Caitlin McBride: Meghan Markle is still a complete mystery - Harry should have seen this backlash coming
“We were together every day, we spoke on the phone a lot, we held hands and shared kisses,” Meghan Markle’s first kiss told the Daily Mail last month.
The newspaper dutifully tracked down Joshua Silverstein to find out the details of their romance – if you could call it that, given they were 13 years old at the time - where he praises her affable personality 23 years ago.
Despite being inundated with this type of unnecessary and superfluous information about Meghan Markle’s entire life, we still know very little about who she is as a person.
On the one hand, we know everything about details of her childhood, her favourite workouts, her training in calligraphy, but nothing of real substance, other than the fact that she is a woman with a voice and one which she intends to use.
We’ve collectively adopted a superficial approach to all Meghan Markle coverage, based largely on how she looks. Beautiful women tend to get pigeonholed by their appearance, something Amal Clooney was confronted with when she appeared before the United Nations urging a genocide investigation into ISIS and the focus afterwards was on her Bottega Venetta dress.
Since none of the royals have an actual job, it’s easy to positively spin focus on the attractive members, focusing on their bouncy blowdries and sparkly tiaras.
Meghan is a captivatingly beautiful woman with impeccable taste in clothing, which makes it easy to get drawn into the cosmetic side of her appeal with Prince Harry, but she remains largely a mystery.
For months, we’ve heard that Meghan will be the force to rock the royals, a dynamism not seen since the late Princess Diana, but there is virtually no evidence to support this other than quotes supplied by hopeful royal biographers focusing on the fact that she doesn’t carry a clutch.
I think most of us are inherently suspicious of anyone who seems too perfect, it’s almost unsettling. No one can be that pretty, smart and talented without having a few skeletons in their closet, right? And she’s marrying a widely beloved prince? There must be something she’s hiding!
Except we don’t apply the same rules to Prince Harry. Instead, he was long considered ‘the most eligible bachelor in the world’ – the eternal cheeky chappy who doesn’t take this royal business too seriously. Between Harry's own rollercoaster experiences with the press over the years, The Firm should have considered the present backlash against Meghan Markle as a when instead of an if.
Harry already hit out at the racist and sexist coverage in response to his relationship with his then-girlfriend in 2016. He’s aware there is a bias against her and still, they aren’t compromising to change public perception more aggressively.
You can’t expect to maintain every aspect of your privacy, like Meghan has, while expecting to continually court public favour.
She has had just a year of insight into the royal fishbowl and less than six months of experiencing what her future holds – lots of nodding and pretending to look interested at events around the world, where everything from your hemline to your single grey will hair will be scrutinised.
It's a difficult task for even the most confident and experienced of people. It's taken years for Kate Middleton to change public perception of her and she has the benefits of a 17-year headstart, in addition to never knowing anything outside the royal confines for her entire adult life.
In comparison, Meghan had 34 years of relative anonymity and has to change her entire life in a very short period of time, a gargantuan task for anyone – no matter how shiny your hair might be.
With Meghan, who is still learning the ropes, her sometimes overly enthusiastic dealings with the public can be interpreted as disingenuous. Her too-loud laugh and perpetual PDAs with her fiancé indicate that she’s doing everything she can to endear herself to the public, of Britain in particular, but is still holding onto every little morsel of her former life as possible.
Germaine Greer’s latest comments, while shocking and pretty bitter in tone, aren’t completely out of left field for royal watchers.
“I think she’ll bolt. She bolted before,” she told Australia’s 60 Minutes, in what seems to be more of an attack on the construct of royals and marriage as an institution, rather than a personal vendetta against the princess-to-be.
Highlighting past relationships is an established method of punishing women in the public eye for their perceived failures, in Meghan’s case, it’s being a divorcée.
A classic example is the fact that we always hear about Elizabeth Taylor being married eight times. You know who else was married eight times? Mickey Rooney. And we never hear anything about that.
Meghan was previously married to producer Trevor Engelson before ending it in 2013, a man who is now working on a tv show about a divorced couple in which the ex-wife marries a British royal. It doesn’t sound like their marriage ended amicably, as most tend not to especially when there’s no children involved to tie them together, but he doesn’t come across particularly charming in the debacle either.
A new biography by Andrew Morton reports that she “sent back her wedding ring in the post”, a fact which on its own seems pretty standard for a couple mid-divorce who live in different countries, but one which has been twisted to portray her as a money-grubbing social climber who didn’t even bother to meet her ex-husband to give back her wedding ring.
As the saying goes, ‘He’s an ex for a reason.’
Part of the problem with currying public approval for Meghan is the endless publicity being given to her half-siblings, one of whom is writing a book entitled ‘Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister’ and seems to still be genuinely in shock that she was not invited to the wedding. As are the seemingly endless array of cousins who are splashed tabloids most days.
“Cousin of Meghan Markle claims her father has no idea if he'll walk her down the aisle and relatives are 'hurt' they've not had invites to the royal wedding,” a headline on Sunday wrote.
Chances are if you have to write to the palace to see if you’re invited, you’re probably not on the guestlist.
“Closeness has nothing to do with it, it is incumbent upon her to do the morally right thing and invite family and demonstrate she has a humanitarian heart,” her cousin Trish Gallop said, with the same conviction as if she was speaking before the Supreme Court instead of addressing not being invited to her distant cousin’s wedding 6,000 miles away.
The fact that Meghan is still new to the scene makes it easy for people to believe these interminable family members or childhood friends who have emerged from the woodwork since their engagement.
As intelligent as she seems, she’s now living in Harry’s world and it’s up to him show her the ropes - and then we can fairly decide if we like her or not.