Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Other Side of the 'Markle Debacle'

"What riles me is Meghan's sense of superiority. She'd be nothing without me. I made her the Duchess she is today. Everything that Meghan is, I made her. I tell you, I’ve just about reached my limit with Meghan and the Royal family. I’m about to unload on them."

Following months of tabloid interviews, collusion with the paparazzi, a woeful stint on Good Morning Britain (and let's not forget those car crash late night chats with TMZ), these are the words which finally tipped the balance, prompting even those most sympathetic to Thomas Markle to pause for thought and say enough is enough. Are these the words of a loving, caring father with the best interests of his daughter at heart? In a series of dyspeptic outbursts one could argue Markle seems hellbent on causing as much aggravation, humiliation and public embarrassment to his daughter as he can possibly muster.

In the days before the Royal Wedding, a time which should have been among the most joyous in Harry and Meghan's lives, the worst-kept secret in the media came to public attention - the bride's father had been colluding with a photographer with the goal of improving his image and receiving financial compensation for his troubles. In case you're in need of a memory refresher on how it all unfolded, here's the brief version: on 14 May he made a global splash when he informed none other than TMZ - because of course they should be the first to know - he would not be attending the wedding. He admitted the staged pics looked "stupid and hammy". He said he was just going along with the paparazzi agency, which he now deeply regretted. And, Thomas said, he suffered a heart attack six days before the TMZ interview, but checked himself out of the hospital so he could attend the wedding. He then decided not to go the wedding because he didn't want to embarrass the Royal family or his daughter. A blindsided Kensington Palace reacted with the following: "This is a deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding. She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation." At the time, both Harry and Meghan still desperately wanted Thomas there and I presumed his reaction was one of panic and it would all blow over. It was very much thought he was led astray by Samantha Markle. It would have been understandable and forgivable too, however, that turned out not to be the case.  Little did we know then, this was merely the beginning of a media storm.

I've been blogging for over seven years and those who have followed my posts here on Mad About Meghan and Duchess Kate know my goal has always been to report on the engagements, work, life and style of the Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge with an emphasis on facts. Focusing either site on my own personal opinions has never held appeal for me; rather presenting information in as fair and timely a manner as possible. On a handful of occasions I have felt compelled to share my views. The irresponsible and reckless platform given to Thomas and Samantha Markle has been absolutely shocking to me. Their contradictory statements, rants and insults have been published and regurgitated on a global scale for all to consume often times without question of the veracity and motivation behind their claims. It is my firm belief the real story is being overlooked here.

Robert Crampton wrote in The Times: "It was Markle’s shoddy self-pitying emotional blackmail 'maybe it’d be better if I was dead, you could pretend to be sad' that tipped the balance for me. Anger and confusion are one thing, thinly veiled suicide threats quite another. Shame on him. This is his daughter he’s talking about." Any reader on this blog can only imagine how they would feel if their father uttered those words. And in a nutshell we come to one of the key points I am keen to make today. How does Meghan feel? It's a question not readily asked by most outlets reporting the story. There appears to be a ferocious appetite to paint her as the cold-hearted daughter who has callously dropped her well-meaning father from her life without a thought. I believe the actual reality of the past three months couldn't be more different. I believe it has been a searingly painful introduction to a new life which has catapulted Meghan firmly into the public eye. As if embracing a new country, a new career, and the complexities of becoming a member of the Firm weren't enough, Meghan has been made to endure weekly blistering take-downs at the hands of people she's supposed to be able to trust.

I return to the post's opening quote: "What riles me is Meghan's sense of superiority. She'd be nothing without me. I made her the Duchess she is today. Everything that Meghan is, I made her. I tell you, I’ve just about reached my limit with Meghan and the Royal Family. I’m about to unload on them."
That statement is utterly chilling to me on so many levels. Before going further, take a look at the Crown Prosecution Services guidelines for defining controlling and coercive behaviour: repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless (she would be "nothing without me") and threats to reveal or publish private information ("I'm about to unload on them").

Zoe Beaty wrote an excellent article for The Pool: "More to the point, we should be asking: when will the media stop facilitating this behaviour? If Markle’s actions were that of an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, we’d regard them as coercive control (which, as a reminder, is a criminal act in Britain). Yet, instead, Thomas Markle is afforded platforms and sympathies; described as 'heartbroken' and defiant that he 'WON’T let the palace silence him'. The topspin on his actions is almost as despicable as the act itself."

Reporter Omid Scobie discussed the motivation for Meghan's mercurial father to continue to speak to the media on his podcast On Heir: "There's ego at play. I think he's quite enojying having this stage. His name is everywhere right now. People around Doria have said in the past he can be quite a manipulative character and I think what he's doing now which is basically saying "I will continue to talk to the press to get a reaction from you". Thomas had the opportunity to come to the UK to walk his daughter down the aisle. For whatever reason he chose to sabotage that. There is very little evidence to support he was receiving as much medical treatment as he claimed." The monetary aspect also has to be considered with venomous Samantha Markle openly admitting on cashing in: "Let's face it, we all have to survive, money makes the world go round, so if you want to call that cashing in, that's fine. But no one in media would refuse a paycheck for talking about the royals." The Times reported: "There are suspicions in royal circles that Markle’s recent outbursts may have been triggered not by anything Harry and Meghan did or didn’t do, but by the warm British reception accorded his ex-wife, Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland." Thomas Markle recently said "I’m enjoying the fact that I can make the entire Royal family not speak and maybe I can get a laugh out of the Duchess."

I don't think the Duchess is laughing about any of this.

Of course the Markles cannot be stopped from talking; it is their right to do so and papers never refuse ink. They can and, I'm confident to say, will continue to do so for as long as it's profitable and headline making. Last week Sky's Rhiannon Mills wrote: "Thomas Markle has been telling the newspapers how upset he is. He feels shut out and ignored by Meghan, says he isn't able to contact her, that she's not been to see him and he's not been very complimentary about members of the Royal family either. He's been criticised for it, with people asking is it right that he speaks publicly about his personal relationship with his daughter. I think he has every right to talk about how he feels. But, what Thomas Markle gives us is a unique insight into the girl he watched grow up, and as someone who reports on her, I want to know more about Meghan; and that's not easy when the royal press pack is kept at a distance." Rhiannon is an excellent correspondent and I've very much enjoyed her coverage over the years. Her personal piece on the 'Markle Debacle' was intriguing for a number of reasons...

The press wants to get to know Meghan more, but if we look at the most widely covered women in the British Royal family, the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge, how much do we know about either of them personally? Very, very little indeed. Frankly, it's none of our business. They are not obligated to provide us with juicy tell-alls and insights, and that has long been accepted. Why do the media expect to know more about the Duchess of Sussex? Repeating the bitter musings of the Markles is not journalism. It's feeding into their narrative - a narrative they have been controlling from day one. The Royal family has long held true to the mantra "never complain, never explain". Meghan cannot retaliate; it's a one-sided mud-slinging match that's gone on far too long.

It's been clear to me form the day Harry and Meghan announced their engagement she was facing an uphill battle. Meghan was not afforded a transitional period, a honeymoon period or a time to settle in. There was quite simply no allowance made by most for error or for learning the ropes. I kid you not, even Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, was afforded such a period. Meghan has had every criticism imaginable levelled at her from day one. When it emerged she carried out an unprecedented number of engagements for any royal fiancée in recent history, articles on the fact were not exactly forthcoming. It speaks to a larger problem with the coverage of Meghan that goes far beyond her relatives. There's no shortage of substantive topics to cover, but how often have you read about the hundred meetings she's carried out with charitable organisations this year? If it were not for reporter Omid Scobie I wouldn't have known. It's been astounding to me to witness how committed she is to her new role and to receive none of the credit she's due. With a busy autumn set to include a two and a half weeks long Commonwealth tour, a slew of solo engagements, patronage announcements and the launch of a project, why is the 'Markle Debacle' dominating Meghan coverage week after week?

This is a history-making time for the Royal family. Last year Georgina Lawton wrote a stirring piece filled with salient points: "A union between her and Prince Harry would be socially momentous for the country, and especially so for us brown-skinned Brits who never saw ourselves reflected in the all-white Palace lineage. I never understood the hype surrounding Diana or Kate. I remember being confused, aged four, when I got up to find my mum sobbing in front of the television as reports of Diana's death flashed across the screen. But Meghan’s presence within the palace feels different: she is initiating real change when it comes to UK race relations. If Meghan does marry Harry, it will destroy the long-held notion that being regal means being white, or that the main link between Africa and Buckingham Palace is one of colonial importance." During Harry and Meghan's pre-wedding engagements, a Sky TV producer on the ground noted the diverse crowds showing up.

Historian Marlene Koenig elaborates on a point I very much agree with: "There is no doubt in my mind that racism is playing a role in this tabloid's pathetic saga.  Would they have run similar stories about Cressida Bonas, whose parents have seven marriages between them?   Cressida has half and step-siblings. But -- gasp -- Cressida's mother, Lady Mary-Gaye is the daughter of the 6th of Howe. No, they would not have run similar stories. Cressida is an English rose, a granddaughter of an earl, unlike the Duchess of Sussex, who happens to be a bi-racial American."

Where does the story go from here and how does it come to a conclusion? This is the most difficult question of all. The Palace has reportedly held several meetings and weighed up options. One cannot help but wonder if the princes had fostered some sort of strictly professional relationship with a handful of trusted newspapers if the impact of this could be lessened. Call in a few editors before the wedding, explain the situation with the Markle family, the fact Meghan has had no contact with her half-siblings for years and they in no way know anything about her today. Lifelong royalists who witnessed the catastrophic 'War of the Waleses' have pondered the notion Meghan is paying the full price with interest for years of zero access and difficult relationships with Kensington Palace. If some sort of access or source cannot be gained "officially", the media - with rapidly declining newspaper sales in tow - turn to tabloid fodder and call it royal coverage. In what could be a sign of 'Markle fatigue' setting in, leading publication Hello! has decided to take their coverage in another direction. In response to Thomas Markle's most recent interview, the royal favourite announced: "HELLO! will not be reporting on the details of this new interview in recognition of the sensitive nature of the story. Editor-in-Chief Rosie Nixon said: "HELLO! has made a decision not to report the full story out of respect for the Duke and Duchess."

Despite reports to the contrary, it seems Meghan has no intention of meeting with her father in the near future and one cannot blame her. Having experienced such immense betrayal, trust is likely broken beyond measure. We know now he lied to Harry on the phone about the paparazzi photos and by his own admission hung up abruptly ending the phone call. If she did meet him, could she rely on him not to go to a tabloid the following day? Meghan loves her father and her father loves her, this fact makes his actions all the more disturbing. It is evident though, he is not thinking of her in all this, and he's more concerned with how he's been portrayed "buying beer and eating McDonald's", and how terribly he feels he's been treated. His behaviour has been nothing short of shameful. He has remarked Meghan looks unhappy and her smile forced. Surely he knows he is the primary cause of this painful time. Markle told The Daily Mail once again last weekend it would be his final interview. I hope he will put his daughter's well-being first and stay true to that because at the end of the day, all he's achieved so far is hurting her and widening the distance between them. It's a desperately sad turn of events.

Meghan once said: "I can't think of anything less becoming than a man who talks about people behind their backs." If Thomas Markle wants to salvage his relationship with his daughter he needs to stop talking behind her back, and the media needs to stop listening without questioning the bigger picture here.

The 'Markle Debacle' is not the defining story of Meghan's first year as a royal. She deserves better.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Birthday Girl Meghan in Club Monaco for Society Wedding!

On her 37th birthday, Duchess Meghan celebrated the day in Surrey with Prince Harry and attended the wedding of Charlie van Straubenzee and Daisy Jenks.

The royals traditionally take their summer break in August and disperse to their country retreats for the month. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have reportedly been enjoying time in their Cotswolds bolthole over the past week. It is anticipated the couple will take a romantic holiday later this month. Afterwards, they plan to spend several days at the Queen's Scottish estate, Balmoral, before resuming their programme of duties in the autumn. Before all that, Prince Harry had the very special role of best man to play at today's wedding...

When the Duchess stepped out of the car she was warmly greeted. According to The Mirror: "Scores of wellwishers sang ‘Happy Birthday to You’ and called out ‘Happy Birthday’ as the Duchess of Sussex arrived at the wedding."

Meghan was accompanied by an elegantly dressed blonde lady.

Afterwards, she mingled with guests outside the church before the ceremony began. She was spotted chatting to Harry's cousin Celia McCorquodale and her husband George Woodhouse. Harry and Meghan attended the couple's Lincolnshire wedding in June.

The van Straubenzee family have a long history with the royals. Harry has been close friends with the groom Charlie since they were children at Ludgrove prep school together. Both William and Harry were Usher's at the 2013 society wedding of Charlie's brother Thomas to Northumberland Heiress Melissa Percy. Sadly that union was short lived, with the couple deciding to go their separate ways less than three years later. Thomas is Princess Charlotte's godfather. A third brother, Henry, who attended school with Harry, died in a car crash in 2002, aged 18. Several years later William and Harry became patrons of a memorial fund created in his memory. Harry and Charlie were very much known as 'two peas in a pod' and were often described as "eternal bachelors" until 2016 when Harry met Meghan and Charlie, Head of UK Financial Intermediaries at an advisory company, fell for society video maker Daisy Jenks. Indeed, Harry considers Charlie such a close confidant, he asked him to join William in toasting him and Meghan during their Frogmore House reception. According to The Sunday Times, Charlie teased Harry when he was acting as dorm monitor at their school. "All I wanted was a cuddle from my mummy," he reportedly said. "Instead Harry nicked my teddy bear and chucked it out onto the roof. Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you, how can you put someone in charge of a dorm when that someone is worse behaved than the whole dorm combined?" Harry will no doubt be looking forward to repaying the favour during his reception speech :)

Harry and Meghan with guests after the ceremony.

The royals have an incredibly tight-knit circle of friends, and the weddings of those friends provide one of the few opportunities to see them in a social capacity rather than on duty. Meghan has very much embraced those closest to Harry; it's been reported they love nothing more than hosting relaxed dinner parties for friends in the Cotswolds. It's the second wedding the Sussexes have attended since their own May nuptials; in mid-June Meghan accompanied Harry to the Lincolnshire wedding of his cousin Celia McCorquodale to George Woodhouse.

The wedding was held at the picturesque church of St Mary the Virgin in Frensham.

The church has been a centre of worship for over 750 years. It was built in 1239 when the earlier church near the river was abandoned due to flooding. The chancel is the oldest part of the building; the tower was added in the 14th century and the north aisle was built in the 19th century.

The happy couple were photographed after the ceremony. The bride looked stunning in a strapless floral gown. As to the the choice of flowers? A bouquet of daisies for Daisy!

The elated newlyweds made their way to the reception in romantically non-traditional style. It was a beautiful country wedding; the couple looked delighted, and of course it was a lovely treat to see Harry and Meghan today!

Meghan selected the $328 color-block Club Monaco Shoanah dress for the wedding (with many thanks to an Anonymous poster).

The pretty dress is described as: "A case for pleats. Hundreds of sharp folds and clean, modern colorblocking give even more movement to an airy dress. For breezing through the week and lingering in the weekend." As of writing the piece is available in most sizes on the Club Monaco website.

Meghan has long been a fan of the popular brand which was launched in Canada in 1985. The first store in Toronto still exists today. Today, the high-end casual clothing retailer is owned by Polo Ralph Lauren with 140 locations worldwide. We saw Meghan in their Sinthea dress for a special reading of the pilot episode of Suits at the ATX Festival last year. She wore their burgundy velvet Tay dress on Christmas Day.

UPDATED ID: It turns out Meghan's belt is the Miu Miu Knot-Tied Belt (with thanks to Anne).

Meghan wore a straw hat from Philip Treacy's SS18 Collection (with thanks to Perth Fashion).

Meghan wore her Aquazzura Deneuve Pumps. Made in Italy, the stiletto heels are described as "A pert bow perched at the back ties together the chic detailing of a pointy-toe pump featuring side cutouts and a super slim stiletto." They retail for $750 at Nordstrom.

The Duchess carried the Kayu Anna Straw Clutch. It's available at ShopBop.

Meghan accessorised with her Shaun Leane Diamond Tusk Bangle. It's also available in rose gold at FarFetch.

Vanessa Tugendhaft confirmed the Duchess wore her Parisienne earrings. Below, a photo of Meghan wearing them at the Queen's Young Leaders Awards.

And completed the look with a pair of Linda Farrow sunglasses (with thanks to Anne). A similar pair (with a clear lens) are available at ShopBop.

In a 2016 piece for The Tig, Meghan wrote: "My mom has always said that birthdays are your own personal New Year. Your own chance to make resolutions just for yourself and what you prognosticate for your year ahead." Her birthday wish? She reveals: "More surprises, more adventure, more opportunities to grow, more days filled with giggles and cheeky jokes, more delicious meals, and more inspiration. Always more inspiration." At the time Meghan was enjoying a blossoming relationship with Harry. She continued: “I am feeling so incredibly joyful right now, so grateful and content that all I could wish for is more of the same.” It's been quite the year for Meghan, and 37 promises to be equally exciting. The Duchess, who shares a birthday with the late Queen Mother, has much to look forward to as a royal; the coming months will be filled with milestones. Personally, it is very likely it will mark the year the couple announce they are expecting their first child. In her aforementioned piece for The Tig, Meghan expressed her wish for adventure. She is certainly on the adventure of a lifetime right now. Not only did she find her prince, but she's been catapulted into an entirely new life. Meghan's journey thus far has no doubt been an unforgettable one filled with wonderful moments, it has also presented challenges and painful days too (in no small part owing to the despicable behaviour of family members), but she's handled it all with aplomb and carried on. I'm very excited to see what the next twelve months hold for the Duchess.

Happy Birthday Meghan!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Harry and Meghan's Homes: "Our Little Cottage" & A Country Retreat

With the royals' annual summer break upon us, I thought it a good time to visit a topic several of you mentioned in the comments recently: Harry and Meghan's homes. Where do they live? Is there any truth to the many rumours concerning their country home? What are the long term plans for their residences? 

For the time being, the couple's London home is Nottingham Cottage, affectionately known as "Nott Cott" in the grounds of Kensington Palace. The cosy property boasts two bedrooms, two reception rooms and a small private garden. It was the starter home for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the early years of their marriage. Once they moved out, Harry decided to live there and is said to be incredibly fond of it. Apparently, he put his own stamp on the place by installing a hammock in the yard.

In a bid to get to know each other privately without media pressures, Nott Cott became the secluded love nest the couple needed to spend valuable time together and plan the future away from the public eye. When the time was right to propose, the cottage was just the place to do it.

Harry shared the following during the engagement interview:

'We had to sort of reverse the whole process and cozy nights in, in front of the television, cooking dinner with just the two of us by ourselves in our little cottage rather going out for dinner and being seen in public. So we, we reversed the whole process which is, it's provided different opportunities. And has made us a hell of a lot closer in a short space of time. That's without question. So you know if anybody else... maybe slow down to date, spend more time at home. But no, it's it's for us it's it's an opportunity to really get to know each other without other people, you know, looking, trying to take photos on the phones and that kind of stuff. That comes comes comes with it comes with the job comes the role.'

The cottage is 1,324 square feet in size.It stands near two other grace-and-favour houses; Kent Cottage and Wren Cottage. Nottingham Cottage was designed by Christopher Wren. Its name derives from Nottingham House, the residence of the Earl of Nottingham from which Kensington Palace was expanded by William III and Mary II. The house has been occupied by several people who have formerly been employees of the Royal Family. From her retirement in 1948, the house was given for life to Marion Crawford, the former governess of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. In gratitude for Crawford's service, Queen Mary, the princesses' grandmother, decorated the house with Victorian furniture and prints of flowers for her. Crawford described the house as a dream "of seasoned red brick...with roses round the door". Crawford left the cottage in 1950 in the aftermath of her selling stories about the Royal family to newspapers.

More from The Telegraph:

'Nottingham Cottage is one of the smallest properties within the grounds of Kensington Palace and was formerly the home of the Duke of Edinburgh’s private secretary, Brigadier Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, and his wife Gay. Princess Diana's sister Lady Jane Fellowes and her husband Sir Robert Fellowes also lived there.
Photographs of her former home in Toronto suggest that she favours a minimalistic, monochrome colour scheme with plenty of soft furnishings, coffee table books and floral arrangements. The American actress decorated it to "look like a California bungalow", and you can see how it looked while she lived in it on pictures she posted to Instagram. She wrote on her blog The Tig that the sunny decor helped her to stave off “seven Canadian winters.” 
She has probably put her own mark on what had been, for four years, a bachelor pad. The Duchess of Cambridge is said to have redecorated it to her own taste when she first moved in.'

We've seen an abundance of rumours circulating about the possibility the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester will move out of of their apartment to smaller lodgings and the Sussexes will take up residence in their stately 21 room apartment. It is located so close to William and Kate's Apartment 1A, they are linked by adjoining doors.

There's also been mounting speculation Harry and Meghan will make Clarence House their permanent London home when Charles becomes King. At this point neither report has been confirmed, with Kensington Palace telling the media the couple plan to stay at Nott Cott "for the foreseeable future".

All the senior royals have a country residence where they can escape the hustle and bustle of London and ensconce themselves in the countryside indulging their love of the outdoors. For the Queen it's Balmoral, located in the stunning Scottish highlands. Charles has his beloved Gloucestershire residence Highgrove and for the Cambridges, it's their rural Norfolk retreat Anmer Hall. It's been said for years, Harry has been considering options for his own scenic hideaway. Now, with Meghan by his side, it seems the couple have chosen Oxfordshire for the time being at least.

Several reliable reporters understand the couple signed a lease on a property in the Cotswolds at the beginning of the year. It is thought the bolthole is located in the Great Tew estate.

Located just over an an hour from London, the Estate encapsulates much of what might be considered the archetypal English Country Estate. Spring lambs playing in rolling grassland, oak woods with a carpet of bluebells and thatch cottages.

Reporter Omid Scobie said Meghan adores it there. "She's really fallen for the countryside".

The quaint, sleepy village of Great Tew has a village shop which is also a café and a parish church. Whilst the village is often described as one of the prettiest in England, Great Tew remains cloaked in its long history, from its Roman origins, through the Civil War to its ownership by one of the pre-eminent industrial revolution families.

The Sun reported the couple spent their last weekend before the wedding in Oxfordshire:

'They like to escape to the country for the weekend and the cottage is just perfect for them.” The friend added: “It’s very private, has a vast open-plan kitchen and dining area for Meghan to cook in and lots of large windows for the stunning views.”
Renovations have just been completed at the home which has also been made fully secure. A source told The Sun: “Blacked-out Land Rovers have been seen driving up to the property and a lot of security work has been done.'

The village is home to the Beckhams' estate as well as exclusive members' club Soho Farmhouse, where Meghan is said to have had her hen party. The club is set in 100 acres of countryside. Soho House consultant Markus Anderson is one of Meghan's closest friends.

Once the lease is up on the property, the couple are expected to move into their permanent country home. There's been speculation they will build a secluded mansion in the Cotswolds. However, it is most likely the Queen will offer Harry and Meghan a property. Most recently, it has been suggested, Her Majesty invited the couple to view Adelaide Cottage, nestled in the heart of the Home Park in Windsor. Adelaide Cottage was originally built for Queen Adelaide, the wife of King William IV, in 1831, using building materials from the Royal Lodge. In more recent times, it served as the former residence of Peter Townsend, the famous lover of the Queen’s late sister Princess Margaret. At this point, it remains just another rumour. I expect we'll see an exclusive from a seasoned royal reporter on the couple's definite plans over the next year or so. Below, a painting of the cottage from 1839.


We have a couple of other brief updates to share today. For those fond of Meghan's GOAT Flavia dress, the brand has released the dress in nude with frayed trims - identical to the bespoke piece the Duchess wore. It's available in UK sizes 8-18 on the website.

On Saturday, the wedding of one of Prince Harry's closest friends Charlie van Straubenzee and Daisy Jenks will take place in Surrey. It has been reported Harry will be Best Man. There's a very strong possibility we'll see Meghan there :)