There’s just something about Meghan Markle.
Prince Harry certainly thinks so. After repeatedly finding himself unlucky in love, the 33-year-old finally met the one and is marrying her on Saturday. Midday. St. George’s Chapel. Windsor Castle.
Be there, or be one of the millions of people who will watch the carriage-to-carriage coverage from home or an obliging pub. Meghan will be the one in the veil and the instantly obsessed over dress.
But though Harry is head over heels in love, there’s apparently something else about Meghan Markle, something that has rubbed people the wrong way from the beginning.
Well, there isn’t just one thing. She’s too American, too Hollywood, too divorced, too real, too unreal, too prim, too unpolished and, for a select group of haters, yes, too black, the actress being the daughter of an African-American mother and a Caucasian father.
A newly released poll conducted by HuffPost UK found that only 2 percent of the public (more than 1,600 adults in the U.K. and 2,000 in the U.S.) cited Meghan as a favorite (or “favourite”) royal, same as Prince Charles. Maybe that’s promising (the public’s been familiar with Charles for almost 70 years after all, while Meghan’s been under consideration for less than two), or perhaps the respondents were being exacting—considering Meghan technically isn’t a royal yet.
But it still doesn’t sound great for the new addition to the family. Moreover, a whopping 71 percent of respondents were either “not very interested” or “not at all interested” in the royal wedding altogether. Though try telling that to everyone who’s already stocking up on scones.
The royal family has been caught up in numerous romantic scandals, and the Meghan backlash is almost nothing compared with King Edward VII having to give up the throne to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, or the heartbreak that ensued when Princess Margaret was denied the OK of Queen Elizabeth II—her own sister—to marry her great love, Royal Air Force Capt. Peter Townsend, because he was divorced. Heck, Harry’s own parents were divorced, and Princess Diana‘s split from Prince Charles was a mess for the ages.
But with the Internet being what it is and the U.K. tabloid press always being what it was, Meghan has been met with an unprecedented amount of scrutiny. That’s resulted in some glowing praise, such as favorable comparisons to the nation’s beloved late Princess Diana, or even with the very well-liked Kate Middleton. But it has also prompted many a sniff from naysayers who are either sick of the royals (feeling that way—or at least pretending to—seems to be a hip thing in Britain) or who don’t think Meghan is the right fit.
It’s likely that almost all of the more barbed antipathy toward Meghan can be chalked up to jealousy. Not just because Meghan’s imminent entrée into the royal family means that those who were still holding out hope are no longer in the running to marry Prince Harry (what, you don’t believe some people think that way?), but because it’s sadly easier to fire off a few judgmental tweets than be happy for people.
Maybe some folks just felt more at ease with the world when Harry was a bachelor.
But what’s the deal with Meghan’s own family being part of the hate parade?
While the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, is very close with her daughter and will be front and center at the wedding Saturday, the nature of Meghan’s relationship with her father, Thomas Markle (her parents divorced when she was very young), is murkier these days, and her half-siblings on that side of the family aren’t part of the festivities at all.
Much to their apparent consternation.
Piers Morgan took Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Grant, to task on ITV’s Good Morning Britain this week over various things she’s said about Meghan (with whom she does not have a relationship), including that she is a “shallow social-climber.” Grant insisted that much of what she said had been taken out of context, but Morgan called her treatment of Meghan downright “shabby.”
Half-brother Thomas Markle Jr., meanwhile, has written two open letters, one to Harry and one to Meghan (and both of which he shared with the world via In Touch Weekly). In the first, he called the upcoming nuptials “the biggest mistake in royal wedding history,” expressed confusion over how the royal couldn’t see “the real Meghan” and said his half-sister had become a “jaded, shallow and conceited woman.” In the second letter, however, he told “Meg” that he was “very proud” of her and wanted her to have a “great wedding and long future with Prince Harry”—but he was hurt by not receiving an invitation.
Thomas Jr.’s ex-wife, Tracy Dooley, is also in Britain to make media appearances this week—but she insists she’s trying to help counter the bitterness being exhibited by certain members of the family (and having not talked to Meghan for 20 years, understands why she and her two sons weren’t invited to the wedding).
“I am the only person who is old enough to see the whole family dynamic and the only person in the family, outside of Meghan’s mom and dad, who is respectable and honorable,” Dooley told the New York Times. Added her son Tyler Dooley, “Our family is so small. There’s just six of us, and what my grandfather has been through—it’s making a mockery of us. We just want to show that we are nice and normal.”
About their grandfather…
Thomas Jr. also claimed in his letter that their father hadn’t even been invited, but apparently that wasn’t the case because Markle—a Daytime Emmy Award-winning TV lighting director who’s since retired to Mexico—was planning to walk his daughter down the aisle, according to the palace…until the Mail on Sunday reported this past weekend that he had taken staged paparazzi photos, after which he said he wouldn’t go so as not to embarrass his daughter or be a distraction. The palace asked that folks extend their “understanding and respect” to Meghan’s dad.
“There’s a lot of scrutiny that it was money motivated; it was not. It was my suggestion that to benefit him and to benefit the royal family, everyone look good and they depict you as you are: in shape and doing healthy things,” Samantha said Monday on ITV’s Loose Women, explaining that she had encouraged her father to pose for some more flattering shots.
At the same time, Markle revealed to TMZ that he suffered a heart attack a week ago, putting any trip to England whatsoever in doubt. Then, he said he definitely wanted to be there to walk his daughter down the aisle, but now he’s undergoing surgery, once again making it unlikely he’ll be ready to make the trip.
And how is Meghan coping with this, with all of this, this insanity that has been raging around her more or less since the beginning—since Prince Harry confirmed he had a girlfriend in the first place by having the palace issue a statement asking the media to respect Meghan’s privacy and imploring everyone else to just respect Meghan more in general.
Well, Meghan Markle herself has been the picture of stoicism.
She may have had her freakout moments behind closed doors, but the future duchess (of where, exactly, is still to be determined), for all the reports that she’s distraught over her dad (and who wouldn’t be) is rolling with the punches, which have only ramped up in recent weeks.
It’s doubtful that anyone, even Thomas Markle Jr., believed that they could actually derail this wedding by flinging some snark Meghan’s way. And it at least seems unlikely that Meghan or Harry would be spending significant time these days reading the Internet. There are only about a million things going on in preparation for their wedding.
Less garbage has proved more toxic to some famous couples, but royals are a special ilk, bred to know at a young age that their public could turn on them on a dime. Harry warned Meghan early on that it could, and probably would, be this way, and she accepted the challenge. She has, in turn, proved unflappable—just as Kate was and has been ever since she married Prince Williamin 2011 after a seven-year relationship that earned her the ignominious nickname “Waity Katie.”
Over the past six months, Meghan has learned what you can (smile and wear fabulous coats) and can’t (stop for selfies) do, she’s acquired her own rabid fashionista following and she’s certainly charmed the United Kingdom enough to make her wedding one of the most anticipated events of the year.
“Harry is super protective over Meghan and isn’t happy unless she is happy,” a source told Us Weekly in the wake of all the drama with her dad. “Any time there is or has been negative press about Meghan, he always blows it off and acts as though it’s them two against the world.”
The source added, “He just wants to protect her and has been this way [since] everything that happened with his mom, and how the media treated her.”
And at the end of the day, or by midday Saturday at least, all that noise is only going to make their I-dos sound sweeter.