In what was one of the most emotional moments of her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle has finally confirmed what we’ve long suspected: she and her husband, Prince Harry, stepped back from the royal family last year because the British tabloids were destroying her mental health.
“Look, I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he has suffered, but I knew that if I didn’t say it, then I would do it,” she told Winfrey.
“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Meghan went on to explain that the relentless, negative media coverage of her, as well as the palace’s unwillingness to refute false stories, caused her significant distress.
And, while her husband immediately began working on a plan to help ease the pressure on his wife, Meghan said that other members of the royal household told her flatly that she couldn’t seek psychiatric help because it wouldn’t be good for the institution.
Harry, sitting beside his wife during the interview, held her hand tightly.
“My biggest concern was history repeating itself,” the prince told Winfrey, referring to his late mother, Princess Diana – who died in a 1997 crash after her car was followed by paparazzi on motorbikes.
“For me, I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you with my wife by my side.”
Just a few weeks ago, the Duchess of Sussex won a privacy claim against the publishers of the Mail on Sunday after they published a letter she sent her father, and launched a stinging rebuke to “dehumanising” media organisations after the verdict, saying the “damage they have done and continue to do runs deep.”
But, while all of this is incredibly disheartening, it shouldn’t be surprising: Meghan and Harry have long been held up as hate figures by certain members of the press for a very long time now.
Strike that, actually: they haven’t. Meghan has.
Indeed, it’s an indisputable fact that, since joining the royal family, criticisms of Meghan have ranged from the offensive to the downright bizarre; remember when she was dragged into that coronavirus debate? Or when she was unfairly accused of trying to “steal the limelight” from Princess Eugenie when she announced her second pregnancy?
Don’t believe us? Check out the many, many, many (far too many) examples below.
1) When Meghan was first unveiled as Prince Harry’s long-term girlfriend, the racist backlash began
At the time, the press attempted to reduce the talented Suits actor to nothing more than a divorced older woman (Meghan is just three years older than the prince). Some also began questioning her financial background and her ‘motives’ for dating a member of the royal family.
Perhaps most shockingly of all, however, were the loaded comments about Meghan’s ethnicity – and the backlash that this generated on social media. Many racist Twitter trolls claimed that the prince should not be allowed to date a biracial person – harkening back to the mythical concept of ‘blue blood’ and royal purity. And, as Prince Harry was forced to explain in a public statement, paparazzi began to invade the privacy of both Meghan and her family, employing abusive tactics in order to find out more about them.
“Some of it has been hidden from the public,” explained the prince, going on to recall “the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.”
You can read more about it here.
2) When Meghan wore a pair of trousers to an event, morons everywhere lost their shit
Meghan attended the Endeavour Fund Awards in a Alexander McQueen tuxedo (aka the glam Hollywood equivalent of every woman’s trusted “jeans and a nice top” combo).
Cue a plethora of screaming headlines, all of which punned the same tired old sexist trope: “Guess who wears the trousers in Prince Harry’s relationship?”
3) In the run-up to the royal wedding, Germaine Greer announced that Meghan would “bolt” after marrying Prince Harry
Staunch anti-royalist Germaine Greer sat down with 60 Minutes Australia to talk about Meghan and Harry’s relationship (an odd choice, being as the academic is not a close friend of the couple). And, when asked what she thought the future held for the couple, Greer said: “I think she’ll bolt.”
“She’s bolted before,” she continued, referring to Markle’s 2013 divorce from Trevor Engelson. “She was out the door. I think she’ll bolt.”
4) The press had a field day when Meghan announced her father, Thomas Markle, would not be attending her wedding
Thanks to the bullying circus who followed her dad in the run-up to her wedding, Meghan was forced to release a statement saying he would no longer be attending.
To quote Stylist’s Alix Walker: “Imagine if we were all judged on the families that made us. Imagine if, by some god-awful turn of events, millions and millions of people pulled out their mean little microscopes and put your family under their glare, then began to dissect them cell by cell… imagine if the world’s media decided, after all this scrutiny, that your family was not the right fit, that they were a ‘car crash’, ‘trash’ and ‘unhinged’.
“It’s unimaginable, isn’t it? Because no family deserves to go under somebody else’s microscope. Every family - yours, mine, Meghan’s, Harry’s - is complicated. Full of difficult truths and half-truths and unspoken truths.”
You can read her article in full here.
5) Showbiz journalists goaded celebrities into passing criticism on Meghan’s wedding dress
The stream of criticism over Meghan’s royal wedding dress was positively unreal, with some showbiz reporters even making a point of asking celebrities to share their thoughts on the gown. It was Katy Perry’s comments, though, which made headlines at the time.
“I would have done one more fitting. I’m never not going to tell the truth! One more fitting, but I love you.”
The Dark Horse singer added that she preferred Kate Middleton’s 2011 Alexander McQueen bridal look, declaring, “Kate, Kate, Kate won, Kate won!”
I can see your eyes rolling, reader: I know you’re thinking that Perry wasn’t strictly being mean-spirited (she went on to state that she loves and supports the duchess “as another woman”). That sometimes people do look good, or even not as good, as they might. That there’s literally nothing more delicious than discussing fashion choices. That journalists had most likely asked Perry to comment on Meghan’s dress, and she was just playing ball.
However, even if all of the above is true, her comments were still undeniably damaging. They fed into society’s outdated cult of perfectionism, and gave the media’s body and fashion-shaming machine a much-needed boost. And, most aggravatingly, they breathed new life into the most outdated and misogynist narrative of all: that girls are “mean”, women are “bitchy” and we will never, ever find a way to just get along.
You can read the full report here.
6) Meghan Markle sat on a chair – and the world lost its shit. Again.
A 60-second video, which was shared on Instagram, was captioned simply: “Harry and Meghan join the Queen and the Queen’s Young Leaders for their photo at the palace”. The footage was banal, at best: in it, Meghan sat down and talked to a woman sat beside her, the Queen ensured everyone is positioned correctly, Harry adjusted his trousers… the usual.
Explain, then, the slew of headlines that followed.
“Whoops!” screamed one tabloid. “See the EXACT MOMENT Meghan Markle switches from crossed legs to ‘Duchess Slant’ at palace party.” Another publication claimed to have footage of the moment “Meghan Markle realised she messed up her royal leg cross”. One more bayed: “Meghan Markle broke a royal rule at an event with the Queen.” And there were countless others, all pointing out that Meghan had done the unthinkable: she had “crossed her legs at an event with the Queen.”
It was a painfully obvious example of the press’ attempt to undermine Meghan and dress her up as ‘unsuitable’. Naturally, though, we here at Stylist weren’t standing for it. Read our hot take on the issue here.
7) Meghan Markle’s bra strap was visible for less than a second, prompting ‘wardrobe malfunction’ headlines all over the world
Meghan committed that greatest of all female sins, apparently, when she wore a bra (ironically, the second greatest of all female sins is not wearing a bra. Go figure, huh?). Worse still, a few zoom-happy trolls had spotted a whole three square inches of it – and were more than happy to use it as an excuse to damn her entire character.
Their tweets were more than enough to outrage certain members of the press, prompting them to pen entire articles about Meghan’s bra strap. The general gist? That, while nobody was hurt this time, we came very close to the downfall of our civilisation as we know it. As always.
8) The endless comparisons drawn between Meghan and her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton
There’s no one headline I can pull out here, as countless stories have highlighted the dissimilarities between Middleton and Meghan’s backgrounds. Others have promised to reveal “reasons why Meghan Markle is nothing like Kate Middleton… from relationship history to fashion sense”, or picked apart the differences between “their first public appearances with their Princes”.
Stylist’s Moya Crockett previously highlighted the “obvious undercurrent of racism and classism” running through these articles, writing: “By drawing these distinctions between the two women’s backgrounds, these articles are sending a clear message: Kate is more or less the kind of woman you’d expect a prince to marry, and Meghan… isn’t.”
You can read her article here.
9) The outcry over Meghan’s “controversial” one-shouldered dress
When Kate wore a one-shoulder gown to an event, she was declared a “true princess” and “vision in white”. When Meghan did the same, the press branded her “vulgar”.
11) Also, Meghan’s penchant for black clothes
Who doesn’t love wearing black?
12) Then there’s the time Meghan was slammed for eating avocado on toast
Here’s a headline for you: woman has breakfast. Because that’s all that happened when Meghan caught up with close friend and longterm makeup artist Daniel Martin over a brunch of avocado on toast and tea in London.
“Thank you Meghan for being the consummate hostess this weekend and still being the avocado toast whisperer, YUM!” he wrote on Twitter.
Lovely, charming, nothing to see but two old friends eating avocados and catching up.
Except for many in the media there was plenty to see. TenDaily spoke to a chef who blasted the meal as a “little Tescos value no-frills” and that it needed “a splash of colour with a few herbs… [or] a wedge of lemon.” For The Sun, it was a “posh lunch but trolls say it looks ‘bland’”.
But it was the Daily Mail who, as ever, took the proverbial cake. Using some aggressive capitalisation, the media dubbed the display “Meghan’s VERY unorthodox afternoon tea.” And in a recent edition of the print newspaper, they took it one step further. “Is Meghan’s favourite snack fuelling drought and murder?”
13) Remember when Meghan was slammed for sending a Christmas card?
At Christmas, yes. The scandal.
14) And that time the press took aim at her for having…. knees?
Why? Because apparently Meghan’s knees have become a receptacle for the ghostly face of her young niece, Princess Charlotte, of course.
The unnamed Metropolitan Office has “quit after being in the job for only about six months”, according to scandalised journalists. They were also quick to note that she’s the “third close aide [of Meghan] to quit in three months”: the couple’s personal assistant Melissa Touabti departed Kensington Palace in December, and private secretary Samantha Cohen also announced she was leaving her role after 17 years with the Royal Family (it’s worth noting that she was only ever intended to fill the position on a temporary basis).
However, while most contented themselves with merely insinuating that Meghan was the driving force behind these departures, one tabloid took things one step further, claiming that her “dictatorial behaviour” has driven a wedge between her and Palace staff. That her desire to be seen as “one of the people” had made things unduly difficult for her security team. That she finds the constant presence of her bodyguards to be incredible “constraining”.
This is, of course, in spite of the fact that the bodyguard is understood to be moving on from the Metropolitan police entirely, and that a spokesperson for Scotland Yard has explicitly denied any sort of personality clash with Meghan. But why let any of these boring details get in the way of a juicy story, eh? And why mention that Prince Charles and Camilla have seen their personal assistant resign as well? Or that Kate Middleton, similarly, lost two members of staff shortly after she married Prince William in 2011? Or that, y’know, people leave jobs sometimes and it’s literally NBD?
16) The press also hated the fact that Meghan was visibly pregnant
They particularly didn’t like it whenever her hand drifted towards her stomach, branding it “showy”.
“She must stop that!” cried one user, as footage of Meghan closing a car door after herself went viral.
“I’ve never seen an on-duty princess [do that],” added another.
Anyone else rolling their eyes right now?
18) And they really didn’t like it when she refused to pose on the hospital steps immediately after giving birth
Some criticised her for refusing to cart Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor out onto the hospital steps, all so the world’s press could get photos of him and her, in the hours after his birth.
Indeed, according to one tabloid’s (frankly dubious) sources, the royal family hates Meghan. Hates her. So much so that certain members of the clan refer to her by a cruel – and sexist – nickname: ‘the degree wife’.
Naturally, they didn’t name their sources – nor did they reveal which royal has been dropping such suspiciously soundbite-worthy nicknames. The writer did, though, explain what is meant by a ‘degree wife’, for those of us who aren’t up to date with our royal slurs. Playing on the idea that university students typically finish their degrees in three years, the nickname implies that Harry will be done with Meghan by late 2021 – three years after their star-studded royal wedding in 2018.
20) They claimed to have photos of Meghan in her underwear
Whilst on tour in New Zealand, Meghan donned a custom Givenchy skirt crafted from a very fine navy fabric. A very fine fabric, that is, which looked ever so slightly see-through in some photos. And I really do mean ever so slightly: if you squint at the designer number, in the right light, you might *gasp* find evidence that Meghan is wearing underwear under her clothes. If you lean even closer, you’ll most likely also note that she has *double gasp* real human legs under there, too.
“Meghan Markle has SHOCKED royal fans with a see-through dress,” one journalist screamed, presumably after taking a deep sniff of smelling salts to steady their shaking fingers.
“Meghan Markle wore a see-through skirt and nobody noticed,” confided another, making sure to share a photo of said-skirt in a bid to rectify the public’s total lack of awareness.
“Meghan Markle suffers yet another wardrobe malfunction, wears see-through skirt,” wrote another disapprovingly, presumably still dwelling on the fact that Meghan recently forgot to cut the tag off her embroidered red dress from Self-Portrait (a message to this journo: get the f**k over it already).
“Meghan’s see-through skirt in New Zealand was her true Diana moment,” insisted another, jumping at the chance to once again compare Prince Harry’s new wife to his late mother (and share a long-forgotten photo of Diana’s own ‘wardrobe malfunction’ from the 80s).
It was all pretty desperate, quite frankly.
21) Apparently Prince Harry’s hair loss is Meghan’s fault, too
“Harry’s hair seems to have got a lot thinner since he tied the knot with Meghan Markle,” one tabloid claimed boldly. “Can the hair loss be blamed on his marriage?”
22) And tabloids couldn’t get over the fact Meghan had dated other men before Harry, either
Whether they’re dubbing her the “divorced American” or concocting stories about her past with Matt Cardle, they’re always there, hammering home the point that Harry didn’t marry a virgin bride.
23) They don’t like the fact that Meghan uses hair extensions
Add it to the list, I guess.
24) They couldn’t stop themselves speculating about Meghan’s diet
It all kicked off when an online scam used Meghan’s image – without her consent – to promote their range of diet pills. Throw in some fabricated quotes from the royal (one investigation said that Meghan described the pills as her “passion project” – the very same phrase she used to refer to her Grenfell cookbook) and you have a recipe for dangerously toxic levels of body-shaming bullshit.
25) And Piers Morgan – actual Piers Morgan – penned a scathing attack on Meghan disguised as “advice on how to handle the media”
In his column, the professional troll Morgan asked Meghan to “stop showing off” her “unimaginable wealth and luxury”, among other things.
His 10-point guide, essentially, reads thus:
- Stop bleating about privacy
- Share, don’t suppress, basic information about your life
- Stop showing off
- Don’t take the piss
- Avoid being a hypocrite
- Put your wokeness back to sleep
- Pack in your on-going PR campaign in the US media
- Forego silly tokenism
- Make peace with the Cambridges
- Plant trees, and do your duty
It’s laughable, isn’t it?
26) Yes, tabloids succeeded in dragging Meghan Markle into Covid-19 coverage
Last year, HRH Prince Charles was diagnosed with coronavirus (he’s fine now, in case you’re wondering). And, naturally, the tabloids had a field day, somehow managing to twist this story into yet further proof of Meghan’s apparent wickedness.
How? Well, they claimed that, upon hearing of his dad’s coronavirus infection, Prince Harry desperately wanted to return to England “straight away.” Meghan, however, “forbid” him from doing so.
Indeed, as one of the Daily Mail’s ever-dubious “insiders” put it: “Under no circumstances is she OK with him travelling anywhere right now.”
Right. Let’s unpack this, shall we?
Setting aside the fact that this entire story feels fabricated (Harry and Meghan are literally in lockdown mode, so who was this “insider” – baby Archie?), let’s consider Meghan’s reported concerns: that she doesn’t want her husband to leave their home in Canada, board a plane, fly to the UK, and visit his infected father.
You know what? If by some miracle there is a tiny kernel of truth to these baseless reports, then fair enough. Because, if Meghan really did ask Harry to stay home, she’s not doing so to be spiteful: she’s simply following the guidelines put in place by WHO. She’s working to keep herself and her family safe, using the social distancing measures we have all been provided with.
27) Apparently it’s all over for her and Harry (sigh)
On 15 February 2021, the cover for New Idea loudly declared “It’s all over!” alongside a picture of Harry and Meghan on their wedding day in 2018, edited so as to appear torn down the middle.
Underlining how ridiculous these baseless stories truly are, though, the poorly timed headline hit newsstands on the same day as an official announcement from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that the Duchess was pregnant. Awkward.
28) Everyone has been really bloody desperate to dream up a feud Meghan and Princess Eugenie
First, certain members of the press claimed that Eugenie was ’upset’ that Meghan’s first pregnancy was revealed on her wedding day. Then, they decided that Harry and Meghan deliberately decided to announce their second pregnancy on Valentine’s Day 2021 in order to steal Eugenie’s thunder once again (the princess had given birth to her own baby, August, a few days before).
“Meghan and Harry ‘overshadow’ Eugenie for second time with royal baby news,” insisted the Daily Express.
“Royal fans claim Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby news has upstaged new mother Princess Eugenie AGAIN — after couple announced first pregnancy at her wedding,” declared the Daily Mail, adding fuel to the imaginary fire with in its own scandalised headline.
And Australian magazine New Idea leaned hard into the narrative, stating: “Once is an accident but twice is a choice. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry must be choosing to upstage Princess Eugenie at any opportunity because this is the second time they have stolen her thunder!”
Right. And this is in spite of the fact that a) they would have known about each other’s due dates, b) sources close to Eugenie have said the two women are very close, and c) Meghan and Harry specifically chose Valentine’s Day in order to honour his late mother, Princess Diana.
Lord, give us strength.
29) She was accused of manipulating Archie’s birth certificate
Earlier this year, it emerged two changes were made to the royal baby’s documentation three weeks after it was registered. The Duchess of Sussex’s given names, ‘Rachel Meghan’, were removed, leaving just ‘Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex’. And ‘Prince’ was added to Harry’s name, which was previously omitted.
Naturally, everyone fell over themselves to claim this was yet further proof of the Sussexes’ scheme to market themselves.
Cue a curt response from Meghan’s spokesperson, which said: “The change of name on public documents in 2019 was dictated by the Palace, as confirmed from senior Palace officials. This was not requested by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex nor by The Duke of Sussex.”
They added: “To see this UK tabloid and their carnival of so-called ‘experts’ choose to deceptively whip this into a calculated family ‘snub’ and suggest that she would oddly want to be nameless on her child’s birth certificate, or any other legal document, would be laughable were it not offensive.”
30) And Meghan (Harry too, actually) have once again been accused of disrespecting the Queen
Meghan and Harry don’t want to serve as working royals anymore, for obvious reasons (see everything above and more). And apparently, despite the fact that the Queen is first and foremost Harry’s grandmother, and only wants what’s best for him, this very reasonable request has been transformed into an insult by the tabloids.
“It’s been a rough few weeks for the queen, that’s for sure,” one source tells Us. “The situation with Harry and Meghan has been challenging, the queen has had some tearful moments mixed with anger and disappointment.”
“They have insulted the Queen,” a so-called royal commentator added to The Express.
Right. Let’s take another look at Buckingham Palace’s official response to Harry and Meghan confirming that they will not be returning as working members of the royal family, shall we?
“While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.”
It’s actually pretty amazing that the press have managed to spin that into a tale of an anguished queen, isn’t it?
31) Meghan Markle ‘slammed door in Kate Middleton’s face’ after she ‘made her cry’
Just days after her interview with Oprah aired on ITV, Meghan was once again dragged into another needless feud storyline by the tabloids – this time with her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton.
“Meghan Markle slammed the door in Kate Middleton’s face when she tried to apologise with flowers following a row,” claimed The Mirror boldly.
It’s another one of those baseless source stories that sets out to pain the Duchess of Sussex as a monster. And it stings particularly badly this time as, during the interview, Winfrey actually asked Meghan to comment on a tabloid headline that was published six months after the royal wedding in May 2018, which (falsely) stated that she had made Kate cry in the run up to the big day.
“No, no the reverse happened,” said Meghan. “A few days before the wedding she was upset about something [relating to the dresses worn by the flower girls].
“It made me cry and it really hurt my feelings,” she continued. “But she owned it and she apologised and she brought me flowers and a note apologising… she’s a good person.
“If you love me you don’t have to hate her. If you love her you don’t have to hate me.”
I could go on and on, forever and ever, until the end of time. Because it doesn’t stop there. How could it? Meghan has also been criticised or having too much energy. For sweating like all humans do (bar one Pizza Express-frequenting individual we shan’t name here). For having a husband who wants her to be happy (Prince Harry supposedly uttered the words “what Meghan wants, Meghan gets” during preparations for the royal wedding, sparking a severe case of handwringing across the country). For “bewitching” Harry (because apparently there’s no better royal insult than those thrown around in Tudor times). For texting her employees. For being “too American”. For waking up early. For having a “formidable work ethic”.
For being, above all else, a “difficult woman”.
You get the picture. Essentially, what I’m trying to say is this: all the worst parts of the world’s press seem to have 101 problems with Meghan. And they have made a point of finding new ways to make that clear whenever and wherever they can.
Why? Because Meghan, and all she represents, frightens certain individuals. This is a woman striving to be a force for change, after all, and some institutions prefer that things… well, that things stay the same. Forever.
So what did the media decide to do about it? Well, to quote myself (because I’ve become something of a Meghan Markle correspondent, over the past few years), they constructed a narrative which employs all of the deeply sexist semantics of modern-day language to ensure that the world knows, once and for all, that this woman is Bad News. That she isn’t confident or self-assured. That she is arrogant, cocky, bitchy. That she is not a “woman’s woman”. That she is Duchess Difficult.
It backfired, though. All of those ridiculous headlines about Meghan’s so-called bad behaviour have done nothing more than prove that the media is afraid of her – and that, in my opinion, has made her powerful.
Now that Meghan has unshackled herself from the limits and restrictions that come with life as a senior royal, she can embrace that power fully. She can become the change maker she wants (and has the potential) to be.
And I, for one, can’t wait to see what she does next.
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Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A Primetime Special is available to stream on ITV Hub, Courtesy of Harpo Productions/CBS.
Please note that this article was originally published in April 2020, but has been updated throughout.