How the Palace bent over backwards to help Meghan adjust to royal life: Author reveals


As he watched Meghan Markle walk slowly down the aisle in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Prince Andrew may well have reflected on his own love life. 

Years before he became embroiled in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal, the Prince was secretly dating the American actress Koo Stark, who had starred in a tepidly erotic movie directed by the arty aristocrat, the Earl of Pembroke.

Once their romance became public, pictures were circulated of Koo in various stages of undress, provoking hysteria among MPs.

Though she had met the Queen and was considered the perfect match for Andrew, the stigma of that film – one of her first – poisoned any future prospects. 

Ironically, Meghan, a divorcee, had taken acting roles far raunchier than anything shot by Koo Stark

Ironically, Meghan, a divorcee, had taken acting roles far raunchier than anything shot by Koo Stark

A stressed Meghan, humiliated over her father¿s recent behaviour in taking money from a paparazzo for a series of photographs, was accused of leaving Kate, herself emotional following the birth of Louis, in tears. Pictured, Meghan Markle and her father Tom

A stressed Meghan, humiliated over her father¿s recent behaviour in taking money from a paparazzo for a series of photographs, was accused of leaving Kate, herself emotional following the birth of Louis, in tears. Pictured, Meghan Markle and her father Tom

A stressed Meghan, humiliated over her father’s recent behaviour in taking money from a paparazzo for a series of photographs, was accused of leaving Kate, herself emotional following the birth of Louis, in tears. Pictured, Meghan Markle and her father Tom

Their love affair was doomed. But for a fifth-rate movie, Koo Stark, not Meghan Markle, might have been the first American to marry a member of the Royal Family since Wallis Simpson.

Ironically, Meghan, a divorcee, had taken acting roles far raunchier than anything shot by Koo Stark.

During her screen career, she was filmed snorting cocaine, teaching housewives the art of striptease and having sex in a file room. 

She appeared semi-naked in so many scenes of the TV series Suits that she complained that scriptwriters were deliberately crafting scenarios to show off her body. 

In an earlier TV show, aged 27, she played a schoolgirl performing oral sex in another student’s car.

But, thankfully, times have changed and three days after her wedding, the new Duchess of Sussex found her hand being held by the Duchess of Cornwall, the future Queen consort, during a garden party at Buckingham Palace. 

This rare Royal gesture was a sign of how quickly Meghan had been accepted by the Royal Family – signalling to the watching world that she was now ‘one of us’.

Prince Charles dubbed his new daughter-in-law ‘Tungsten’ because he felt she was ‘tough and unbending’. 

It was meant as a compliment, for Charles, who likes strong, independent women, was thrilled by the newest member of the family. She had made his second son, at times wayward and lost, complete.

The Queen clearly had confidence in the Royal ingenue and invited Meghan to join her on the overnight Royal Train ahead of a day of engagements in Cheshire.

It had been ten months before the previous commoner, Kate Middleton, was asked to join Her Majesty on a joint engagement.

Unlike Diana and Fergie, Kate and Meghan were not friends before they joined the Royal Family. 

What is more, during the build-up to Meghan’s wedding, Kate was experiencing her third difficult pregnancy and was focused on her own welfare. 

She did not have much energy to bond with the newcomer.

Harry was desperate for Meghan and his sister-in-law to bond ¿ a tall order given their contrasting careers and social backgrounds

Harry was desperate for Meghan and his sister-in-law to bond ¿ a tall order given their contrasting careers and social backgrounds

Harry was desperate for Meghan and his sister-in-law to bond – a tall order given their contrasting careers and social backgrounds

But like the Queen, Kate offered friendliness but not friendship. Her cool and somewhat reserved nature would have profound consequences

But like the Queen, Kate offered friendliness but not friendship. Her cool and somewhat reserved nature would have profound consequences

But like the Queen, Kate offered friendliness but not friendship. Her cool and somewhat reserved nature would have profound consequences

The two women had first met in January 2017 at the Cambridges’ Kensington Palace apartment. 

During their brief encounter, Meghan presented Kate, who had celebrated her 35th birthday the day before, with a small but thoughtful gift – a soft leather Smythson notebook.

Meghan was assured by Kate that she was always ready to help and advise in this bizarre new world in which Meghan found herself.

Harry was desperate for Meghan and his sister-in-law to bond – a tall order given their contrasting careers and social backgrounds.

But like the Queen, Kate offered friendliness but not friendship. Her cool and somewhat reserved nature would have profound consequences. 

In an infamous incident, Kate and Meghan clashed even before the wedding, at the final rehearsal. 

A stressed Meghan, humiliated over her father’s recent behaviour in taking money from a paparazzo for a series of photographs, was accused of leaving Kate, herself emotional following the birth of Louis, in tears.

The spat apparently concerned Princess Charlotte’s dress and whether the flower girls should wear tights or go bare-legged. 

Words were said, tears were shed, and the two women, who enjoyed a brittle relationship at the best of times, parted in high dudgeon.

Meghan later told Oprah Winfrey that it was Kate who had made her cry over the issue of the flower girls’ dresses. To further emphasise the point, Meghan described how Kate personally brought a bouquet of flowers and conciliatory note to her by way of apology.

Meghan’s story, however, was diametrically opposite to the whispers inside the Palace. And whoever was at fault, it was clear there was little love lost between the two.

Not only did Kate and Meghan not know each other well, but even after the wedding there was little opportunity to develop a firm friendship away from public events. Harry’s dream of two united, happy families seemed a long way off. 

And soon, the honeymoon between the Duchess of Sussex and the media was over, too.

Within a matter of months, Meghan went from Duchess Dazzling to Duchess Difficult – a Hollywood diva who tried to bend the thousand-year-old monarchy to her whim, offending everyone from the Queen downwards.

In November 2018, just days after the couple returned from their successful tour Down Under, The Times reported that Meghan had thrown a ‘tiara tantrum’ shortly before her wedding because the tiara she wanted to wear was not available. 

Her prima-donna behaviour apparently earned a rebuke from the Queen herself, who told Harry: ‘She gets what tiara she’s given by me.’

Subsequent accounts of exactly which tiara had been offered, withdrawn or rejected were varied and often conflicting. Regardless, where reports overlapped was with respect to Harry’s behaviour.

The Prince, who needed acupuncture to stay calm in the run-up to the wedding, was overwrought when the chosen tiara could not be made instantly available for Meghan’s hairdresser, who had flown from New York to work on the hair fitting. 

The Queen’s formidable dresser Angela Kelly, who is the guardian of Her Majesty’s jewellery, is said to have informed the irate Prince that certain security protocols had to be adhered to in order to access the priceless piece.

Harry would have none of it, telling anyone who would listen: ‘What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.’ His ringing phrase did her no favours.

Harry suspected, rightly or wrongly, that the old guard at the Palace did not like Meghan and were deliberately trying to make life difficult for them.

Though Harry was the prime mover in this episode, it was Meghan who took the hit.

Almost overnight, the narrative about her turned full circle, from Duchess Difficult to Duchess Dictatorial. Once that narrative was fixed in the popular imagination, it was almost impossible to change.

In short order, she was publicly accused of making Kate cry and blamed for the premature departure of Royal staff, including her personal assistant, whom she also reduced to tears, along with her temporary private secretary and Scotland Yard bodyguard. 

She was also deemed to be at the centre of the growing rift between the previously inseparable brothers.

What cut deepest with Meghan and Harry was that there was never any formal rebuttal of the accusations made about Meghan by the Palace press office. 

They were allowed to stand, she suggested, further contributing to the construction of her negative image.

Almost overnight, the narrative about her turned full circle, from Duchess Difficult to Duchess Dictatorial

Almost overnight, the narrative about her turned full circle, from Duchess Difficult to Duchess Dictatorial

Almost overnight, the narrative about her turned full circle, from Duchess Difficult to Duchess Dictatorial

Kensington Palace spent hundreds of hours monitoring social media posts

Kensington Palace spent hundreds of hours monitoring social media posts

Kensington Palace spent hundreds of hours monitoring social media posts

In truth, the Palace did not sit on its hands.

From time to time it did formally dispute stories, such as one suggesting that Kate had ‘slapped down’ Meghan for being rude to one of her staff. ‘This never happened,’ said the Palace.

Moreover, Kensington Palace spent hundreds of hours monitoring social media posts. 

It unveiled a code of conduct for internet interactions on the Royal Family’s platforms. Violent threats were reported to the police, and sexist and racist comments deleted.

However, Meghan and Harry sensed a change towards them inside the Royal Family. They were too current, too fresh, too challenging for what they saw as the old guard. 

Harry had always been prickly at any suggestion of criticism of his wife, and from now on he seemed more sensitive and quick to take offence.

As far as he and Meghan were concerned, they were united against the world – and that was beginning to include the Royal Family.

During the pivotal month of November 2018, when the day-to-day reality of Royal life had started to sink in, Meghan and Harry began to discuss their options.

First item on the agenda was setting up their own Royal Household, which was essentially their own ‘company’ inside the family Firm.

It was at this time that Harry informed a pregnant Meghan about an extraordinary conversation he’d had with a member of his family. 

His relation, whom he has refused to name publicly, had asked about how dark the new baby’s skin might be. 

It was that issue, Meghan later implied, which was connected to decisions about her child’s title and future security. 

One official was reported as saying: ¿People had bent over backwards for them. They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?¿

One official was reported as saying: ¿People had bent over backwards for them. They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?¿

One official was reported as saying: ‘People had bent over backwards for them. They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?’

Meghan argued that the Palace had allowed a ¿monster machine¿ to grow up, turning them into tabloid fodder, and it was its responsibility to protect the baby

Meghan argued that the Palace had allowed a ¿monster machine¿ to grow up, turning them into tabloid fodder, and it was its responsibility to protect the baby

Meghan argued that the Palace had allowed a ‘monster machine’ to grow up, turning them into tabloid fodder, and it was its responsibility to protect the baby

In short, the darker the skin, the more minor the title and protection. It was a curious assertion, especially as the couple didn’t want a title for them and had even lobbied Prince Charles to ensure this was achieved.

Meghan argued that the Palace had allowed a ‘monster machine’ to grow up, turning them into tabloid fodder, and it was its responsibility to protect the baby.

When Meghan’s child was born, if he were a boy, he could take the courtesy title of the Earl of Dumbarton. 

However, according to Royal protocol, it was only the children and grandchildren of the Sovereign who could be made a Prince or Princess and thus be eligible for round-the-clock protection. 

The truth was, Harry was concerned that Meghan was ¿on the brink¿ of just walking out and he realised he had to take swift action to ensure her happiness

The truth was, Harry was concerned that Meghan was ¿on the brink¿ of just walking out and he realised he had to take swift action to ensure her happiness

The truth was, Harry was concerned that Meghan was ‘on the brink’ of just walking out and he realised he had to take swift action to ensure her happiness

Meghan and Harry are in lockstep. When they went into self-imposed exile, they did so together, their isolation reminiscent of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Meghan and Harry are in lockstep. When they went into self-imposed exile, they did so together, their isolation reminiscent of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Meghan and Harry are in lockstep. When they went into self-imposed exile, they did so together, their isolation reminiscent of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

What was lost in such internal discussions was the fact that both Harry and Meghan had full-time bodyguards who, according to custom and practice, would also keep an eye on the child.

For the moment, this debate took place only among the family. Not for much longer.

Unbeknown to anyone – even her husband – Meghan was suffering badly during her pregnancy. Her anguish was such that in early January 2019 she harboured clear thoughts of suicide.

Meghan finally confessed her distress to Harry one morning in mid-January, the Prince cradling her in his arms, reassuring her that they would pull through.

Shortly afterwards, according to Meghan’s narrative, she spoke to senior officials at the Palace. 

She felt she needed to be hospitalised so that she could get professional help in order to cope with her suicidal feelings.

She says she was met with sympathy but inaction. According to her account, one official said: ‘My heart goes out to you because I see how bad it is, but there’s nothing we can do to protect you because you’re not a paid employee of the institution.’

There was a sense, as the couple saw it, that as Meghan was not being protected by the Palace they would have to do something about it themselves.

She had her own shadow court of American advisers who came up with suggestions and projects for her to consider.

The first immediate result was a February 2019 issue of the American magazine People, where five unnamed friends paid tribute to her empathetic and giving nature, and castigated the media for savagely attacking a pregnant woman. 

While Meghan was in private contact with Oprah Winfrey over a possible TV interview, others decided that they wanted to have their say about the Duchess ¿ and it wasn¿t pretty

While Meghan was in private contact with Oprah Winfrey over a possible TV interview, others decided that they wanted to have their say about the Duchess ¿ and it wasn¿t pretty

While Meghan was in private contact with Oprah Winfrey over a possible TV interview, others decided that they wanted to have their say about the Duchess – and it wasn’t pretty

They stated that their aim was to ‘stand up against the global bullying we are seeing and speak the truth about our friend’.

Shortly after, Meghan flew to New York for a glamorous and expensive baby shower in the penthouse of the ritzy Mark Hotel on the Upper East Side.

It was all very Hollywood, with guests including fashion designer Misha Nonoo, Amal Clooney, broadcaster Gayle King and Suits actress Abigail Spencer. (This was a trip by a woman who claimed that her passport was confiscated when she joined the Royal Family.)

The party was chic, sophisticated and, to use Meghan’s favourite word, ‘classy’. On-brand, too. All the vendors and gifts were name-checked, including the goodies in the baby shower thank-you bags.

The list of party details was very un-Buckingham Palace, leading Diana’s private secretary, Patrick Jephson, to accuse Meghan of confusing celebrity with Royalty.

The fact that she returned to London on a private jet paid for by the Clooneys raised even more eyebrows – especially as the Duchess was linked to environmentally conscious charities.

The birth of Archie merely reinforced the couple’s desire for privacy and this continued with his christening in July 2019. Once again, they thumbed their noses at protocol by refusing to publicly name their son’s godparents.

Such secrecy was one of many issues that perplexed Prince William. He, like others inside the family, felt that those chosen to guide and counsel a future Prince, seventh in line to the throne, should be identified. 

Harry and Meghan thought otherwise. They explained that the godparents were genuine friends, not celebrities or public figures, and had joined the Royal couple in preferring privacy.

By now it had been apparent for some time that Harry and Meghan were unhappy with what they saw as a lack of support from inside the Royal Family.

Before Christmas, Harry had spoken to the Queen and Prince Charles about the couple stepping back as senior Royals and raising funds privately to enable them to relinquish the Sovereign Grant which, according to their accounting, paid for only 5 per cent of their outgoings.

By now, money-making was suspected in the couple’s every move.

Charles asked his son to put down all his thoughts and arguments in writing. Harry, fearing a leak, was reluctant. Sure enough, details from his position paper were made available to The Sun newspaper.

As far as Harry and Meghan were concerned, this was the final straw. They suspected that the entire Royal institution was conspiring against them.

What is undeniable is that the Queen, William, Charles and the rest of the family were given ten minutes’ notice before the couple’s statement was released on January 8, 2020, saying they had ‘chosen to carve out a progressive new role within this institution’, ‘step back as senior members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent’.

Within 90 minutes, the Queen authorised a brief response from the Palace, which was conciliatory in tone but signalled the difficulties that lay ahead.

The general feeling was that the Queen had been treated shoddily, while everyone inside the Royal Household felt stabbed in the back. William and Charles were said to be incandescent with rage.

One official was reported as saying: ‘People had bent over backwards for them. They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?’ 

The truth was, Harry was concerned that Meghan was ‘on the brink’ of just walking out and he realised he had to take swift action to ensure her happiness.

For Harry it was either Meghan or the monarchy.

When the American realised in her heart that the Royal world was not for her, she was impatient to move on. She found life inside the institution slow, repetitive and, quite frankly, unimaginative.

There were other, more personal grievances.

She and the Duchess of Cambridge had never had any real rapport, and Meghan resented playing second fiddle to her.

If Kate was cool, her husband was a bully; not physically, but verbally. The Sussexes felt that they had been driven out by the ‘bullying’ attitude of William.

It was clear that Meghan had ruffled feathers in the family and that some felt she and Harry were very difficult to deal with. 

For her part, Meghan found some of its members – not the Queen or Prince Philip – unfriendly and jealous.

At a personal level, then, their departure from Britain was quietly welcomed by some in the Windsor family and their courtiers, but on an institutional level it was a heavy blow.

While Meghan was in private contact with Oprah Winfrey over a possible TV interview, others decided that they wanted to have their say about the Duchess – and it wasn’t pretty.

It was revealed that Meghan faced formal complaints of bullying by two personal assistants, as well as of unacceptable behaviour that had undermined the confidence of a third staff member. She had reduced one member of staff to tears, while another ‘could not stop shaking’ before a confrontation with Meghan.

In addition, it was said, aides working unsung behind the scenes did much more to help Meghan find a role than has been publicly acknowledged.

These new negative headlines served as the warm-up act for the main event – the Oprah interview.

It did not disappoint. At times Meghan’s allegations and Harry’s accusations were simply jaw-dropping. Never in history had a Prince and his consort turned their anger and contempt on to the venerable institution of the monarchy in this way. This was an entertainment masterclass. Their story remained their truth, if not the truth.

Their claim, for example, that they were officially married three days before the wedding ceremony at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, was debunked by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

Harry’s churlish accusation that his father had ‘cut off’ all funding when he moved to Canada was later undermined by Clarence House accounts, which showed that Charles had settled £4.4 million on his sons, part of which was to keep Harry financially afloat during this period of transition.

It was also later revealed that the couple’s decision not to give their son the title of Earl of Dumbarton had nothing to do with race or keeping him a commoner, but because they didn’t want Archie being made fun of because it contained the word ‘dumb’.

Whatever the misstatements, exaggerations and untruths in the US TV interview, there was no denying that the worldwide takeaway, a generation after Princess Diana had walked away from the Royal Family, was damning.

As a final withering attack on the institution that had nurtured him, Harry confessed he had felt ‘trapped within the system’ and believed that the same applied to his father and brother, who were condemned to this narrow, stultifying life: ‘They don’t get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that.’ The Prince admitted that he had been rescued by Meghan – his sentiments reminiscent of those who have escaped a malign cult. It was hardly a ringing endorsement for the institution that sits atop Britain’s social hierarchy.

As ever, the last word went to Diana, who had set the ball rolling with her own TV confessional.

Because all she had ever wanted was for her children to be happy, Harry thought she would feel ‘very angry’ and ‘very sad’ by the current state of affairs.

‘I think she saw it coming. I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process. I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you, with my wife by my side.’

In the dramatic finale, the couple concluded that Meghan had saved Harry and Harry had saved Meghan. Theirs was a story, as they saw it, with a happy ending.

Meghan and Harry are in lockstep. When they went into self-imposed exile, they did so together, their isolation reminiscent of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. 

But unlike the Windsors, who spent the rest of their lives in sybaritic but bored splendour in the south of France, New York and Palm Beach, Meghan and Harry are determined to make a difference.

It was clear that Meghan had ruffled feathers in the family and that some felt she and Harry were very difficult to deal with

It was clear that Meghan had ruffled feathers in the family and that some felt she and Harry were very difficult to deal with

It was clear that Meghan had ruffled feathers in the family and that some felt she and Harry were very difficult to deal with 

Nevertheless, there remains the paradox that is Meghan Markle. As much as she talks of inclusivity and compassion, her father Thomas and the rest of his family remain outside her emotional orbit, cast into the outer darkness.

For all her lobbying and discourse about female empowerment, she faces a lengthy and potentially damaging inquiry into written allegations that she bullied a number of members of household staff, mainly female.

However, in her own eyes, Meghan has reclaimed her life.

She is living it on her own terms, unable to combine the fulfilment of her individual needs and ambitions with serving an institution that did not command her respect or allegiance. Her dalliance with the Royal Family is largely over.

As for the future, the adventure is just beginning.

© Andrew Morton, 2018, 2021.

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton is published in a revised and updated paperback by Michael O’Mara Books on October 14 at £9.99. To pre-order a copy for £6.49, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 before October 23. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.

 



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