The release of Finding Freedom has catapulted The Sussexes, Harry and Meghan, onto front pages again – and with it the trope that Meghan (and Harry’s inexplicable lust for her) was the magical and scheming force behind the couple’s decision to quit the royal family.
Well, for a start, she wasn’t ‘behind’ anything. She was in the middle of it. She was half of it. Something that is forgotten by the lazy sentences we roll out when we talk about Meghan – and women in general to be honest. Because we’ve all heard conversations about other women – or ourselves – that claim we’ve ‘changed’ men, or ‘been behind’ decisions people don’t like. We’ve all been, or seen our friends, cast as Lady Macbeth. As purveyors of sex magic from our mysterious vaginas. And it’s ridiculous. It’s sexist. And in this case, it’s racist too.
If you ever doubted that the language used about Meghan Markle was sexist and racist, then the way in which the release of Finding Freedom was covered should sort that one out for you, surely? Particularly in the way Meghan was again cast as a master manipulator two weeks ago.
The book, by journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, has been repeatedly said to have the blessing or information directly from Meghan and Harry (something they deny) – and therefore paints a flattering portrait of the couple. How then, in a weekend obsessed with the book, did they – but particularly Meghan – still come off worse? That takes some doing.
It’s a broken logic that follows into the sexism around Meghan. Because the same people who claim she’s all powerful, also claim Meghan is in some way broken or desperate for power. So which is it? Did she bewitch Harry, or was she desperate to be ingratiated? The narratives don’t ever make sense – except that it’s just always the case that Meghan comes off worst.
The quotes pulled out on the front pages were always going to be the strongest and most sensational from the book, that’s just news. But the ways in which they shouted criticism at the couple while also claiming they were behind this ‘puff piece’ of a book was bizarre.
Front pages claimed ‘Wills feared Harry was “Blindsided by lust for Meghan”’. It’s something that is said in the book, apparently, in relation to a conversation Prince William had with Harry, urging him to ‘take all the time you need to get to know this girl’ rather than rushing in. Harry was reportedly furious and thought it (particularly ‘this girl’) showed William’s snobbishness.
So, the story in the book, I’m guessing, is being used (either with or without their blessing) to illustrate the ways in which the Sussexes felt there was bad language and behaviour towards Meghan from the top and from the start.
Instead, in their placement and retelling, those very words were still used to suggest the very thing Harry railed against – that Meghan had a ‘hold’ or ‘power’ over him that needed to be resisted, that he should be wary of.
By saying she has “magic powers”, many of you are betraying yourselves as people who can’t see what Prince Harry could possibly find attractive in this mixed-race woman, exposing your own prejudice
The quotes from the book (which has interviewed people close to the Sussexes and therefore is going to be more in their favour) seems to be repetitive in its insistence that the falling in love of Harry and Meghan was a mutual experience. More Nora Ephron romcom, less Hocus Pocus funnily enough. For instance, in talking about their early dates, it says they were ‘almost obsessed with each other’. But again, the headlines say Harry was ‘in a trance’. A hypnotist too!
The book says Harry cut off contact with friends who made disparaging remarks about Meghan – especially ones who called her his ‘showgirl’. That sounds like something you’d expect of a half decent guy, doesn’t it? No. It’s proof of Meghan’s ‘influence’ over Harry in ‘distancing him’ from those who love him. For someone the press love so much, people sure seem to think he's not got a brain in his head.
It’s said in the book that the palace thought she ‘comes with a lot of baggage’. Let’s not even go there with the baggage in Harry’s direct family shall we? Instead, the defence this book posits, trying to make people understand what the Sussexes saw as cruel slights, are instead used as headlines and repeated as allegation.
It may sound like labouring the point, but this is just the beginning of the coverage (and only one aspect of the language against her), not the years Meghan has had to put up with. Repeatedly she’s the ‘problem’, because she has a ‘hold’ ‘influence’ ‘power’ over him. She’s ‘bewitching’ or has Harry ‘in a trance’. Essentially, she’s magical and mystical or – let’s face it if the papers are going to keep talking about LUST as if it’s the 19th Century – her sex is.
That language isn’t just sexist, when it comes to Meghan, it’s racist. And it’s something she’s had to put up for a long time now, says Grazia Social Media Editor Phoebe Parke, who has written a chapter about Markle in upcoming book, Loud Black Girls.
‘The language used to describe Meghan Markle is racist and all too familiar to me as a mixed-race woman,’ she says. ‘The majority of articles I read about her convey a sense that the - usually non-Black - author thinks she’s got ideas above her station. I imagine them thinking; “How dare this non-white, 30 plus, American divorcee come over here and not only steal our most eligible bachelor, but also manipulate him into stepping down from one of the most prestigious roles in the country, and abandoning his family?” It’s the same feeling I get when people question my motives when I try and obtain the same opportunities my white counterparts enjoy.
‘Prince Harry is a grown man who has proven time and again that he can make his own decisions. By calling Meghan Markle a diva, fame-hungry and implying she has some kind of bewitching hold over her husband, you’re exposing yourself as someone who doesn’t think she deserves to be treated the same as her nearest white counterpart Kate Middleton. You’re also choosing to see her public facing work as her trying to make a name for herself instead of helping her community, while holding her to a different standard than any other public figure.
‘By saying she has “magic powers”, many of you are betraying yourselves as people who can’t see what Prince Harry could possibly find attractive in this mixed-race woman, exposing your own prejudice.’
The idea that Meghan Markle has a magic vagina that has cast a spell over Prince Harry would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive. And it is offensive.
So, Meghan is striding around solo, rocking the biggest institution the UK has ever seen, unbroken by war or hundreds of years (that’s some magic power!), and the rest of us sit around bored by tales about women who’ve CHANGED (God forbid) men, But meanwhile, other stories are reporting that women are the population set to be hit hardest by coronavirus and the looming recession. In fact, says the Guardian, they’re ‘sacrificial lambs’. Sounds like we should be able to cast some spells and sort that kind of thing, doesn’t it? Rather than constantly being glass ceilinged down to the bottom of the pile?
So which is it? It’s all very well sexists telling women to know their place. But if ‘our place’ is somewhere between ‘all-powerful’ and ‘in the kitchen’ it’s tricky to know what it is you want from us.
READ MORE: Don't Paint Meghan As The Master Manipulator
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The intimate and revealing autobiography of Margaret Rhodes, the first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. This is as close to the royal family as you get. The publishers say: ' In the Second World War years she 'lodged' at Buckingham Palace while she worked for MI6. She was a bridesmaid at the wedding of her cousin, Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip. Three years later the King and Queen attended her own wedding; Princess Margaret was a bridesmaid. In 1990 she was appointed as a Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen Mother, acting also as her companion, which she describes in touching detail. In the early months of 2002, she spent as much time as possible with her ailing aunt, and was at her bedside when she died at Easter that year. The next morning she went to Queen Elizabeth's bedroom to pray, and in farewell dropped her a final curtsey'
Published in August 2020, this book is expected to be a 'bombshell' that it's been claimed will 'settle scores'. In its description, the publishers claim: 'Finding Freedom goes beyond the headlines to reveal unknown details of Harry and Meghan's life together, dispelling the many rumours and misconceptions that plague the couple on both sides of the pond. As members of the select group of reporters that cover the British Royal Family and their engagements, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand have witnessed the young couple's lives as few outsiders can.With unique access and written with the participation of those closest to the couple, Finding Freedom is an honest, up-close, and disarming portrait of a confident, influential, and forward-thinking couple who are unafraid to break with tradition, determined to create a new path away from the spotlight, and dedicated to building a humanitarian legacy that will make a profound difference in the world.'
Definitely one for fans of The Crown and its various Princess Margarets… She made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando clam up. She cold-shouldered Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine and Pablo Picasso lusted over her. To her friends Princess Margaret was witty and regal, to her enemies, she was rude and demanding. Ma'am Darling looks at her from many angles, creating a kaleidoscopic biography, and a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.
This vivid, eye-opening biography--the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more – claims to be the first authoritative treatment of Charles's life that sheds light on the death of Diana, his marriage to Camilla, and his preparations to take the throne one day.
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The original people's princess, Diana is the subject of many great books – this, by Tina Brown, is by someone who knew her personally and the world she inhabited.The book explores, 'Diana's sexually charged mother, her subtly scheming grandmother, the stepmother she hated but eventually came to understand, and a terrifying trio of in-laws and relations: Fergie, the force of nature whose life was full of its own unacknowledged pathos; Princess Margaret, the fading glamour girl; the implacable Queen Mother and more formidable than all of them, her mother-in-law, the Queen, whose admiration Diana sought till the day she died. Add Camilla Parker-Bowles, the ultimate "other woman" into this combustible mix, and it's no wonder that Diana felt the need to break out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.'So yes, quite a lot there.
Formerly 'Her True Story' before it was revealed much of the book was based on taped interviews with Diana herself and the book was reissued, this is the often-quoted pretty much definitive story of Princess Diana.
Originally not available in the UK for fear of legal repercussions, this book makes for a page-turner for Royal gossip fans. The description promises: 'Kitty Kelley has gone behind the scenes at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace to raise the curtain on the men and women who make up the British royal family. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Princess Diana...here are the scandals of the last decades: the doomed marriages and the husbands, wives, lovers and children caught in their wake and damaged beyond repair. No one is spared.'
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It's another book about Harry and Meghan, but coming from Katie Nicholl - one of the best authorities on the royal family - you know that it's good. This book details their romance right up until the royal wedding.
The latest biography on Meghan Markle to hit our shelves (from November 12), the description says Sean Smith 'pulls no punches as he reveals the remarkable and powerful story of this self-made, intelligent American woman with a strong social conscience who has made such an impact on our lives.'
Royal expert Ingrid Seward presents an incredibly in-depth exploration of the man who has stood by the Queen's side for decades. The perfect accompaniment to his forthcoming centenary celebrations next year.