Belfast Telegraph

Mary Kenny: Powerhouse princess Meghan learning that great privilege comes with a very high price

Public gaze: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with baby Archie during their South Africa trip
Public gaze: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with baby Archie during their South Africa trip

By Mary Kenny

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, seems a poised and attractive young woman, but I've been listening to conversations about her over recent weeks and they often strike a critical note.

"She's so manipulative. All that palaver about not showing little Archie to the world. Going on about her 'privacy'."

"That's what the royal family are paid for - To be public figures."

"Yes, doesn't the Queen say 'I have to be seen to be believed'."

"Then they choose to show baby Archie for the first time while touring in Africa. If she's the Duchess of Sussex, why not do it in Sussex?"

"She has Harry just where she wants him. Under the thumb. She tells him what to say. I believe she writes his speeches for him."

"She exercises complete control. Gets up at five in the morning to give orders to the staff."

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"She's an American. She doesn't understand that joining the British royal family isn't just like being another celebrity. There is protocol to be observed."

"American wives are like that. They're the boss."

"Harry was a nice lad before, a bit of a rebel. But now it's as if he's handed over his personality to Meghan."

"She's an actress - you can see that. Every movement is posed. Probably rehearsed. That calculated business about writing on bananas."

"Harry is suing the press under her orders. He didn't take any advice from William or his father. He only takes advice from Meghan."

"She didn't treat her father too nicely. Okay, he seems a bit all over the place, but he is her dad and he did send her to good schools. You'd think she'd take his calls."

"Doesn't she understand that the royal family only wears black for mourning? But Meghan wears black whenever it suits Meghan."

"She should take a leaf out of Kate's copybook. Kate never puts a foot wrong. She's natural, she's pleasant, she's dignified - she knows how to do it."

"I'd say Harry and Meghan will eventually go and live in America. That will suit them better. Then they can be global celebrities, like their celebrity friends."

"I've heard it said that the long-term plan is for Meghan to run for President of the US, that she will be the female Obama. I can see it happening (Actually, there is already a soap-opera plan for this scenario)."

These assorted remarks were heard in both Britain and Ireland, and all the commentary came from women.

I am sure there are women who admire Meghan Markle for her activism and her good intentions - and, after last weekend's TV documentary, An African Journey, many have sent her messages of sympathy and support. But there are the critics, too.

A repeated thread is the point about Harry being so submissive.

Harry's uxoriousness might be admired in this age of 'toxic masculinity', yet the man who appears to be his wife's puppet doesn't, it seems, always command respect.

Was there, I wondered, a hidden sub-text of racism in some of these critiques of Meghan?

I didn't hear her bi-racial background mentioned, but perhaps there is an unspoken element buried in the mixture (being an American was more pointedly mentioned).

I turned to Lady Colin Campbell, who has written more than half a dozen books on the British royal family, for an opinion.

Lady Colin - known to her friends as Georgie - is herself a white Jamaican. Her latest book, People of Colour and the Royals, surveys the history of mixed ethnicities within the royal families of Europe.

Is hostility to Meghan based on racial prejudice? I asked her. "Absolutely not!" she said. "Any criticism of Meghan is based on conduct, not on colour."

Her picture of Meghan is the profile of a determined young woman - "a powerhouse of directed energy" - who has the ability "to trigger an instant connection with whomever she wished to captivate".

Meghan is "clear-sighted and far-sighted" and wants to be recognised as a "humanitarian". She is a brilliant networker with a "formidable work ethic".

When Harry said "what Meghan wants, Meghan gets", it seems he was speaking the truth.

Harry, writes Lady Colin, has always had a special affinity for people of colour, visiting Lesotho and Botswana repeatedly.

Queen Elizabeth is pleased by any link which strengthens ties with the Commonwealth - and Meghan's African-American heritage is something which appeals to many in the Commonwealth, so Meghan's bi-racial background is an asset.

Still, being a princess always did carry responsibilities as well as benefits, and being gifted with youth, health, wealth, beauty, ability, status and as many tiaras as you can get your head around will surely attract envy and adversarial comment.

Harry had at least two marriage proposals rebuffed because the candidates in question just couldn't face the prospect of living in that goldfish-bowl.

Meghan is made of sterner stuff, but brickbats there will be: it is the price, after all, of great privilege.

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