Monday, August 23, 2021

Recent reading: "Meghan and Harry: The Real Story"

Meghan and Harry: The Real Story by Lady Colin Campbell

I don't think I'm any more or less interested in gossip than the next person, but after recently discovering Lady Colin Campbell's YouTube channel and hearing her dish on Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle, I was hooked on the ongoing trainwreck that is this pretentious, entitled couple. Lady Colin Campbell has had a fascinating life of her own, like something out of an epic novel. You can read all about her here

As a result of being born into a wealthy family and marrying into a titled one, Lady C (as she is know to fans) has moved among an elite crowd for most of her life. And having spent a number of years living in New York (where she worked as a model) she has an understanding of the surprisingly vast differences between the British and American media coverage, as well as the realities of British royal life versus how it's perceived by Americans. She has a great number of sources in that world, some of them courtiers, some of them royalty themselves. And it seems like a lot of them, along with a number of estranged friends and family, were more than willing to dish on the disruption that occurred in the British royal family when Meghan Markle descended on them.

Since I wasn't aware of Meghan Markle as an actress or celebrity prior to her being linked to Prince Harry, I had no idea of her background. I also had no idea she was mixed-race until people started making a big deal about it; I couldn't tell from looking at her. Lady Campbell explains how this actually worked to Meghan's benefit with Buckingham Palace. In addition to helping make the lily-white royal family look more modern, there's the fact that a large number of the British Commonwealth nations are populated by people of color. So rather than being a drawback, it was an advantage, at least until Meghan and her supporters started playing the race card every time she didn't get her way or was criticized, then it became a weapon.

What was really surprising was finding out that Meghan actually had a pretty privileged upbringing. Her father, Thomas Markle Sr., is an Emmy-winning lighting director, and was director of photography on Married... with Children. As a result, she spent a great deal of her childhood on set with him. He adored her and gave her everything he could. As a child she attended private schools, starting at Hollywood's Little Red Schoolhouse before transferring to Immaculate Heart Catholic School. When she decided she had to attend Northwestern University in Chicago, Thomas footed the bill for that as well. Years later, after Meghan told Prince Harry she had struggled to put herself through college, Thomas threatened to provide proof that he had actually paid for her education. It was one of the reasons she cut him off which seems extreme until you learn that by then, she had begun dumping people when they were no longer of use to her, including childhood friends and her first husband.

From the book:

Although Meghan had praised her father to the skies publicly, privately she had become concerned that a garrulous loose cannon like Thomas Markle Sr would cough up inconvenient facts which might cause Harry to query aspects of her past which did not accord perfectly with her present version of events. For instance, she led Harry to believe that she had had a far harder life than she had. She had gained his admiration by making herself out to be far more self-sufficient than she had ever been, to have surmounted struggles that did not exist. She had told him how hard she had to struggle to put herself through university when, in fact, her time there had been one long joyride on her father's bandwagon. She didn't want Tom Sr giving the game away and shining a light on those aspects of her persona which were, to put it politely, self-generated rather than organic.

In addition to the years of financially providing as many advantages as possible, Thomas Markle actively encouraged his daughter to pursue her dreams, and in spite of a lingering feeling of confusion over her racial background, Meghan powered through childhood and college as a popular hyper-achiever. Her trajectory didn't hit a wall until after she graduated from college, where the Hollywood fame and success she felt was her due eluded her. It took a number of years for her career to solidify when she landed a prominent role on the USA Network series Suits. In the meantime she married Trevor Engleson, a producer who earned her ire for failing to recommend her for roles in his projects that he didn't think she was right for, but she believed she was perfect for. Once she began meeting and socializing with movers and shakers in Toronto (where Suits was filmed) he had outlived his usefulness and was unceremoniously dumped. She had also begun to shed longtime friends, many of whom felt she changed (and not for the better) once she became famous.

As an employed actress, Meghan began social climbing in earnest. She had developed a relentless, entitled ego and drive for the good life. "Classy" (a trait she believes herself to possess in spades) became one of her favorite words. Her ambitions eventually led her to London where she asked a British socialite friend to help her find "a rich and famous Englishman". And despite the friend trying to do just that, she would become one of many dropped when they were no longer useful and Meghan's relationship with Prince Harry had taken off.

A number of Meghan's self-serving claims are demolished in the book as they just don't hold up for any number of reasons, but no more so than her claim that she knew nothing about Prince Harry before they started dating. On the contrary, not only was she was a long-time fan of Princess Diana and used her as a role model, but on the very day she was due to meet Harry for the first time, she excitedly told another British friend (also soon to be jettisoned) that not only was she well aware who he was, she had googled him. And once she got her hooks into him, she was not about to let her ticket to worldwide fame get away.

From the book:

With hindsight, it is obvious that Meghan had an agenda where her wedding was concerned. She wanted it to be the most beautiful and glamorous occasion. It must be the perfect setting for her introduction to the world at large. It would establish her as a beautiful, desirable, 'classy' woman of style and taste, as someone who had everything, every virtue, from superficial style and beauty to profound depth of character. She was a jewel that the Royal Family was lucky to have in its Crown and the world must see this. She did not want any of her family, with the exception of her parents, there. She wanted none of them or her oldest friends raining on her parade. She was flying high and didn't want too many links with the past she had left behind. Then, she had been an ordinary girl on the make. Now, she had it made. 

Then there were Prince Harry's issues. He had been understandably traumatized by the death of his mother. But another problem was that while alive, Diana had spoiled him rotten and the result was an undisciplined but well-meaning and not particularly bright guy, given to reacting emotionally rather than intellectually. He was ripe to be emotionally manipulated by someone who knew how to do it. By the time Harry met Meghan, he was yearning to get married and start a family of his own, leaving him that much more vulnerable to a master manipulator. Once engaged, the besotted Harry's mantra was that whatever Meghan wants, Meghan gets, even if what she wanted defied British and royal traditions and rules, which she exhibited zero respect for or interest in.

Shortly after her royal wedding, riding a wave of popularity with the public who were unaware of the drama she had been creating behind the scenes, Meghan began to assert herself in ways that promptly began to erode that goodwill. She and Harry began making demands that they be allowed to do as they pleased, establishment tradition and values be damned. Meghan quickly lost interest in the less exciting and glamorous aspects of royal life and duty. She was abusive to staff (the royals pride themselves on treating their staff with respect), ignored protocol and flouted royal dress codes. One of Harry's oldest friends was frozen out simply because he (as well as Prince William) had counseled Harry against rushing into the marriage. At the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank, the Sussexes stole the spotlight from the bride by using it as an opportunity to reveal their first pregnancy. Extremely tacky and about as far from "classy" as one could get. And whenever anyone - especially the press - called them on their behavior, the couple immediately assumed the position of being victimized, and in Meghan's case, being discriminated against due to her mixed-race background. Then they would dig in their heels and create more drama.

In addition to her social-climbing, Meghan is shameless in her pursuit of money. The several million per year she and Harry received as royals apparently wasn't enough for her. Part of their supposed reasoning for stepping back as senior royals was to become financially independent, but it's clear that Meghan, feeling constrained by royal life, realized they could make a lot more money by monetizing their "brand", something anathema to true royalty. At this point her ego was running amok. Meghan believes she is destined for greatness simply because she's her. Her aspirations are to be as rich, famous, and influential as possible. And the besotted Harry, described as following her around like a lovesick puppy, only enables her.

From the book:

According to Liz Brewer, socialite doyenne of the British aristocratic PR world, whose information came from someone at Buckingham Palace's Press Office, and according to a European prince whose information came from a British royal, Meghan had flown to LA shortly after the baby's conception with the specific objective of employing the best Instagrammers in the world. The brief she gave them (her high-powered PR firm) was straightforward enough:

1) I need you to create the world's number one Instagram account for me. It needs to end up having more followers than any other Instagram account on earth;

2) I want to be bigger than Diana, Princess of Wales;

3) I need you to make me the most famous woman in the world. 

Having said all that, although the book throws bare Meghan's abject egoism, sense of entitlement and ruthless ambition, the author is fair to her, acknowledging her tactical brilliance, intelligence, and confidence, which unfortunately are so over the top that they've become liabilities. Lady Campbell repeatedly points out that most people, even in Buckingham Palace and the upper echelon of British society, were pulling for Meghan to succeed in their world and bent over backwards to make her feel welcome. And the thanks for that was that Meghan and Harry have thrown the royal family into tumult, alienated a great number of their subjects, and left numerous once close, healthy relationships in ruins. They have the benefit of being willing and able to behave in the most odious, disrespectful, greedy, and superficial manner when they know full well that Harry's family doesn't have that option in response, at least not publicly.

From the book:

Even the Queen, who is the most anodyne of all of them, has expressed her displeasure in no uncertain terms. She has many friends, and she has been forthright in expressing her viewpoint. I have been told by two separate and utterly reliable sources that she feels that Meghan's demeanor has been only a cut above a floozy's and her conduct has been no better than a strumpet's. That does not mean that she regards Meghan as either a floozy or a strumpet, but simply as someone whose sense of obligation, responsibility, and self-aggrandisement is reminiscent of a category of woman who is out for herself in a way that other women would not be.

Nonetheless, at the end of the book, which was released in July 2020, the author wishes Harry and Meghan success in their endeavors. Viewing her YouTube videos recorded since then, I don't think she would make that statement today. In fact, Lady C recently claimed that a reliable source told her that Meghan made the shocking comment that she and Harry were, "One plane crash away from the throne," one idea being that if something happened to both Prince Charles and Prince William, Harry would be the obvious choice to serve as regent to Prince George until the child reached adulthood, or even worse, the loss of not only Charles and William, but William's three children as well, making Harry King and Meghan Queen Consort. And between this book and Lady C's YouTube videos, I could see Meghan saying that. Bitch is crazy entitled and maybe a little psycho.

There are so many other aspects and observations in this book that even this lengthy post doesn't begin scratch the surface. If you're at all interested in the drama of Harry and Meghan, I highly recommend it. It's also a wonderful look at the nuances of royal service and privilege, and how the royal family interact with their subjects and their press. Highly, highly recommended.

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