What life is really like for Meghan Markle at Kensington Palace
As yet another one of the duchess's staff members quits, Camilla Tominey looks at how the flurry of departures has fuelled her rocky start to royal life
The plan was for her to be Meghan's right-hand woman, the female bodyguard heading up the Sussexes' entire royal protection team as they prepare to start family life in Windsor.
But the departure of the unnamed blonde who has been guarding the Duchess of Sussex since her marriage to Prince Harry has once again sent royal tongues wagging that life in the court of Meghan is trickier than first thought.
The resignation of the Metropolitan Police "tech", who is not being named for security reasons, comes after the former actress's personal assistant Melissa Touabti walked away from the prestigious position after just six months in November 2018.
Then private secretary Samantha Cohen also announced that she was leaving at the end of last year - although the former Assistant Private Secretary to the Queen had always said that she would be working for the Sussexes on a temporary basis while they found a permanent replacement.
So are there really tensions at the heart of Meghan's staff?
While nicknames such as 'Hurricane Meghan' and 'Duchess Difficult' appear to be tabloid inventions rather than actual utterances behind palace gates, it is fair to say that the former Suits star's introduction to royal life has not been plain sailing.
While a Scotland Yard source revealed the "well respected" and "brilliant" bodyguard was leaving "for personal reasons" which have "absolutely nothing to do with the Duke or the Duchess", it has been reported that Meghan's desire to be seen as "one of the people" has presented challenges to her protection team.
One insider said: "Even though she was a famous actress, she could still do what she wanted in the way of getting around freely. But in her current role, she can't go anywhere without her protection team and that's a massive constraining force on an individual like her."
The inspector, who was armed with a gun and a taser while on duty, replaced Prince Harry's long-term head of security, Bill Renshaw, who retired last year after 31 years in the police. In October, she was with the couple on a Pacific tour when she helped rush the Duchess out of a solo visit to a market in Fiji, cutting it short because of the crowds in sweltering conditions.
Meghan, then 14 weeks in to her pregnancy, was meeting female entrepreneurs but was whisked away after only eight minutes. Kensington Palace said it was due to "crowd management issues," although onlookers said the crowd was under control.
Princess Diana's former bodyguard Ken Wharfe speculated as to whether there had been a breakdown in trust between the two women over the incident. "When you are working in royalty protection, you are in a very intimate role with the principal.
"There has to be some time to work out chemistry of the relationship and if the protection was found to be wanting in Fiji, then that can't have helped. Royals constantly complain of a lack of freedom - I remember Diana complaining about it all the time, but there's loads of things you can do if you've got confidence in each other."
The departures have doubtlessly prompted claims that the Prince (34) and his wife (37) have not endeared themselves to staff, with the sixth in line to the throne reportedly telling members of the royal household in the run up to last May's Windsor wedding: "What Meghan wants, Meghan gets."
As one former royal aide revealed: "I think what we've seen is a clash of cultures rather than a serious falling out between anyone. You have to remember that when people join the royal household, they ultimately expect to be serving queen and country, not necessarily an American actress who has starred in a legal drama on the telly. There is a great deal of goodwill towards Harry but Meghan is still a bit of an unknown quantity."
There has certainly been some anti-Americanism expressed "below stairs" with some in the more cattier quarters "giving it five years," amid suggestions Harry is "punching well above his weight".
Intellectual Meghan, who graduated from Northwestern, one of America's best universities, is certainly no slouch, which perhaps explains her reported 5am wake-up calls and email "bombardments" of staff. According to one insider: "The duchess is determined to get across her royal brief as soon as possible so she can start really making a difference." What is typical in Hollywood, however, is not necessarily the norm in the "household", where there's an established hierarchy and a "way of doing things".
Carving out the life of a royal wife, as the Duchess of Cambridge discovered during her 10-year courtship with Prince William, is very much a marathon, not a sprint.
Indeed Meghan would be wise to heed the words of her idol, former First Lady Michelle Obama, who last year advised: "Take some time and don't be in a hurry to do anything. I spent the first few months in the White House mainly worrying about my daughters, making sure they were off to a good start at school and making new friends before I launched into any more ambitious work. I think it's okay - it's good, even - to do that."
With Meghan's baby due in the spring, the focus will inevitably switch to family matters, and motherhood may well bring the duchesses closer together.
Their relationship did not get off to the best start following a row during a bridesmaid's dress fitting for Princess Charlotte, when a postnatal Duchess of Cambridge, who had only just given birth to Prince Louis, was left in tears by Meghan, who herself had been left in tears by her father Thomas Markle's behaviour in the run up to the wedding.
The incident happened around the time Meghan was reported to have "upset" the Queen by asking to wear an emerald tiara instead of the one offered by the 92-year-old monarch.
It came after a book by veteran royal journalist Robert Jobson described Prince Harry as "petulant and short-tempered" in the run up to the nuptials, prompting "Granny [to] put him firmly in his place".
The duchesses' easy demeanour as they walked together to St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham on Christmas Day suggests they have put the rift firmly behind them. Indeed, rumours Meghan had been "snubbed" from her sister-in-law's 37th birthday party at Anmer Hall, the Cambridges' Norfolk home, are wide of the mark. In fact, the Sussexes were abroad at the time.
While they have many mutual friends from their Ludgrove and Eton days, it's true to say that the Cambridges and the Sussexes are very different couples at very different stages of their lives.
While the Sussexes' move from Kensington Palace has been put down to a royal rift, the decision was in fact inspired by the rural idyll Prince William has created for his own brood.
Extroverts Harry and Meghan are far more sociable than William and Kate, who have got three children under five and prefer the quiet life away from London at their 10-bedroom bolthole on the Sandringham estate.
Ironically, while the Sussexes' decision to leave Kensington Palace for Frogmore Cottage next year has been attributed to a falling out between the Fab Four, it is actually more to do with Harry wanting to replicate the rural idyll William has created for his own brood.
Both couples regard Kensington Palace as a "goldfish bowl" - hence why Harry and Meghan have taken a two-year lease on a £2.5m four-bedroom farmhouse in the Cotswolds - which they intend to keep on even after the multi-million renovations on their Windsor home are completed.
"Once the Sussexes' baby is born, there will be more time for bonding between the couples," said one royal source.
Could a supernanny also hold the key to soothing royal tensions? With her female bodyguard having quit, and still no news on who will replace her female personal assistant and female private secretary, Meghan is desperately in need of a Woman Friday.
Reports that the Sussexes are hiring American childcare expert Connie Simpson to raise their newborn could provide Meghan with exactly what she needs - a close confidante to form the backbone of her new royal court.