Kensington Palace and the media are to blame for Meghan Markle's pre-wedding nightmare
Most brides spend the final days before their wedding doing last-minute preparations for the big day. But, Meghan Markle isn't most brides. This isn't most weddings. And, last minute prep wasn't what Markle found herself doing in the run-up to her nuptials with Prince Harry.
Instead, she found herself embroiled in something of a PR disaster, not to mention a deeply upsetting personal matter. Two days before her wedding, Markle was forced to quell the unrelenting rumours and conjecture by issuing a statement about whether or not her father will be present at her wedding.
But, now that this drama of soap opera-level proportions has been brought to a close, the question remains: who is to blame? And, could this have all been avoided?
Less than a week before the couple were set to say 'I do,' TMZ reported that Thomas Markle (Meghan's dad) had told the gossip site that he wouldn't be attending the royal wedding because of a "fallout over selling photos of himself." Mr Markle "made a deal to allow a photo agency" to take photos of him "getting ready for the wedding. His motives, he says, were not money-related, but rather to combat the "unflattering" images taken by paparazzi over the past year.
Markle tells us over the last year he's been ambushed by paparazzi who have photographed him in the most unflattering circumstances ... buying beer, looking disheveled and reclusive. He's especially upset that they made him look like a lush. Thomas says he doesn't even drink beer ... he was buying it for the guards at the place where he lives.
Fuel was added to the fire when TMZ later reported that Mr Markle said he would like to attend the wedding. And, then he proceeded to inform TMZ that he was unable to attend, as he needed surgery after a heart attack he'd had six days before.
Royal etiquette expert William Hanson feels the media is "largely to blame" in this situation, but "in many ways Kensington Palace" is also culpable. "If the interest wasn't there, and the need to fill days and days' worth of content to make advertising revenue, the media wouldn’t have chased Thomas Markle or any other member of her family," says Hanson.
But, the fact that TMZ is an American outlet has added an additional dimension to the media handling of this saga. He doesn't feel that British journalists would have gone after a story like this. "In Britain, journalists by and large respect official lines that come from the palace," he says. "There is a cultural difference. Americans haven't grown up with this loyalty and deference to the monarchy." That said, Hanson caveats that TMZ journalists and those from other outlets are "just doing their job," and "that is what celebrity gossip sites do."
As the BBC's Royal correspondent Jonny Dymond put it: "How has Kensington Palace, the office and residence of Prince Harry, which has rolled out the royal wedding plans and strategy over the past few months, dropped the ball so spectacularly in the last four days?"
How indeed. As Dymond notes, the palace's protocol and "tactic" is to stay firmly tight-lipped on rumours that "run counter to the royal narrative," in the hope that they'll eventually disappear. But, as the rumour mill continued turning at seemingly-uncontrollable speed, it became increasing clear that something other than "no comment" needed to be said.
"Kensington Palace has been really tightly controlling what information comes out and when it is released," says Hanson. "It's a very well oiled machine, and they like to control the narrative."
Hanson says that Prince Harry has a "very cautious attitude" towards the media. Indeed, Harry has spoken out about his anger at the way paparazzi photographers took photos of his mother in the final moments of her life. "Those people that caused the accident, instead of helping, were taking photographs of her dying on the back seat," said Harry. Photographs which subsequently made their way to news desks in the United Kingdom, and can still be accessed on Google Images. This may well explain the palace's reticence and reluctance to respond to a situation arising from interactions with the paparazzi.
"In many ways Kensington Palace is to blame for not realising the Markles needed assistance."
Nevertheless, as Hanson says, the palace in this instance might have been "too controlling" when it comes to the media. "By not feeding the beast, the beast is going to go elsewhere for food," he says. That beast was, in this instance, TMZ.
Thomas Markle behaved, Hanson feels, as many others would have, had they found themselves thrust suddenly into the spotlight through association with the royal family. These are people who aren't used to celebrity or royal lifestyle," he says. "The perception of fame makes people behave in very odd ways."
This is where Kensington Palace should have stepped in. Given the fact that the Markles don't spring from royal stock, it seems that more could have been done to help them contend with the onslaught of the paparazzi. "In many ways Kensington Palace is to blame for not realising the Markles needed assistance," says Hanson.
It's hard not to feel sorry for Meghan in this situation. But, perhaps there's an important lesson to be learned here by Kensington Palace as they enter a new era in which royals marry 'normals'. The words "no comment" may no longer cut the mustard, and a little bit of media training for a spouse's family members could go a long way.
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