Maybe it was always going this way. After being a briefcase girl, an actress, a D-list celebrity and blowing it as a real-life royal, perhaps the only natural next step for Meghan Markle was to become an influencer. Look at Fergie, once married to Prince Andrew. Now the Duchess of York makes her living writing romance novels, selling jam and giving “exclusive” interviews to any tabloid that’ll buy her lunch.
The truth is that there is no glamor in being an ex-something. Look at the washed-up ex-wives and girlfriends of sports stars, selling herbal tea on Instagram for a few bucks and being paid to show up at crappy provincial nightclubs filled with teenagers. (It’s harder to be fussy when you need to pay the bills.) This, though, was not the future that Meghan expected when she and Harry decided to exile themselves to Los Angeles. She was to trade in her royal life to become the next Amal Clooney, spending her days fighting for women’s rights as a glamorous philanthropist attending the most exclusive Hollywood events. But it turns out that telling fibs and constantly scheming leaves you pretty low down on the LA thought-leader-cum-It-Girl list. Who knew?
By now, the downfall of Meghan Markle is well-documented, so I’ll skip the gory details and pick the story up at what you might call her lowest ebb: earlier this year, when her popularity with the British public plummeted to its lowest yet. According to a March poll, Meghan’s popularity dropped thirty-one points since November, leaving her with an approval rating of -33. The couple made the big move across the Pond with the hopes of cracking America, but things aren’t much better on this side. Just 27 percent of Americans say they like Meghan now, compared to 44 percent who say they don’t. It seems that the pair’s plan to speak “their truth,” in the form of Netflix documentaries, numerous interviews, podcasts and a book deal — and be lavished with money, praise and sympathy for doing so — isn’t quite going to plan.
There are different theories about what could save them at this point, if a PR resurrection is even possible. The Sussexes putting on a united front and attending the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday would have been a good start. After months of speculation, the couple announced in a recent statement that Harry would attend alone and Meghan would stay in California with their children to celebrate Archie’s fourth birthday. In fairness to Meghan, it’s highly likely that she would have faced considerable criticism had she shown up, after three years of what some call — fairly — her mission to destroy the reputation of the British monarchy. But King Charles was there for Meghan on her special day, her wedding in 2018, when he eschewed tradition and walked her down the aisle after her father Thomas Markle didn’t attend. To return the favor would be polite, if nothing else.
Does Meghan’s low-key few months mean she is retreating from the limelight for good? What do you think?
In January, when Harry released his memoir, Spare, Meghan was noticeably absent from the promotional interviews. At the time, people were shocked that the usually inseparable pair didn’t show up together to his many appearances. At the time, sources claimed that there was friction between the couple that stemmed from the negative reaction to the book. Whatever happened, Meghan’s presence by Harry’s side would have made things even more awkward for the renegade prince. Imagine her next to Harry during his interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby, in which he reneged on his wife’s claim that royal family was racist, saying instead that she was the victim of “unconscious bias.” The couple have long claimed that the royal family did nothing to dispel certain “press-concocted narratives” about them — yet for nearly three years they gladly allowed Harry’s family to be branded as pompous racists.
But does Meghan’s coronation snub and low-key approach to her husband’s book mean she is retreating from the limelight for good? What do you think?
It looks like Markle’s time out will soon be over as she gears up for a big return to public life. Last week it was revealed that the duchess had signed up with powerhouse agency WME that “will focus on building Meghan’s global enterprise.” Her team at the agency will include power agent turned Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, Brad Slater, the rep and brand architect within the agency for Dwayne Johnson, and Serena Williams’s agent Jill Smoller. Welcome to the Meghanissance. As the bestselling royal author Robert Jobson told me, “It can only be a good thing that Meghan is looking to revamp her public image — but it’ll mean actually listening to what her PR team tell her for once.”
In recent weeks the duchess has made two public appearances back to back; one in a video message introducing photographer and friend Misan Harriman ahead of his Ted Talk speech. In it, the duchess debuted a new look; darker, slickly straightened hair and minimal make-up. Meghan’s makeover held symbolic importance — straying away from her usual overdone look, she instead offered a more grown-up appearance. The second sighting was at a LA Lakers game, Harry in tow. It was the first time they had been seen in public together in more than a month and it didn’t do much to dispel rumors of a rift. The duchess awkwardly declined a kiss from Harry as they were captured on the jumbotron at the Crypto.com Arena in front of 20,000 people, including Kim Kardashian and Adam Sandler.
But if Meghan’s transition to an ex-royal influencer is to be successful, social media will prove vital. There are whispers in California that the duchess will soon return to Instagram, which she left in 2020 after it was agreed that the couple could no longer keep their Sussex Royal monogram. These rumors were alluded to last year when Meghan told a reporter at the Cut: “Do you want to know a secret? I’m getting back on Instagram” — but so far there is no sign of her on the app.
Meghan’s return would be sure to cause tension. As a report in the latest issue of Vanity Fair puts it, when the royal family modernized “the social media push put the royals at the hands of those watchers and the types of parasocial competition-pitting it seems to seize on and promote. Like Team Jen versus Team Angelina, or Liverpool versus Man United, aggressive and profane fights broke out between groups of self described Meghan and Kate fans. By late 2018, Cambridge versus Sussex had gone from digital match bait to reality.”
So how do the rest of the royals feel about this potential comeback? Apprehensive to say the least. One source close to the family tells me that Meghan’s vision is “luminous and quite frankly scary.” After Meghan and Harry’s relative silence last year the palace could finally breathe a sigh of relief, but then, in quick succession, came the Netflix documentary, that Jeremy Clarkson column and Harry’s memoir Spare. The Clarkson column blew up after he referenced an infamous Game of Thrones scene and casted Meghan Markle as Cersei. He wrote: “At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.” The ill-considered broadside against Meghan, for which he later apologized, hurt the royals the hardest, with soon-to-be Queen Camilla confiding in a friend that Clarkson was “so unhelpful, just as we were really getting on the front foot of all of this.”
While Markle may be able to scramble back into some Hollywood circles, it is unlikely to be quite as rarefied a crowd as she once hoped. Meanwhile, her relationship with the royal family is pretty near irreparable.
At this stage, there is little doubt about the palace’s feelings about her. As harmful as Meghan’s actions in the last year have been, a source close to the royals tells me that much of the damage was already done — and that the personal feelings of the late Queen loom large. According to my source, the Queen “saw through Meghan Markle” and remarked that she was “evil” during a drinks reception at a dinner the late monarch hosted at Balmoral in August last year.
‘It was out of character for the Queen to use such a word as “evil” to describe Meghan, but she saw straight through her’
“Everybody’s eyebrows hit the ceiling,” the source claimed. “It was out of character for the Queen to use such a word as “evil” to describe Meghan, but she saw straight through her. It was a startling sentence to hear from the most forgiving woman on earth.”
“At the drinks before the dinner, a small group were talking to the monarch and she explained that Harry meeting Meghan had become a complete catastrophe and described her as evil. By this point we all knew the Queen’s health was in decline and she had months left, she seemed regretful about how things had panned out.”
Throughout the last three years Meghan and Harry have consistently claimed that there was no bad blood between them and the monarch, but this has often been disputed. Biographer Tom Bower’s latest book Revenge: Meghan, Harry And The War Between The Windsors cites unnamed sources that claim the Queen once remarked of her husband’s funeral: “Thank goodness Meghan is not coming.” Royal watchers believe that Meghan and Harry’s reservations to implicitly blame Queen Elizabeth for any of the wrongdoings of the royal family was an intentional move in order to return to royal life if they ever needed to — but the more we hear of the Queen’s supposed feelings, the less likely that seems.
At this stage, Harry and Meghan continuing to cash in by bad-mouthing the Firm seems more likely than a reconciliation. Entertainment Tonight reported earlier this year that Harry had a lucrative four-book deal with Penguin Random House, the publisher behind his tell-all, that’s worth $35-$40 million. It is rumored that at least one of these books will be written by the duchess. Even if she doesn’t put pen to paper, Meghan is reportedly resurrecting her lifestyle blog “the Tig,” after the New York Post reported that there was a document filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, that indicates a prospective relaunched version of the site. I hope the content will have improved from last time, where she jotted down posts about her meditation guru, who was called Light, or how much she loves the book Eat, Pray, Love.
After it was announced that Meghan wouldn’t attend the coronation, her PR team insisted she has “moved on” and is “going about her life in the present.” As we all know, a Hollywood lifestyle for two ex-royals is expensive — and whatever they choose to do, they’ll need to find a way to pay for it.