Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Why can’t Prince Harry and Meghan Markle do anything right in the eyes of the tabloid media?

We are seeing an unprecedented level of frankness from Meghan and Harry, but for advocates of self-care and open conversations about mental health, this kind of honesty is essential

It has become an almost daily pattern: another day, another set of negative headlines levelled at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In the last few weeks, the couple have clearly tried to take control, suing British tabloids for alleged "relentless" mistreatment and participating in a TV documentary, in which they speak about the scrutiny directly.

But more significantly, they have asked for care and support, which is extremely unusual for the British royal family.

Talking to TV journalist Tom Bradby in Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, the duchess said of the media pressure, "Especially as a woman it's really – it's a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mum and trying to be a newlywed.”

When Bradby asked if she was OK, she replied, tears in her eyes, “Thank you for asking, because not many people will have asked if I'm OK … it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."

There is no doubt the documentary offered shocking soundbites, when compared to the old royal mantra of "never explain, never complain". The line that grabbed the most attention, ironically perhaps, is when the duchess touched on the fact she was “warned” about the British press before going public with Prince Harry.

"When I first met my now-husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy but 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,’” Markle revealed.

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex(R) and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex(L) leave the Youth Employment Services Hub in Tembisa township, Johannesburg, on October 2, 2019. - Meghan Markle is suing Britain's Mail On Sunday newspaper over the publication of a private letter, her husband Prince Harry has said, warning they had been forced to take action against "relentless propaganda". (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)
The Duchess of Sussex has said she was warned by friends not to marry Prince Harry, because the tabloids would 'destroy' her life. AFP

Unsurprisingly, this didn't go down too well with tabloid press.

The Sun’s Dan Wootton has been particularly critical of the couple, the Duchess in particular. His stories about British royals read, “Meghan's 'difficult' while Kate's 'compliant': Dan Wootton tells it straight” and “Meghan is desperate to be treated like a royal while acting like an entitled celeb – she can’t have it both ways”. So, it comes as no surprise that he hasn’t responded warmly to the couple’s comments.

“Meghan and Harry were welcomed with open arms by the British public,” he began a defensive statement on Instagram on Monday, October 21. “The media went totally gaga for [Meghan].[But] being a royal does not – and should not – guarantee you positive coverage at all times. TV broadcasters might operate as royal propaganda outlets, but newspapers quite rightly don't,” he went on to say. “Sunday night's ITV documentary showed an unhappy couple – looking for reasons to feel under attack and be victims. The reality is they are not."

This is the official christening photo released by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Saturday, July 6, 2019, showing Britain's Prince Harry, front row, second left and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex with their son, Archie. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall sits at left. Back row from left, Prince Charles, Doria Ragland, Lady Jane Fellowes, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, Windsor, England. (Chris Allerton/©SussexRoyal via AP) Baby Archie looks like he is set to have red hair, just like his father Prince Harry. AP 
Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor's official christening photo, released by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Saturday, July 6, 2019. AP

But to me, it does feel like they are "under attack" much of the time. In the documentary, Bradby points out that with privilege and wealth comes scrutiny, to which she replied, "When people are saying things that are just untrue, and they are being told they are untrue but they are allowed to still say them, I don’t know anybody in the world who would feel that’s OK, and that is different from just scrutiny."

She also refers to the the arguably failing royal way of keeping quiet, by saying, "I think I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip … but I think what that does internally is probably really damaging."

Adding: “I never thought this would be easy but I thought it would be fair, and that is the part that is hard to reconcile.”

This is an unprecedented level of frankness from a British royal, but for advocates of self-care and open conversations about mental health, such honesty from the royals is an essential step in the right direction.

Updated: October 23, 2019 04:09 AM

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