All Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, did was put on a sombre outfit and a sympathetic expression and walk around in public with three other people for 45 minutes. But the pointillistic armchair analysis of that brief event — a surprise outing outside Windsor Castle 48 hours after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, her mother-in-law, featuring Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, and Prince William and his wife — has gone on ever since.
The incident, for those following this particular saga, represented a brief cessation of, or maybe presaged an eventual thaw in, the coldness and hostility that has developed between the prince and princess of Wales (William and Kate) and the duke and duchess of Sussex (Harry and Meghan) in the past few years.
As Meghan fans have long pointed out, she is often attacked by the hostile tabloids and on social media for doing exactly the same things that other royals, particularly Kate, are praised for
Thrown, or perhaps pushed, into shared mourning after the death of Harry and William’s grandmother, the four came together for the first time in more than a year to express their gratitude to the crowds, admire the bouquets of flowers left for the queen and demonstrate that they were able to exist in the same general location without seeming overtly hostile to one another.
From the moment Meghan appeared in public and in the days that followed, Meghan-watchers in the papers and on social media have analysed the video of the event, turning into instant lip-readers, body-language analysts, fashion critics and protocol experts in service to a never-ending parlour game: What Has Meghan Done Now?
How did Meghan’s dress (black and calf-length, with a flared skirt) compare with Kate’s dress (black and calf-length, with a slim skirt)? Did Kate snub Meghan by apparently not looking at, talking to or acknowledging her? Was it true, as someone claimed on TikTok, that Meghan tried to forge ahead of the others into the flower area, only to have Harry remind her “of royal protocol by subtly holding her hand back to let William and Kate come through to the flowers first”?
Opinions about Meghan vary widely, and with facts thin on the ground, responses to events like these tend to reflect deeply held and entrenched emotions. So some people reported on social media that a happy murmur went through the crowd at Windsor when they saw the two couples together; others said the opposite, declaring that while some mourners were excited to see William, Kate and Harry, they were actively opposed to Meghan’s presence. Various topics trended on Twitter: #Meghan (mixed views but with a healthy pro-Meghan contingent) and #MeghanMarkleGoHome (self-explanatory).
A similarly robust and mostly fact-free conversation erupted last Wednesday after the two couples, along with other members of the British royal family, left a service at Westminster Hall following the arrival of the queen’s coffin. Harry and Meghan walked out holding hands, unlike most of the other royal couples. A debate ensued: Were they disrespectfully behaving like “lovesick teenagers,” or was it okay to hold hands with your spouse while leaving a sombre occasion?
Accusing Meghan and Harry of blatant attention-seeking during their trip to Britain, the papers nonetheless stepped on their own arguments by showering them with attention, albeit mostly negative
It turned out, too, that another pair — Princess Anne’s daughter, Zara, and her husband, Mike Tindall — also held hands on the way out, which added an element of confusion to the issue. As Meghan fans have long pointed out, she is often attacked by the hostile tabloids and on social media for doing exactly the same things that other royals, particularly Kate, are praised for.
In the United States, where they moved after stepping back from royal duties in 2020 — aka Megxit — Meghan and Harry have been working diligently to raise their two children and reposition themselves as celebrities and influencers — that is, American-style royals — with a splashy Netflix deal and multiple charity and business ventures.
They have made high-profile speeches at places like the United Nations (Harry), started a podcast series featuring interviews with famous guests (Meghan), brought the cameras along to record them as they do charity work, and spoken publicly about issues like mental health and how they feel betrayed and mistreated by Harry’s family.
They are collaborating on a memoir that they say will be a candid account of who they are and how they feel, with plenty of details about their falling out with the royal family and their uneasy departure from Britain.
When Elizabeth died, on September 8th, the couple were already in Britain, at the tail end of what the Daily Mail derided as a “pseudo-royal tour” and the London Times unkindly called “a mini freelance royal tour”.
Accusing Meghan and Harry of blatant attention-seeking during this trip, the papers nonetheless stepped on their own arguments by showering them with attention, albeit mostly negative. “For those of us who have had more than enough of Harry and Meghan, I’m afraid they’re back on this side of the Atlantic,” Hilary Rose wrote in the Times.
Then the queen died, and Harry travelled by himself to Balmoral, her Scottish estate. Some reports said, without verifiable attribution, that he had been ordered to leave Meghan behind so as not to upset the rest of the family. Harry stayed for just a short time before returning to his wife. There things stood until they accepted the invitation to walk around for a bit with William, Kate, the crowds at Windsor and a bunch of cameras.
Alas, we may never know the truth behind it. We’ll never know if the possible rapprochement came about because King Charles III “ordered his warring sons to set aside their ongoing feud”, as the Daily Mail reported on September 10th — or because William unilaterally sent a “bombshell text” to his brother laying out the terms of the proposed joint appearance, as the paper also reported, the next day.
Piers Morgan, an obsessively close observer and relentless critic of Meghan, inevitably waded in with his usual splenetic views
At the queen’s funeral yesterday, a rapprochement turned out not to be evidence: there didn’t seem to be any eye contact or acknowledgment between Harry and his brother, William, as they walked behind their grandmother’s coffin or, it appeared, as the two princes were joined by their wives in Westminster Abbey. Studiously, the two men and their spouses avoided any interaction. Their eyes never met; physically, a safe distance was always kept.
There was the occasional assuring glance between the Sussexes — and, earlier, they had briefly held hands. But, perhaps in response to the peculiar criticism they have received for previous shows of affection at events commemorating the late queen, there was notably little physical contact.
Meghan, wearing a pair of pearl and diamond studs given to her by the late monarch, was visibly emotional at times. With a gloved hand, she dabbed a solitary tear from her cheek as the queen’s coffin left Westminster Abbey.
The 41-year-old had not followed the tradition of women members of the British royal family wearing a black lace mourning veil — but, once more, the same could be said about other members of the family, in this case Prince Andrew’s daughter Princess Beatrice, as well as Prince Edward’s wife, the countess of Wessex, and their daughter, Lady Louise Windsor. Meghan instead wore a black cape and dress designed by Stella McCartney and a wide-brimmed hat.
The Mirror had earlier followed what appeared to be an anti-Meghan party line in reporting that, at Windsor Castle 10 or so days ago, some of the mourners in the crowd refused to shake her hand and, in one case, haughtily donned a pair of sunglasses in response to her arrival. According to the paper’s analysis of a video of the incident, another woman turned away and then pointedly “gave the Duchess of Sussex the stink eye, before laughing” in her general direction.
Meanwhile, Piers Morgan, an obsessively close observer and relentless critic of Meghan, inevitably waded in with his usual splenetic views. “Don’t be misled by the scenes of supposed hatchet-burying between William and his brother at the weekend,” he wrote in the New York Post and on the Fox News website in a piece titled “Harry, if you really want to honor your dad, nix your salacious tell-all and rein in your royals-trashing wife”.