Moments After The Royal Wedding That Signaled Trouble For The Royal FamilyMarch 12, 2021
Meghan Markle tried to seamlessly join the royal family — and for a time, it looked like it was actually working. As she told Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II was a positive force reminiscent of her own grandmother, who welcomed her into her new home across the ocean and, more importantly, the Crown. The press, which has notoriously thrust racism and hostility towards the former Suits actor, praised her first official royal appearance. Even her father-in-law walked her down the aisle in the absence of her own dad — but soon after, the honeymoon ended.
Markel’s brand of outspoken, multicultural Americana has always inherently been at odds with a family best known for strict traditions. “I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a ‘stiff upper lip,'” Meghan admitted in a documentary hosted by ITV’s Tom Bradby (via Vanity Fair). “I really tried … what that does internally is probably really damaging.” She wasn’t alone in those thoughts, and Harry would later admit to Winfrey (via CNN) that he, too, felt “trapped within the system.”
From the outside, Meghan and Harry’s relationship with the royal family appeared to fracture in the months following their wedding. Their decision to elope three days before the televised royal ceremony served as a line in the sand, setting them apart from the so-called “Firm,” and by January 2020, Harry and Meghan went public with their decision to step down as senior members. Here’s a look at the moments that signaled their exit was looming.
Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton's bridesmaids drama
News that Meghan Markle was not adjusting to royal life started to surface in the moments leading up to her wedding. As it was originally reported by the tabloids, the former Suits actor was apparently forging a frosty — but cordial — relationship with sister-in-law Kate Middleton. Things appeared to take a turn for the worse during a heated bridesmaids dress fitting (to be fair, anyone who’s ever been a bridesmaid knows that bridesmaids dress fittings are often heated).
According to reports from The Sun and The Telegraph, the argument was, in some sense, a pantyhose pandemonium. Kate wanted the bridesmaids to wear tights, as is customary, but Meghan wanted to nix royal protocol and allow bare legs. To make matters worse, Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress required extra fittings, and the pair reportedly couldn’t agree on the schedule. “Demands were made about when subsequent fittings would be, and Kate left sobbing,” a source told The Telegraph. The source also claimed that “there was a sense that Meghan never really wanted to be friends” after the Duchess of Sussex snubbed her future sister-in-law’s attempts to hang out.
Two years later, Meghan refuted this tabloid story in her illuminating interview with Oprah Winfrey. It was allegedly Kate who made Meghan cry over the dresses. She said Kate apologized, even bringing her flowers, and both parties moved on.
The alleged conversations and concerns about Archie's skin color
Though tabloids have gotten a hold of — or straight-up invented — a ton of inside information about the royal family’s fraying relationship, there’s one bombshell that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry kept quiet for more than a year. We now know that events surrounding Meghan’s first pregnancy, which she announced in October 2018, had a significant impact on the couple’s decision to quit their senior roles.
In the pair’s eye-opening Oprah Winfrey interview, the biracial actor alleged that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born” and “what that would mean” and “look like.” A royal family member, who was not Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Phillip, apparently had “several” of these talks with Harry, who was admittedly “shocked.”
“I could never understand how it wouldn’t be seen as an added benefit,” Meghan said (via BuzzFeed News). “And a reflection of the world today … how inclusive is that, that you can see someone who looks like you in this family, much less one who’s born into it?”
According to CNBC, the queen did speak out, admitting that “some recollections may vary” but that the family was “saddened” to discover Meghan and Harry had been struggling. She planned to take the allegations “very seriously,” addressing them behind closed doors. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Prince William told a reporter that the royals are “very much not a racist family” and he still hasn’t spoken to his brother.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle headed to Frogmore
A month after Meghan Markle announced her pregnancy, it looked like the “Royal Fab Four” — as they were dubbed by the press — were on the outs. Harry and Meghan rented a U-Haul (or, realistically, hired royal movers) and announced that they were checking out of Kensington Palace, where they lived in a 22-room apartment next door to Prince William and Kate Middleton. As Reuters reported, it was “the first indication of tensions behind the scenes” (barring the tabloid gossip that had been inventing feuds since day one).
Despite what it looked like, a report from the Daily Mail claimed that drama wasn’t to blame — at least not drama with the royal family. Instead, the system was the problem. The Sussexes’ plans to move to Frogmore Cottage at Windsor Castle were reportedly fueled by Harry’s desire to “escape the goldfish bowl of royal life for the sake of his marriage and his unborn child” (this would eventually be confirmed in the pair’s Oprah interview). With the move came the dissolution of the Fab Four’s joint office, as noted in People. Meghan and Harry would be working on their own.
“The arrival of Meghan has changed the dynamic of the relationship in a fairly significant way,” royals author Sally Bedell Smith told People. “It is inevitable and practical because it gives Harry and Meghan some freedom to build up their own collection of interests and charities.”
The Sussexes missed two Easters in a row
In April 2018, a month before the wedding, it was clear that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were taking every opportunity to stay out of the public eye. The Sussexes even skipped out on Meghan’s first Easter with the royal family, a moment that could’ve smoothed over the incessant royal rift rumors but scandalized the tabloids instead. Even though Harry hadn’t attended church service in years, Express went as far as claiming the couple “snubbed” the queen (from what it looks like, the event is optional).
The following year, Meghan skipped out all on her own. Though her pregnancy — with Archie’s fast-approaching due date — was the perfect excuse to stay at home in pajamas, it still raised eyebrows. Maybe there was no so-called rift in the family, but her absence sent a clear message that she was not going to do her pregnancy publicly like Kate Middleton, who was heavily pregnant (like, seriously about to give birth in a month) when she attended the service a year prior.
The service also fell on the queen’s birthday, which would’ve been a great argument for Express to save a quid and run the same headline twice, but alas, they missed the opportunity. The couple celebrated from afar, sharing a sweet message on their @SussexRoyal Instagram account. “Happy Birthday Your Majesty, Ma’am, Granny. Wishing you the most wonderful day! Harry & Meghan,” they wrote.
Meghan Markle's private birth plan
If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Easter absence made it seem like they were no longer entertaining the public demands of royal life, Archie’s birth proved it. The couple circumvented royal traditions to give their newborn a greater sense of privacy, which is inherently at odds with being a member of one of the most papped families in British history. Still, what’s most telling are the lengths the pair went through to take control from the hands of the Crown.
According to Vogue, Archie’s birth was “handled more privately” than past royal births. Meghan didn’t don four-inch heels and pose for a photo-op on the hospital steps like Kate Middleton did directly after giving birth (Meghan told Oprah Winfrey she wasn’t even asked to do so). The publication noted the Sussexes kept their newborn’s identity hidden for two days, posing for a smaller, “controlled” photo shoot in Windsor Castle “which seemed to involve two photographers” rather than an onslaught of media.
Furthermore, the couple separated themselves from the royal family throughout. According to Vogue, Meghan did not use “the Queen’s team of royal doctors” and had her own natural birth plan. She kept her birth plans private (though she’s said to have attempted a home birth, as the queen did, later moving to a private hospital). When it came time to announce Archie’s arrival, the pair did not go through Buckingham Palace, as is customary. Instead, they announced it on their own through their @SussexRoyal Instagram account.
Archie's name and title set him apart
The Sussexes’ first child was set apart from the royals by both his name and his title. According to Vogue, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry opted for Archie — not Archibald — Harrison because “they liked it,” even though it held no “royal significance.” They also circumvented tradition when they “chose not to give the baby a double middle name.”
In the couple’s eye-opening Oprah Winfrey interview, Meghan also revealed that the royals “didn’t want” Archie to have a royal title, which she claimed was “different from protocol.” Meghan also alluded to the fact that the decision may have had something to do with her son’s mixed race. “[The] idea of the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be,” she said (via The Guardian), adding, “It’s not their right to take away.”
Meghan’s statement isn’t entirely accurate, but it does exemplify the couple’s divide. According to The Guardian, the royal protocol established by George V in 1917 dictates that only “the children and grandchildren of a sovereign” are automatically given royal titles. Archie is a great-grandchild, and thus, not entitled. The outlet noted that when grandpa Prince Charles becomes king, “Archie will be entitled to the titles.” Of course, it seems unfair because Prince William’s children have titles, but it has to do with lineage. The queen made an exception because Wills is the future monarch, and Prince George was already entitled because of his place in the line of succession.
The Sussexes' spat over security
With title comes security. After Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah Winfrey interview, the public learned that the brunt of their decision to exit the Crown hinged on the security the royal family provided to their newborn son — or lack thereof. Again, Meghan suggested that Archie’s mixed race was a factor in the royals’ decision to withhold a title, and consequently, withhold security (since the two are typically knotted together).
“All the grandeur surrounding this stuff is an attachment that I don’t personally have,” she told Winfrey, admitting she wasn’t concerned about the optics. “I’ve been a waitress, an actress, a princess, a duchess, I’ve always just still been Meghan … the most important title I will ever have is Mom. But the idea of our son not being safe …”
According to The Guardian, “[e]xtended members of the royal family also do not have automatic right to police security” paid for by the Crown, and Archie is seventh in the line of succession. Since it involves taxpayer money, the decision involves both the Home Office and Metropolitan Police. Nonetheless, considering Meghan’s horrifying treatment in the press and the way tabloids were a factor in the death of Harry’s mother, it makes sense that security would be a breaking point for the Sussexes. It was also apparently the motivation behind the pair’s Netflix and Spotify deals, which they claimed allowed them to afford security when they were allegedly financially cut off in the wake of their decision to leave.
The queen's christening clapback
When you’re a royal, you assume your duties almost immediately — title or not. This includes posing for a photo-op shortly after birth and, of course, a royal christening. This, too, is an important photo-op thrust across the royals’ social media channels and poised to land in tabloids far and wide. In other words: it’s the perfect place to make a subtle statement if you’re feeling a little sinister. Though the family photo from Archie’s christening showed the usual half-smiles of senior family members (Prince William, Kate Middleton, and even Harry’s aunts were all in attendance), a mysterious absence signaled that there was, perhaps, tension within Windsor Castle.
According to Daily Mail royal reporter Rebecca English, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were notably absent due to a scheduling conflict. Apparently, no one checked the date beforehand, and per Insider, Her Majesty was due to be in Scotland at the same time. Though it seems like an honest mistake, the book Royals at War: The Untold Story of Harry and Meghan’s Shocking Split with the House of Windsor (via Daily Star), claimed that the queen was “sending an explicit message” by skipping out. “They had been generous and understanding at their best,” an alleged “well-placed Palace insider” told authors Andy Tillett and Dylan Howard, “But they simply now felt publicly embarrassed by Meghan’s controlling behavior.” Also, would it have killed Wills to smile?
A Christmas address omitted Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Every year on Christmas, the queen publicly addresses the nation. It’s a key moment that stokes a sense of unity across Britain and the commonwealth, while giving a nod to the family’s achievements, initiatives, and struggles over the past year. Remember: these people are paid by taxpayers to do good, and anyone who’s watched The Crown knows that the queen’s job is not only to lead but also to preserve the nation’s morale (which was especially difficult during 2020’s address).
The official message is a televised affair, and for Britons both at home and abroad, a nostalgic pang of warmth on a holiday centered around family. As such, the queen always displays a selection of family photos on her desk. In 2019, mere days before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would officially announce their exit, the queen’s photos spoke volumes.
As Harper’s Bazaar points out, the Sussexes were “[n]otably absent from the queen’s desk.” She did, however, showcase photos of her husband, Prince Philip; her son Prince Charles and his wife Duchess Camila; Kate Middleton, Prince William, and their children; and her father King George VI. In fact, the address didn’t contain a single mention of Meghan or Harry. This was a huge contrast from the year prior, where the Sussexes were on full display.
Less than a month after the queen’s Christmas address, Meghan and Harry announced they were stepping back from their royal duties. The Crown was forever changed.
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