Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Sorry George, but Meghan hasn’t been vilified by the media... she and Harry need to visit her father

The Duchess of Sussex
The Duchess of Sussex

By Lindy McDowell

Meghan Markle: the soap opera. In this week's omnibus instalment the Duchess of Sussex (previously Rachel in Suits) is thrilled to discover that a group of anonymous friends have talked to a US magazine describing her as kind and nurturing.

They also tell the mag how she'd written a loving and conciliatory letter to her estranged father.

Inevitably, news of this disclosure enrages Da Markle, who hits back saying that the letter was nothing of the sort. To back up his claims he spills its contents.

Meanwhile Meg's friend George Clooney (star of the Nespresso ad) enters the fray, blasting the media who, he says, have "vilified" her.

This only provides further fuel for Clan Markle with Meg's bitter half-sister lashing out telling him to "be quiet Georgie".

Will George do as she says? Will Thomas Markle reveal more?

And will the royal family ever learn?

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It's not as if the royals don't have considerable previous experience. Back in the era of annus horribilis Prince Charles famously lamented how events chez the House of Windsor were being viewed as soap opera.

And now, like the rebooted Cold Feet, the Warring Windsors may be back for a whole new series.

At the centre of this updated drama is the duchess and the dilemma of how to deal with her indiscreet family. The royal family have any number of experienced advisers to call upon. It is bewildering how the current drama has been allowed to spin so out of control.

Meghan has attracted some truly vicious and vile online abuse which no one should ever be subject to. That must be very difficult to deal with, particularly for a young, pregnant woman still learning the ropes of her royal role.

But she is also a public figure. Interest in her comes with the territory.

Despite what Mr Clooney says, she has not been vilified by the media. Coverage is generally positive, kindly and very often gushing.

Meghan mostly makes headlines because of her family fall-out. And how this has been so woefully mishandled.

Did it not occur to her friends when they talked to the US magazine about the contentious letter that this would most likely prompt Thomas Markle to release the thing?

Or - dark thought - was that actually their intention?

Markle Senior has been roundly condemned for making the letter public. In his defence, though, it is not the loving "reaching out" claimed by Meghan's mates.

In parts it reads more like a "cease and desist" notice.

Meghan is known to be keen on calligraphy and her missive is written in a particularly ornate cursive script. But all those careful, measured, fussy little flicks swirling from consonants seem somehow at odds with a spontaneous outpouring purportedly from a broken heart. A heart broken indeed, "into a million pieces".

Unlike her father's heart which merely required stents.

Which brings us to the bewildering bit ...

You're writing to your beloved father whom you haven't seen since his hospitalisation and your marriage. Angry at him or not, wouldn't your first words be 'Dear Daddy, how are you?'

The letter is all about Meghan's hurt. Not her father's health.

And why did she choose to write to him instead of, say, giving him a call? Or, perish the thought, flying over to see him?

I don't think Thomas Markle has behaved at all well. But it's truly puzzling why no effort appears to have been made to bring the man on board.

Prince Harry has never met his own father-in-law. Meghan hasn't been near her "dear daddy" since her wedding.

The likelihood now is that the transatlantic sniping between Meghan and the Markles will only escalate.

And the mystery is why the royals - and their advisers - are, like the rest of us, just sitting back and watching what happens next.

Stephen’s courage sets an example for every one of us

My sister Heather recalls how, when she and our other sister were both 13 and queuing one day for school dinners, she saw a dinner lady nudge her colleague and say loudly: “That’s the wee twins I told you about. Their mother isn’t going to ‘do’.”

Our mother did ‘do’. For most of her life, though, she suffered from kidney disease. She was hospitalised many times. But she lived to be 80. She had a good life.

Her illness gave me an insight into what kidney patients go through. I have the greatest respect for those who have to have dialysis yet still just get on with life.

Like the BBC’s Stephen Watson.

In a powerful interview with Claire McNeilly, Stephen described in this paper this week how he’d been given a kidney by his father 29 years ago. The organ recently failed, meaning that he is now on regular dialysis until such time as he gets another transplant.

Some interviews move you to tears. This interview moved me to utter, utter admiration for the man.

On the telly Stephen looks as fit as a fiddle. Off screen he has to work around a gruelling schedule of treatment. But there is not the merest whiff of self-pity as he describes this. Nonchalantly he outlines how he organises dialysis when he’s covering sports events abroad — much like you and I would talk about booking a taxi to the hotel.

He has courage in bucket loads, as have so many others in the same position waiting for that precious transplant.

The very least the rest of us can do to salute that courage is to make clear to our nearest and dearest that we’d want our organs donated when we die.

UK’s dilemma over ISIS bride

Much debate this week about the now pregnant teenager who ran off to Syria to join ISIS. Should she be allowed back into the UK? She was only 15, a child, when she was seduced by the vile propaganda of the terrorist beheaders. And she is a UK citizen. So there's a strong argument for yes. But isn't there also an argument that her return might inspire other impressionable young fools to consider a similar prolonged gap year with the caliphate?

Hope tigers don’t ape zoo mates

Belfast Zoo escapees of the week... the cheeky monkeys who, having constructed a makeshift ladder, vaulted out of their enclosure to see life on the outside. Maybe they'd been talking to the red panda. According to the zoo, the chimps returned because they are "cowardly" (can simians sue?) and intelligent enough to know they shouldn't leave. Let's hope not too intelligent to share ladder construction tips with, say, the inmates of the tiger enclosure.

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