Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor
It’s no secret that the British royal family holds more social than political power these days. Each day brings a new media circus around the latest royal wedding, baby or fashion trend.
British celebrity gossip magazines are notorious for their scathing treatment of women who marry into the line of succession. While Princess Diana and Duchess Kate of Windsor have often been attacked in British media for their varying birth statuses and tumultuous marriages, Meghan Markle’s life seems to receive much more scrutiny than her counterparts.
Since the Duchess of Sussex joined the Windsor family in May 2018, British tabloids have sunk their teeth into the new royal’s personal life.
Although both Markle and Middleton were born as commoners, Markle is frequently held to much higher standards. Both women have worn shoulderless dresses to public functions, but received opposite reactions.
The Sun, a British tabloid, ran the headline “Meghan Markle breaks Royal rules at Trooping the Colour with off-the-shoulder dress by Carolina Herrera,” in the aftermath of Markel’s June 2018 fashion choice. However, Middleton was spotted wearing a similar dress this summer and was regaled by The Sun for her glamour and elegance.
The reality is that neither woman broke royal protocol by exposing their shoulders, but British media tried to demonize Duchess Meghan on a perceived and unwritten rule.
In addition to their attacks of Duchess Meghan’s style choices, many tabloids attempted to perpetuate the bizarre social media conspiracy that Markle was faking her recent pregnancy. While they eventually dispelled the rumors, their continued coverage of this insane allegation elevated fringe internet conjecture to front page news.
Needless to say, Kate Middleton has never been accused of falsifying any of her three pregnancies.
After Markle gave birth to Prince Archie in April, she continued to be the victim of intense public criticism. Many Brits complained the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were not making their son’s early days accessible to the public. Markle and her husband decided not to expose their newborn son to the public eye. However, Brits were outraged by this privacy and argued that since the young prince’s lifestyle is funded by public dollars, he is not entitled to the rights of a private citizen. Prince Archie’s lack of a public persona was heavily blamed on Markle’s inability to adjust to royal life in the public eye.
These unfair standards and labels such as “rule-breaker,” “liar” or “unfit for royalty” likely stem from British perception of Markle’s background.
Along with being the first American to join the royal family in over 80 years, Markle is the first person of color to ever marry into the royal family. While one would hope this media bias is not racially motivated, it cannot be overlooked that Markle’s white peers do not receive this gross level of mistreatment.
Markle is also a divorcee. Her marital status has been the subject of much scrutiny, but commonplace western divorce originated in the British monarchy. The Church of England, the official state sponsored religion, was founded by King Henry VIII as a result of the Vatican’s denial of his request for an annulment. Because the monarchy has been familiar with divorce for hundreds of years, there is no reason to call it a scandal now.
Unfortunately, the British media seems to be searching for any and all reasons to dislike the new duchess. While it is a human reaction to be uncomfortable with change, fear of the unknown cannot stand as defense for Markle’s treatment in the media.
Markle’s diverse background should be embraced as a true reflection of the diversity within the British Commonwealth. If British tabloids and citizens refuse to celebrate the Duchess’s differences, they must, at least, hold her to fair public standards.