Spare: No one in the palace wanted to protect Meghan Markle in 2016

In November 2016, the story came out that Prince Harry was dating an American actress named Meghan Markle. Within days, paparazzi camped out around her house in Toronto, people were following her everywhere she went, and the British papers were examining every photo, every rumor, every connection in Meghan’s life. Meghan flew to the UK and she and Harry hunkered down, trying to figure out what to do next. They contacted lawyers and wanted to start suing. Harry was desperate to protect Meghan. His family was desperate to stop him:

I huddled with the lawyer, trying to work out how to protect Meg from this attack and all the others…Sue them, I kept telling the lawyer, over and over. He explained over and over that suing was what the papers wanted. They were hungry for me to sue, because if I sued that would confirm the relationship, and then they could really go to town.

I felt wild with rage. And guilt. I’d infected Meg, and her mother, with my contagion, otherwise known as my life. I’d promised her that I’d keep her safe, and I’d already dropped her into the middle of this danger.

When I wasn’t with the lawyer, I was with Kensington Palace’s comms person, Jason. He was very smart, but a tad too cool about this unfolding crisis for my liking. He urged me to do nothing. You’re just going to feed the beast. Silence is the best option. But silence wasn’t an option. Of all the options, silence was the least desirable, the least defensible. We couldn’t just let the press continue to do this to Meg.

Even after I’d convinced him that we needed to do something, say something, anything, the Palace said no. Courtiers blocked us hard. Nothing can be done, they said. And therefore nothing will be done. I accepted this as final. Until I read an essay in the Huffington Post. The essayist said the mild reaction of Britons to this explosion of racism was to be expected, since they were the heirs of racist colonialists. But what was truly “unforgivable,” she added, was my silence. Mine.

[From Spare by Prince Harry]

Soon after, Harry released the statement confirming his relationship with Meghan and criticizing, in bold terms, the media’s intrusions on Meghan and the real danger they were putting her in. At the time, we were told that Harry cleared the statement with William and that William thought it was a bad idea, but he gave Harry the okay. At the time, we heard that Charles also thought it was a bad idea but he “understood.” Harry blows up that narrative in Spare:

In fact, my statement generated a whole new onslaught—from my family. Pa and Willy were furious. They gave me an earful. My statement made them look bad, they both said. Why in hell? Because they’d never put out a statement for their girlfriends or wives when they were being harassed.

[From Spare by Prince Harry]

It was in this section of the book which triggered my own fight-or-flight response, so I can only imagine what Harry and Meghan were feeling. Looking back, I am genuinely surprised that Meghan didn’t say “you know what, it’s not worth all this.” But Harry does note that Meghan wasn’t reading most of it, and he kept having to ask her about all of the stories, is this true, did you do this, what happened here? I would have been like: nope, I gotta catch a flight out of here, please release a statement saying we broke up.

As for the earliest roadblocks being set in their path by Windsors and courtiers… I know we’re supposed to feel like “yay, love won!” and it did win. But holy hell, Meghan managed to navigate all of that with no training, with everyone in the royal family actively seeking to destroy her and their relationship for years. Very few women could have or would have done that.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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