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Things Haven’t Changed: the Duchess of Sussex still deserves better than how she has been treated

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Royal Central’s Editorial Assistant, Jess Ilse wonders why the Duchess of Sussex just can’t catch a break with the media. Or the Markles. 

I wish I could say that in the six months since I wrote my last editorial that things had changed for the better for the Duchess of Sussex.

How wrong I was. How naïve? I thought things would change for the better once she’d returned from the August holidays, or at the very least, that the media would back off and give her room to grow.

If anything, it’s only gotten worse.

If you’re like me, you roll your eyes at 90% of the stories coming out about Meghan. Wait, is 90% too low here? Is it better to say 95%? Or 99%?

She shut her own car door? How revolutionary!

She wore dark fingernail polish? How scandalous!

She wrote positive messages on bananas for sex workers? Did she consult the list of foods The Queen has banned before she did it? She’s already had to give up shellfish and pasta (if you believed that headline), so is it outside the realm of possibility to assume there’s a fictitious edict on bananas? Quick, someone write that story, I’ll give it to you for free!

Those are the more frivolous stories about Meghan. Sure, you shake your head, but you know deep down that they can’t possibly be true. It’s the more sinister stories that you have to pay attention to. Those are the ones people have an easier time believing.

She’s demanding on her staff.

A private secretary who’d only agreed to step in on an interim basis is…leaving the post at the agreed upon time.

She made Kate cry at a dress fitting just before the wedding.

She and Kate are feuding.

She’s driving a wedge between Harry and William.

She had a hissy fit when she didn’t get her first-choice wedding tiara.

Somehow, she’s responsible for the world’s atrocities because she served avocado toast to a friend. Riddle me that one, please. Am I complicit? I love avocados, too.

And just when you think you’ve read the last one, another story pops up. It never ends.

And then there are the Markles. Oh, the Markles. Royal Central made a choice last summer to not report on their shenanigans. Why give them the satisfaction of a Google Alert? But like clockwork, they pop up with another negative story about Meghan every now and then.

Sorry, not another one. It’s always the same one. Maybe it’s told differently, but it’s still the same old story. It’s not like they’re actively talking to her. They can’t possibly have anything new to share. You know when a Markle jumps in, you’re about to get the answer to a question you never asked.

Some of the more sensible in the media have tried to help fix the narrative. Hello! launched an online campaign in response to the vitriol levied at Kate and Meghan (#HellotoKindness) by trolls on social media. Its result?

Scepticism that things will ever truly change and a corresponding hashtag: #HellotoHypocrisy. Nobody seems to want to change their behaviour, least of all the people who necessitated the campaign in the first place. They only wanted to point fingers.

But things won’t get better unless we commit to making it better. We need to commit to making it better. The media, the trolls, all of us in the middle. The media needs to invest in factual stories. The trolls need to recognise that their words have negative power (and the rest of us need to recognise our own power in devaluing their words). We in the middle need to commit to not feeding the negativity.

Now to the latest developing news in this whole fiasco: last week five of Meghan’s friends spoke to People magazine in her defence. Kensington Palace won’t confirm or deny if this was done with Meghan’s blessing, but it’s hard to imagine that five of her closest friends would coordinate something like this without her at least knowing about it.

I saw a lot of people praising the decision to go public on Meghan’s behalf. I didn’t agree, nor did a few other respected royal commentators, not because we don’t believe Meghan doesn’t need or deserve defending or that it hasn’t been an especially difficult time for her, but because we worried that it would only stoke the flames and urge the Markles to come out of hiding once again.

The motto of the House of Windsor has long been “Never complain, never explain.” There’s an air of rising above and digging headfirst into the work. Let the work speak for itself and damn those who criticise. It’s why Camilla has never talked about the turbulent ‘90s, and Kate has never spoken about the harassment she received as a royal girlfriend.

And anyway, it turns out that Mr Markle was just waiting for his favourite: the weekend paper. And likely a payday. Say, what’s the price tag on selling out your daughter?

He ended up sharing the contents of a letter Meghan wrote to him last August. I’m not sure what he thought he was accomplishing by doing so since it only confirms what her friends said about him and that other daughter. If you want to read the letter, Google his name: it’s the top hit next to his sad profile picture.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that at times I’ve been critical of Meghan since I wrote that last editorial. I think it necessary to point that out because if I didn’t, some of her more…vociferous fans would likely do it for me and paint my criticism in a way it’s not intended to be meant.

The difference between me and a Markle, or me and those in the media who write garbage about Meghan is that I want her to succeed. I believe she has the power to be a positive force for the monarchy. She already is a positive force for the monarchy.

Think about where the ladies from the Hubb Community Kitchen are today because Meghan lent her support to them as soon as she moved to London.

Think about the ethical clothing brands hiring more workers, raising more money for their causes, and gaining widespread awareness because Meghan has worn their clothes.

Think about the diversity of her recently announced patronages and the power they now have because Meghan has lent her name to Smart Works and Mayhew; or how she can bring her expertise to the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the National Theatre.

Think about every speech she’s delivered since her wedding day and how eloquent and informed she is on the topics she’s passionate about.

Think about every triumphant moment in Australia. In Fiji. In Tonga. In New Zealand. In Ireland. Morocco should be a cakewalk, and she hasn’t even been a member of the Royal Family for a full year yet.

Think about every triumphant moment spent in the UK working on behalf of the Crown and in support of The Queen.

Think about the happiness she brings to Harry.

That’s Meghan.

Let her be.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.