One gets the impression that if Meghan Markle were to close the gender gap, end world hunger, stop wars or cure deadly diseases, a certain malevolent pocket of the internet would be like, "yeah, well, she's so smug about it".
This week, she officially crossed the Rubicon into new territory, even for a Royal - the girl who can’t ever do right for wrong.
Last month, Markle and her husband Prince Harry courted controversy and were accused for rank hypocrisy for flying a private jet to a private holiday, paid for by Elton John. Hypocrisy, you see, because they also support environmental causes (and ensured the trip was carbon neutralised, but whatever). The backlash was so heated that you'd think they were the first royal to ever do such a thing. To some, it's almost worse than, say, being friends with a predatory paedophile. Shrug.
In any case, the latest kerfuffle is around a €16 pair of H&M dungarees, which their baby son Archie wore to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa. So far, so ordinary: Kate Middleton has been dressing her little ones in cutesy high street wares for years. Likewise, Princess Diana was partial to putting Harry himself in pastel dungarees. A picture of sweetness we are more than used to.
Except that there have been calls for Markle to rein in her seemingly profligate, Wallis Simpson-styley spending.
After dropping a reported €2.6 million of taxpayers' money on renovating their Frogmore Estate cottage, Markle came under fire for holding a $200,000 baby shower in a €67,000 a night penthouse at the Mark hotel in Manhattan.
Markle, you may recall, famously wanted to spray fragrance in St George’s Chapel at Windsor to mask the “musty” smell for her wedding (later on, Dyptique revealed they “scented” the wedding). When a primary school teacher from Carlow wants it on her big day, no big deal. But Markle skated close to treason on this one.
Reports have estimated that Markle has worn around €670,000 worth of jewellery in the last two years. A nice accompaniment to the €550,000 maternity wardrobe, and the alleged €440,000 that she spent on 1,661 new items of clothing in 2018 (compared to Kate Middleton’s €76,000 spend).
Royal watchers grumbled that the former actress was having too good a time of it at precisely the wrong time. The BBC's Jennie Bond, no doubt familiar to displays of monarchical ostentatiousness, commented that Markle needed to curb her fiscal enthusiasm. And Markle, if her H&M cap doff is anything to go by, appears to have gotten the memo.
So let’s press pause on the South African trip and take a quick dive into the ensuing commentary.
One messageboard user: “PR is working SO hard.”
And another: “Smug as can be … nobody in the US and UK are buying the act.”
“So it’s okay to introduce him to Africa, but not to the people who fund their life?” chimed in another.
Another commenter has made reference to Archie’s Bonpoint socks, that retail for about €100 for a three-pack.
Where does this bile come from? Does plain old-fashioned racism play a part, as many have often posited? Is the talk of Markle’s hypocrisy really a cover for simple bigotry? Does Markle’s “climb” from jobbing actress to royal watcher irk those who have not yet managed a similar stratospheric feat? Is it because she bagged herself the last truly eligible royal? Does her ghosting Piers Morgan really eclipse the work she has done for several charities, including Smart Works, a non-profit that supplies donated workwear to financially strapped women? Seemingly so.
Unfortunately, the love/hate dance with Markle is set to go on. A recipe including a feuding family (hers), glamour, Hollywood, a dash of feminism and a cute royal baby is one that the tabloids aren’t going to pass up easily.
There will always be a cohort of people for whom Markle will never please, even when she seems to take heed of their criticism. Taking a “let them eat cake” approach to life might not cut it, but at least it would probably be a bit more fun for her than this.