wednesday 21 November 2018

Meghan Mania will make or break Harry's love match

She's an actress used to attention, but Meghan Markle hasn't felt the royal heat yet

Surfing the wave: Harry and Meghan are already hugely popular as a couple and will become a favourite target of the paparazzi before they marry at Windsor Castle next May, with the American's beauty an echo of Princess Diana's Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Surfing the wave: Harry and Meghan are already hugely popular as a couple and will become a favourite target of the paparazzi before they marry at Windsor Castle next May, with the American's beauty an echo of Princess Diana's Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Sarah Caden

Last Tuesday, the day after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement, Pat Kenny had paparazzo George Bamby on his Newstalk radio show.

Bamby talked about Harry as one of the most eligible young men in the world and Meghan as a stunning actress, and basically summed up their synergy as a paparazzi dream. If you're a paparazzo, that is. If you happen to be the happy couple, however, he spelt out a nightmare.

"Harry and Meghan will not be able to walk out the front door without a photographer being there," Bamby said. "That is a fact." And it got worse.

"I think [Meghan] is in for a real eye-opener," said Bamby, adding that the red carpet is one thing, but "it's another being followed and constantly followed all over the place…

"There will be packs of people chasing and chasing and chasing them like wolves and I can tell you now," he went on, "it will really have an adverse effect on the marriage, it will put pressure on the relationship, she'll be upset by it, she'll be startled by it. Harry will be upset about it. And when it comes to having children, it'll be even worse and worse and worse and it will get to the stage, like with Diana, that she can't handle it anymore and they'll probably end up splitting up."

"Dear, oh dear," said Pat. "Only the day after they got engaged." Damning a marriage before it has even begun is not far off speaking ill of the dead. It is mean-spirited, and worse, the way Bamby doomed Harry and Meghan raised the spectre of Diana in the worst possible way.

The couple themselves had invoked his late mother on the day of their announcement, saying they felt her there with them, Harry laughing that his late mother and Meghan would have been "thick as thieves".

They accentuated the positive though Harry - as we know from his defensive, even offensive, public letter when he and Meghan started dating - is well aware that his mother's experience could well repeat itself.

All that engagement-interview talk about facing things as a team was a nod to that. He's determined not to let the "wolves" chase or catch Meghan, and he will not throw her to them solo, either, as his father was often accused of doing to Diana.

Ah, Diana. She loomed large last week, as her second boy became betrothed. The motherless prince, the boy adrift, has finally found someone with whom to settle down. And what a woman Meghan Markle is. American, of mixed racial heritage, an actress, a career woman and even a divorcee. Harry really seemed to have gone far from his comfort zone to find himself a wife, a woman with whom he can have a life utterly different to his father and even his brother.

This may be true in the case of the latter. William has utterly knuckled down to being a dully diligent royal and Kate has settled into her role with equal quasi middle-aged ease. However, Harry's path of married life, if last week was anything to go by, might well have echoes of Charles's marriage to Diana.

By last Friday, there were two themes to the engagement excitement. There was "Princess Pushy" - which was tacked on to clues that the ambitious, social-climbing Meghan may have plotted to bag a prince. And then there was "Meghan Mania" - a sort of crazed hunger for the American beauty that shows up the staid affection for Kate and reminds us of the days of Diana.

Neither theme is ultimately very good for Meghan. Not long-term.

If you're going to be a royal, slow but steady wins the race. Diana learnt that the hard way. Diana, as biographies have told us, entered her marriage to Charles with a 'happily-ever-after view' of the life of a princess. She believed that being a princess was the role she was born to, that the love of a prince would fix all past rejections and that the public adoration would make her feel complete.

Instead, she discovered that she was expected to adapt to a world of rules and ancient rituals. It was a world that expected you to adapt to it and did not account or care for your individuality. It was a lot of dull events and dull people and it was a world where you could not move a muscle without permission or paparazzi.

That disappointment, along with a cold husband who didn't love her, was what broke Diana's spirit. And it's that which, with a harsh and mean-spirited angle, to which Bamby the paparazzo referred last week. It's that which causes real comparisons between Meghan and Diana.

There's a very real possibility that, along with loving Harry, she loves the idea of their union. And a very real possibility that she will feel disappointed and trapped by the reality.

Meghan Markle, as she sheds her US citizenship, the religious faith of her birth, her career, and her home to marry into the royal family. She has to think it's worth it.

She and Harry spoke last week about how they plan to tour the Commonwealth doing good, but Meghan may not realise that this will all be with the stamp of Clarence House approval. Her life and opinions will not be her own any more, and when she's not on tour, it seems she will be living next door to Kate and William, the very models of duty and decorum.

God, it could be dull after her former life.

Meghan Mania, while it stirred memories of Diana, also stirred up a perceived rivalry with Kate. There were photos of Kate looking rather less glamorous and glossy than Meghan - never mind that she's pregnant - and you could feel years of comparisons coming on. With Kate probably coming off as fuddy-duddy next to Meghan with her red-carpet ability to turn on the photogenic.

It is the slightly fuddy-duddy, though, that makes Kate eminently suitable as a Windsor wife, though. While much is always made of her non-aristo blood, she's almost as posh as William, having attended Marlborough school and moved in the same Hooray circles most of her life.

Kate entered into her marriage with a realistic appreciation of what it would demand and she has embraced the duty and the apparel that is beyond her years and the openings of this, that and the other that must be more boring than watching paint dry.

Kate even seems to enjoy it, becoming ever more middle-aged alongside William with every year.

The press and the paps love Kate, but they aren't crazy over her. Meghan, however, not only inspires a very different reaction but seems to believe that she has them in her control. Maybe she believes that because she has lived publicly, to an extent up to now, she can handle what's ahead. And maybe she's right, but what's ahead for her - a combination of attention and restriction - is no easy or exciting path.

Fundamentally, as with every marriage, Harry and Meghan have as much a chance of making it work as any of us.

Love and luck and resilience and determination all come in to play, chucking aside notions of happily ever after and prince charmings.

Perhaps, having been married before, Meghan enters this union with Harry with her eyes open, no naive girl like Diana, but also a refreshing change from the utterly English Kate. She could prove the remaking of the royals.

So long as, in keeping with the pap's prediction, they don't prove the undoing of her.

Sunday Independent

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