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Meghan Markle is being treated like a pantomime villain, and it has to stop

We’re sick and tired of this relentless tabloid bullying. 

Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. Or, y’know, you could – if you were so inclined – seize the opportunity to spread yet another vicious rumour about Meghan Markle.

This week, like so many other weeks, sees the Duchess of Sussex held up as a villain by certain press outlets. They’ve dubbed her a “pretentious fraud”, and insisted her “latest jibe at the Queen smacks of spiteful fury”. They’ve accused her of “breaking Prince Harry’s heart”, of instigating a “Buckingham brawl”, and of “using” the royal family. One tabloid even ran a photo of Meghan alongside Elizabeth II, insisting that the duchess used “divisive” tactics to “fool” the queen.

The bullying nature of these headlines is hard to ignore. And they are relentless

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Almost every day brings new quotes from dubious inside sources, which are spun into excuses to seek comment from royal experts about how Meghan has let down the royal family and the public in some new, unforeseen way. They’ve reached out to Germaine Greer, the same woman who suggested Meghan would “bolt” after the royal wedding, for some more reductive woman-on-woman nastiness (this time, she’s suggested Meghan might have been “faking” her love for Harry all this time). And certain tabloids still feel the need to reach out to Thomas Markle for commentary on his daughter, despite the fact he has nothing to do with Meghan’s life whatsoever. Indeed, he has been publicly blackmailing the duchess with paid television appearances in a bid to convince her to answer his calls (which, astoundingly, hasn’t worked).

For months, Meghan was thrust under a spotlight and picked apart by royal experts, all of whom came to the same conclusion: she was “not right” for the royal family. We assumed, then, that Meghan and Harry’s decision to exit the royal family, then, would be applauded by the press. That the public would celebrate the couple’s decision to become “financially independent”.

We were wrong. 

Meghan Markle: how tabloids are using “Megxit” to distract us from real news
Meghan Markle: The bullying nature of these headlines is hard to ignore. And they are relentless.

As it turns out, Meghan still can’t do anything right. She has been vilified on myriad grounds, including race, however much it’s denied. She’s come under fire from Piers Morgan, yet again. She’s been ripped over the coals for sacking staff, for organising a speaking gig for JP Morgan, for responding to endless press scrutiny over the alleged branding of ‘Sussex Royal’, and for… well, for anything and everything they can think of.

Meghan is not a villain, yet she is being treated as one. She has vowed that her future outside the royal family will be dedicated to making the world a better place, and has ensured her final official duties as a senior royal will raise awareness of issues close to her heart. But I suppose this narrative is far less thrilling than that of the unscrupulous femme fatale who “faked orgasms” to secure a position in the royal family, solely so that she could tear it down from the inside.

With such juice on offer, it’s perhaps unsurprising that she remains the top undisputed House of Windsor media targets (even with Prince Andrew in the mix).

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“Meghan Markle was a fantastic addition to the royal family – charming, did everything right, was gracious, was sweet natured, and seemed to be a lovely addition,” Dame Helen Mirren recently noted in an interview with Variety.

“So, I think it is a loss [that she and Harry are stepping down] in a way, but at the same time I think their instincts are absolutely correct. And I think it will all, hopefully, sort itself out, and the tabloid pearl-clutchers will get over their trauma at not having someone to attack all the time.

“They’ll find another victim.”

It’s worth remembering that, last September, Meghan admitted in an interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby that she was “not really OK” in the wake of a savage media and social media pile-ons about various aspects of her life. That she and Harry have stepped away from their royal duties in a bid to try and protect their mental health and happiness as a family.

That, just a few weeks ago, another woman in the public eye died by suicide, ostensibly in part due to hounding by the press.

We have called for the tabloids to be kinder, but it was never going to happen overnight. So we need to take responsibility for the stories we engage with, and the language we use on social media. Because, if you click on any of the posts on @SussexRoyal’s official Instagram account, you’re guaranteed to see a string of abusive messages from members of the public. Meghan is being attacked on all fronts, and she’s right: it really isn’t OK.

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Meghan might not be perfect, and she might not be your favourite person. You might disagree with her decision to gracefully exit the royal family. All of that is fine: you are entitled to your own opinion. But there’s a difference between having an opinion and abusing someone based on that opinion.

If you see abuse being directed at Meghan, you should report it to social media platforms. If you see baseless tabloid slander, don’t click it. And, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Of course, some people can’t stay silent. To these individuals, I would like to once again cite the advice of Amy Poehler: instead of casting judgement, try the phrase, “good for you, not for me”.

There’s a lot of power in those six little words. They help us to build one another up, rather than tear one another down. They champion nothing but empathy, appreciation and esteem. And, in a world lacking in kindness, they seem entirely apt.

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