Why Meghan Markle lost her sparkle: Inside the war against the duchess

Prince Harry drives the Duchess of Sussex to Prince Charles' 70h birthday party at Buckingham Palace on November 15.

Prince Harry drives the Duchess of Sussex to Prince Charles' 70h birthday party at Buckingham Palace on November 15. Photo: Getty

Meghan Markle has not pressured her husband Prince Harry to miss the royal family’s traditional Boxing Day pheasant shoot, according to a Kensington Palace source.

“This is completely untrue,” a “well placed” palace source told UK newspaper The Telegraph on December 15.

The denial came after tabloid The Sun insisted the duchess, 37, had asked Harry – who has been taking part in the annual shoot since he was 12 – to “snub” his family’s shoot because she has an issue with him killing “defenceless animals”.

But the prince, 34, may still miss the shoot of his own accord, according to the Sunday Mirror, because he wants to spend more time with his pregnant wife “because he loves her so much”.

Whatever the truth, it’s not just the pheasants who are in the gun. Seven months after her wedding, Meghan also has a target on her back.

“That the royal narrative should swing against Meghan after the excitement of her being a ‘breath of fresh air’ is as inevitable as night following day,” associate professor Giselle Bastin, of Flinders University told The New Daily.

“The British media, in particular, has a long history of pursuing a ‘good princess versus bad princess’ line,” she said.

“It’s depressing that the ‘royal rift’ stories usually involve the ‘cat fighting females’ element. The essential chauvinism at the heart of these gendered narratives is predictable and unimaginative.”

A run of bad press

Meghan Markle British Fashion Awards

Meghan Markle at December 10’s British Fashion Awards. Photo: Getty

Currently, Meghan is firmly in the ‘bad princess’ camp. After reports last month she sparked a feud with the Duchess of Cambridge and drove a wedge between Harry and his brother William, this week she’s faced a fresh fusillade of trolling.

When the duchess held her stomach with both hands onstage at the December 10 British Fashion Awards, she sparked a global wave of ridicule and debate about baby bump cradling.

“Who holds their stomach like that?” asked one Twitter user. Said another: “We know you are pregnant. You can stop holding onto the bump with both hands now. It won’t fall off.”

Then Meghan and Harry’s choice of Christmas card drew less than half the likes of the Cambridge family shot when they were released on Kensington Palace’s Instagram account at the same time.

Critics accused the Sussexes of literally turning their back on their subjects. “Trying so hard to be different, she messed up once again,” said one Instagram user of Meghan.

One slammed the card as “an over-the-top soap opera promo” and Meghan was labelled “a kooky witch” by another.

A princess’s burden

So what’s driving the anti-Meghan campaign?

The same treatment was dished out to Sarah Ferguson and Lady Diana Spencer once they married into the Windsor family, Ms Bastin said.

“At first Fergie was the ‘breath of fresh air’ the monarchy needed. She was fun and breezy and didn’t appear to be as aloof or as precious as Diana,” she said.

“Within two years of her marriage to Prince Andrew, Fergie had become ‘the frump’, the ‘freeloader’ and her fresh breezy ways suddenly became markers of her gaucheness and inability to conform to royal ways.”

The narrative swung around against Diana about a year after she married Prince Charles in 1981 and she went from “sweet aristocratic girl to ‘the mouse that roared'”, Ms Bastin said.

“Stories abounded about how being royal had gone to her head and that she displayed evidence of a capricious nature, firing household staff regularly and bossing Prince Charles around.

“Sound familiar?”

As to how long the negative rumours about Meghan might continue, it’s in the media’s interest to air the narrative for as long as possible, Ms Bastin explained.

Kate Meghan Wimbledon

Duchesses Kate and Meghan hit it off at Wimbledon on July 14. Photo: Getty

“What will remain in place will be a Kate-versus-Meghan melodrama storyline, with the duchesses being compared for the way they raise, dress, and educate their children – and, of course, continue to be scrutinised for who looked better while they did it.”

Mingling with fashion designer Claire Waight-Keller and actor Rosamund Pike at the British Fashion Awards, Meghan posed for high-fashion, black and white photos and looked unaffected by what’s being written about her.

“I’d make a pretty good guess Meghan would have known how this script was going to pan out five minutes into having met Prince Harry, and I imagine she’s doing her best to ignore it all,” Ms Bastin said.

“Perhaps Hollywood is the best training ground for knowing how fairytale princesses must inevitably be transformed into Maleficent 10 or so minutes after the wedding tiara has been stored in its box.

“The royal duchesses saga has many, many new chapters to take place yet.”

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