From the moment their relationship became public knowledge in October 2016, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry faced intense media scrutiny from the British tabloids. It only worsened when they tied the knot in May 2018 and continued to be the subject of false rumors that portrayed them negatively. After being subjected to destructive, often racist, tabloid stories for years, the Sussexes finally decided it was time to fight back. Meghan and Harry’s beef with the British tabloids has been long and tumultuous, and it’s far from over.
Meghan's personal life was already a talking point before meeting Harry. She starred as Rachel Zane on USA's Suits for eight years and ran a lifestyle blog called The Tig before leaving it all behind to pursue life as a royal with Prince Harry in April 2018. As a result, interest in Meghan's personal life skyrocketed, and the British tabloid press, which has long been criticized for shady reporting practices (and, more recently, its racist treatment of Meghan), pounced.
Paparazzi went to great lengths to land stories, including grossly invading the Sussexes’ privacy. Subsequently, Meghan's family got pulled into the mess. The Duchess' father, Thomas Markle Sr., was accused of selling stories to tabloids in May 2018, which he later admitted to and apologized for. Mr. Markle said he staged one photo shoot (it’s rumored he was paid a hefty price for it) in which he posed reading a book about Britain to “improve” his image. Despite his apology, he continued to participate in interviews with the tabloids. Then, in February 2019, The Mail on Sunday went as far as publishing a personal letter Meghan sent to her father about his relationship with the press.
The endless false rumors and her family's involvement were tough pills to swallow for Meghan. Although she's since traded UK living for sunny California, Meghan and Harry's clash with the press is still going full steam ahead.
The Biggest Rumors UK Tabloids Spread About Harry & Meghan
At one point, it seemed a new rumor about Meghan and Harry surfaced every day in the UK press. Still, Meghan and Harry rarely responded to the chatter directly. Typically, their responses were rooted in action, like when they decided to pursue legal action against The Mail on Sunday in 2019 (but more on that later). However, there were also a few (particularly nefarious) rumors the couple decided to address head-on.
Rumor #1: Meghan Made Kate Middleton Cry
Meghan and Harry’s March 7, 2021, interview with Oprah was one of the only times they've openly addressed the tabloid rumors about their life on camera. During the televised discussion, Meghan addressed one of the most damaging rumors about her: a November 2018 report from The Sun claiming she made Kate Middleton cry amid her wedding preparations.
"The reverse happened," Meghan told Oprah, shutting down the rumor. "I don't say that to be disparaging to [Kate], because it was a really hard week of the wedding, and she was upset about something. But she owned it, and she apologized, and she brought me flowers and a note apologizing.”
Rumor #2: Meghan Bullied Palace Staff
In a March 2021 report from The Times, Palace insiders claimed the Duchess drove two personal assistants out of the household and reduced staff to tears. In an official statement, Meghan's camp shut down the rumors, saying, "The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who experience pain and trauma.”
Since the report dropped days before Meghan’s interview with Oprah, Sussex fans felt it was a blatant attempt to damage Meghan’s credibility, and a source close to Meghan reportedly agreed. “The timing is not coincidental,” a source told the BBC.
Rumor #3: Meghan & Harry Blindsided The Queen
When Meghan and Harry announced they were officially stepping down from life as senior royals in February 2021, a Daily Mail report claimed the couple “blindsided” the Queen with their decision.
"No, I never blindsided my grandmother," Harry told Oprah, shutting down the rumors. "I have too much respect for her.” Harry said he actually spoke about his plans with the Queen a total of three times.
What's The Deal With All Of Those Privacy Lawsuits, Anyway?
Meghan filed a lawsuit for misuse of private information against The Mail On Sunday in October 2019 after they published excerpts of her handwritten letter to her father. In a statement about the lawsuit, Harry revealed why legal action was necessary.
“Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences,” Prince Harry wrote.
The lawsuit marked the first time the Duchess legally fought back against the tabloids. It wound up stretching over two years, but it paid off. On Feb. 11, 2021, Meghan won her case, with the judge ruling her letter was "a personal and private" correspondence, meaning it was against the law to publish it without her permission.
In Meghan’s statement about the victory, she said she was grateful to the courts for holding the outlet accountable for their actions. "For these outlets, it's a game. For me and so many others, it's real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep," she said.
In September 2020, before her monumental win, Meghan filed another lawsuit against paparazzi photo agency Splash for invasion of privacy after they photographed her and her son, Archie, during a private outing at a Canadian park. The case ended up being costly to navigate, and the legal fees ultimately sent Splash spiraling into bankruptcy.
How The Palace Is Involved With The Tabloids
In her tell-all with Oprah, Meghan dropped a bombshell about the Palace’s role in perpetuating the negative press surrounding her and Harry. Some royal fans already suspected the Palace may have contributed to the narrative, but Meghan and Harry all but confirmed that was the case.
"I don't know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that the Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us," she said, referring to the royal family’s unofficial nickname, which is often used in a negative context. "If that comes with risk of losing things, I mean... there is a lot that has been lost already.” Kensington Palace did not respond to Elite Daily’s previous request for comment on Meghan and Harry’s claim.
So how, exactly, did the Palace contribute to the rumors about Meghan? According to the Sussexes, they chose not to protect her as they often do with other royal family members. While the Palace decided not to correct negative stories about Meghan (like the rumor she made Kate cry), Megan claimed they would often shut down relatively trivial rumors about other royal family members.
"Only once we were married and everything started to worsen that I came to understand — not only was I not being protected, but that they were willing to lie to protect other members of the family," Meghan said. "They were not willing to tell the truth to protect myself and my husband.”
Another factor to consider is the Royal Rota. The Royal Rota was established over 40 years ago as a partnership between the royal family and UK media outlets like The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror, The Evening Standard, The Telegraph, The Times, and The Sun. The Rota system "gives British media representatives the opportunity to exclusively cover an event, on the understanding that they will share factual material obtained with other members” of the system.
As Harry explained in his Oprah interview, the problem is the Royal Rota became an “invisible contract” under which the royal family can’t condemn the tabloids’ biased coverage of Meghan and Harry lest they turn on the rest of the royals like they did the Sussexes. "I'm acutely aware of where my family stand and how acutely scared they are of the tabloids turning on them,” Harry told Oprah about the invisible contract.
Prince Harry even suggested the Palace allowed the Royal Rota to run wild with rumors and speculation about him and Meghan for a down-right duplicitous reason: jealousy. “It all changed after the Australia tour,” Harry told Oprah about how their October 2018 trip to the Land Down Under seemingly caused his family to stop supporting them. He added, "It was the first time the family got to see how incredible she was at the job.”
In January 2020, Harry announced he and Meghan would no longer participate in the Royal Rota.
What's Next For Meghan & Harry?
The couple is now focused on making a positive impact in the U.S. For instance, they recently announced several new gigs, including deals with media giants like Netflix and Spotify. Harry has taken on several jobs with humanitarian interests, including a role as Silicon Valley mental health startup BetterUp’s Chief Impact Officer. But the Sussexes' British patronages are not being forgotten. Actually, the couple’s first Netflix series, Heart of Invictus, was announced on April 6, and it will spotlight “a group of extraordinary Invictus Games competitors from around the globe,” all who have faced life-changing injuries or illness.
A show centered on rising above challenging circumstances couldn’t be more fitting for Meghan and Harry.
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