Why this 'feud' between Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton is proof we really are in the golden age of the royals
Is there anything better than a celebrity feud?
Not since Linda Martin vs Twink, have we seen such a captivating argument as the Meghan Markle vs Kate Middleton debacle engulfing the internet right now. The idea of Kate in floods of tears at Kensington Palace and Meghan throwing tantrums over an emerald tiara and a bridesmaid dress for a three-year-old is frankly too juicy to ignore and (usually) there’s no smoke without fire. Even if that smoke is coming from the fireplace at Nottingham Cottage.
We love getting out the popcorn for a battle royale among stars, but the chance to witness some mud-slinging among royals is a rarity. So, what's the big deal?
Royals are a modern anomaly - they enjoy an exceptionally luxurious lifestyle thanks to the British taxpayer, but at the same time are actual people and not sentient robots, so require some semblance of privacy to maintain their sanity.
Modern royals like Meghan and Kate and their husbands Prince Harry and Prince William take their approach to confidentiality perhaps a little too aggressively, which means that we know very little about them other than carefully selected nuggets of information shared with the intention of endearing them to us. Any of their close friends have been long vetted as trustworthy and these days, there are more royal ‘experts’ than ever, who come in the form of simple observers, former palace aides or body language experts.
During Meghan and Harry’s recent visit to Dublin, I and a number of other journalists and photographers, followed them around for two days to cover the trip in detail - and while nobody enjoys waiting on a bus on the tarmac at Dublin Airport for three hours - I did enjoy the gossip. The general consensus was one of frustration and utterings of, “You would never get this with Charles”, who has built a solid relationship with the press over the years.
It was accepted that Harry had little regard for the media, Meghan loved it and William and Kate were both just accepting of it. The rest I can’t print without being certain - or without being sued.
In another conversation, another photographer commented that, “We are in the golden age of the British royal family”, which is a statement that stuck with me.
Now that William and Harry have grown, and the world has grown with them, a new generation are following George, Charlotte and Louis - and soon-to-be baby Sussex - as well. There are at least 20 years of royal fascination - across generations - ahead. Recognising the value in this, over the years, the public have been subjected to a rather aggressive PR campaign intended to allow our fascinations to continue: we fawn over their clothes, their speeches, their weddings, their hair, their babies, their birth plan, their shoes and very little is on their causes. They are celebrities of the highest order.
But there's only so much impossibly-happy we can take. Where is the gossip? We want the Fergie-sucking-toes and Diana-giving-Panorama-interviews days of yore. And we want them now!
After years of an impossibly well-behaved-to-the-point-of-boring Kate, the arrival of Meghan has shown that history always repeats itself. While the public had 10 years to adjust to Kate, who was lambasted regularly for being 'too middle class' to be queen consort, it's been a rushed two years of Meghan and as much of a whirlwind for royal watchers as the newlyweds themselves.
Over time, stories began popping out about the form Suits star, including from her former agent who said she's "picky and likes to move on", her half-sister Samantha who never met an interview she didn't like and most searingly, her father Thomas who has publicly pleaded for his daughter to speak to him again after being cut off.
It's not Meghan's fault that scorned people from her past caved into the temptation of 15-minutes-of-fame, but there is more public suspicion about her and her motives simply because there is more information available about her.
She was never an A-list actress and was only well known to a specific group of people, but the fact that she lived life as a normal person means we know more about her than we ever will with her in-laws. There's a very specific narrative around Meghan - that her ambition came at the cost of friendships, marriages and family - and this breeds an opportunity for distrust .
The tales of behind the scenes backbiting and tensions between the couples are plausible, if not just based on the fact that the existing dynamic has been turned on its head. For years, Harry seemed happy to tag along with his brother and sister-in-law, all the while speaking vocally about his desire to start a family and it makes sense that he would protect the woman who agreed that love conquered all and willing to give up her entire identity for him.
But things have changed behind palace gates: royal reporters are said to be frustrated that they’re being iced out, thus creating increasing annoyance, and there are a number of people there who believe the Meghan Markle-story is just a well devised schtick. We might not have any bombshell BBC interviews, but we have something better - unfounded rumours being spread like wildfire.
The British royal family, arguably the longest running soap opera in the world, have once again redeemed themselves in the public eye, not for their contributions and causes, but for truly second-to-none gossip. And both women learned early on that access to the Windsor diamond vault comes at a hefty price.