Meghan Markle with magazine editor Denise Cash and a copy of U Magazine which exclaims that Kate is expecting twins. Photo / InstagramOPINION:
Not much unites the Cambridges and the Sussexes these days: not a country, language, day job or even allegedly their stance on tights.
The one thing they do all share is a litany of embarrassing deeds in their sort-of youth. Prince William was caught dad dancing; Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, will be the nation’s first Queen to have been photographed in yellow leg warmers and a green sequined halter top at a charity roller disco; and Harry got starkers in Las Vegas and waved his crown jewels about the place. Not to mention that Nazi dress-up fiasco.
And Meghan, Duchess of Sussex? She was an actor who did what every wannabe starlet and thespian in Hollywood does she hustled.
Now an embarrassing picture of her mid-hustle has re-emerged which isn’t just awkward but inherently problematic.
The shot, taken in 2014, shows Meghan holding a copy of Irish magazine U and posing with the title’s deputy editor Denise Cash. The cover story? A shot of Kate plastered with the headline “Twins!”
The problem isn’t the photo per se, she was simply doing her job, it was probably just one of myriad press appearances she did for her cable show Suits. Or that years later Meghan would have to sit across the dinner table from U’s cover star in question politely forgetting the fact that she was once on the other side of the tabloid fence.
No, the hitch here is what Meghan has subsequently said.
Since 2019, when Harry and Meghan first began airing their misery for global audiences, Meghan has laid claim to having entered royal life blithely unaware of what she faced media-wise.
In October of that year, Meghan told interviewer Tom Bradbury that when it came to press scrutiny, “I had no idea, which probably sounds difficult to understand here … my British friends said to me, ‘I’m sure he’s great. But you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life.’
“And I very naively, I’m American, we don’t have that there, what are you talking about, that doesn’t make any sense. I’m not in tabloids, I didn’t get it.”
Not “in” tabloids? She “doesn’t get it”? This picture would suggest otherwise.
The idea that at the time Meghan joined the royal fray she was a babe in the woods when it came to the wiley ways of the press is a head scratcher.
In 2016, former tabloid editor and then Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan wrote that after connecting via Twitter she had direct messaged him suggesting they meet up. He later reported that during the 90-minute drink they shared at his local London pub, “She asked me for advice on her career and the media, and if she could come on Good Morning Britain next time she was over.”
In 2019, the Mail on Sunday’s show business editor Katie Hind wrote a piece titled “The night Meghan Markle begged me to get her IN the tabloids” in which she said that in 2013 Meghan’s “UK publicist had all but begged me … to meet the actor for a drink” and that Meghan “was determined to raise her profile”.
Last year, Finding Freedom authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand reported that “Meghan, before she met Harry, had occasionally set up a paparazzi photo here and there or let info slip out to the press.”
Clearly, the inner workings of the media were hardly alien to Meghan.
Beyond her own experience with the press, there is a surfeit of other proof of the at-times toxic dynamic between Fleet Street and the house of Windsor.
Diana, Princess of Wales’ antagonistic and complicated relationship with the press was hardly a hush-hush secret. Meghan was 16 years old when she died and 27 years old when the inquiry into her death wrapped up.
The Diana versus the paparazzi victim narrative figured prominently in the Zeitgeist from the early 90s onwards so, are we to really buy that all of this passed a smart young Meghan by?
Then, from the mid-noughties onwards Kate Middleton fought a pitched and public battle against the constant intrusion and hounding she faced.
In 2007, William famously released a statement decrying “paparazzi harassment” after dozens and dozens of snappers and cameramen lay in wait for Kate when she walked out of her front door on her 25th birthday. The video of the incident is still distressing to watch and royal biographer Katie Nicholl has reported the incident left Kate close to tears.
In 2012, a paparazzo stood one kilometre away from the borrowed French chateau where they were holidaying (from Princess Margaret’s son no less) and snapped Kate while she was topless. The Cambridges then waged an five-year courtroom war over the highly intrusive shots to be finally awarded damages. (They donated the money to charity.)
Harry himself clearly understood that any future love interest would be put through the press ringer, saying months before meeting Meghan in 2016, “If or when I do find a girlfriend, I will do my utmost to ensure we get to the point where we are actually comfortable with each other before the massive invasion into her privacy.”
All of which is to say, the evidence that to exist in the royal orbit meant facing a terrifying level of media surveillance and pressure has never been anything but totally obvious.
What today’s resurfaced photo of Meghan and the “Twins!” magazine cover calls into question the plausibility of her claims she was essentially blind to the media situation she would face when she became an HRH.
In 1992’s Diana: Her True Story, the princess told author Andrew Morton that, on her wedding day, “I felt as though I was a lamb going to the slaughter.” As a teenager, former childcare worker who had left school at 16 years old and who had never had a serious boyfriend before, she very clearly was. She had no idea what she was getting herself in for.
But Meghan, a smart, university-educated woman who had a successful career to her name when got engaged to Harry at age 36? Not so much.
Maybe she should have had one more martini on that night in 2016 with Piers Morgan. As the editor of the Daily Mirror during the height of the Diana frenzy in the 90s, there could be no one better placed than Morgan to have painted a detailed and terrifying picture for her.
Hindsight huh?
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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