Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle was always going to polarise the British public upon marrying into the royal family.
Like her wedding day being splashed across screens globally and her dress sparking a new wave in bridal fashion, this was to be inevitable.
However, the Duchess has faced a barrage of scrutiny for her work, her style, her mannerisms, her choice to close a car door, for celebrating the impending birth of her child, the accessibility the public has to said child and so on and so forth.
In fact, is there anything she hasn’t been criticised for?
It’s no secret Meghan has been hurled with criticism unmatched by that directed at her sister-in-law Kate Middleton. So let’s delve into some of the recurring vitriol directed at the British Royal Family’s newest Duchess and why – despite the ongoing scrutiny – she might be the best thing to happen to the House of Windsor in years.
BRITISH VOGUE GUEST EDITORSHIP
Earlier this month, it was officially announced that The Duchess of Sussex would be the guest Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue’s September issue.
For context, the September issue is typically the most coveted, prestigious edition of any fashion magazine’s calendar year.
Allegedly Meghan was offered the cover along with a spread but turned this down to instead highlight women she believes are ‘forces for change.’
These women include Greta Thunberg, Adwoa Aboh and Jacinda Ardern and were selected to highlight the influential, important work of women globally.
Many took issue with Meghan being involved in a project perceived as being reserved for celebrities, not a territory for members of a royal family.
It seems we’ve all forgotten that this same publication – British Vogue – celebrated its 100th anniversary by splashing Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton across its cover.
This isn’t to criticise the shoot and accompanying article, but it’s important to highlight the contrasting commentary surrounding each Duchess’ involvement with the magazine.
Catherine was overwhelmingly praised for her feature and willingness to let Vogue into the life of a royal family member.
Of particular significance, Meghan is not the first royal to guest edit a publication. Prince Charles, the future King of England, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, have both guest edited previous publications, further highlighting the hypocrisy surrounding criticism of Meghan and her involvement with the September edition.
Let’s not forget that prior to her marriage to Prince Harry, she curated her own lifestyle website – The Tig – and has a knack for editing and creating informative, eloquently written texts for her audience.
British Vogue is merely an extension of this that is more suited to her new role.
WEARING THE COLOUR BLACK (AND OTHER SARTORIAL CHOICES)
Women are often criticised for their clothing choices and those in the public eye are especially exposed to commentary and analysis of these choices.
Every woman to marry into the royal family has experienced this: The Duchess of Cambridge with her too-short dresses, Lady Diana with her cleavage-heavy necklines, and the Duchess of York for dressing too big for her figure.
Meghan has continually attracted similar criticism for her decision to wear the colour black.
Typically, black is reserved for periods of mourning or reverence. It is, according to some ‘experts,’ a colour the royal family aren’t to wear on social occasions or to be utilised as a frequent colour choice for engagements.
Each time Meghan has worn black she has faced backlash labelling her as a protocol breaker, a tradition renouncer, a sartorial nightmare.
Not to mention, on occasions where she’s opted for an off-the-shoulder dress the entire world acts as though a it’s crime against humanity.
It’s as though any excuse to pile onto a woman who has entered into a completely different world – still learning the new expectations of her – will be taken advantage of.
WHAT ABOUT WALLIS SIMPSON?
The Duchess isn’t the first American to marry into the British royal family. In fact, she isn’t even the first female divorcee to marry a prince either.
Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson married former Prince of Wales Edward VIII in 1937, sparking a mass family feud and the abdication of the then-king.
Divorcees were forbidden from marrying a royal and an American Queen Consort was unheard of. 80 years later, formerly married Californian actress Meghan was to be married to Prince Harry.
Many fans and extremely conservative commentators often refer to Meghan by the term ‘Wallis’ and rarely utter her real name. This can be identified as a derogatory term for the Duchess due to the Edward and Wallis connotations, namely their widely discussed Nazi sympathiser attitudes during World War II.
Like Meghan, one of Wallis’ favoured designers was coincidentally Hubert de Givenchy. This tid-bit has been fixated on by the anti-Meghan agenda.
Comparison to Wallis was to be expected and the Queen’s progressive decision to approve a union with a divorcee is also noteworthy.
But, the relentless efforts to draw similarities between Meghan and Wallis and the use of the latter’s name as a derogatory term for the Duchess of Sussex are antics that only add to the list of vitriol this new royal has been subjected to through no wrongdoing of her own.
At the end of the day, Meghan isn’t a Nazi sympathiser and Harry hasn’t renounced his family to marry his bride, rendering the Wallis comparisons redundant.
SOCIAL MEDIA FEUDS
Keyboard warriors are a societal scrounge the royal family had previously been immune to.
Yes, there have been the occasional rude or undesirable comment was made but the royal family were never confronted with the torrents of concerning online comments experienced in the celebrity sphere.
That is until online accounts began pinning Prince William and Catherine against Prince Harry and Meghan against one another.
While this isn’t unusual behaviour in popular culture – Twilight’s Edwards versus Jacob and DC’s Batman versus Superman spring to mind – yet these often-unforgiving comparisons are of a different ilk.
The comments from accounts pledging their ‘support’ for the Cambridge family often feature undertones of racism, sexism and superiority complexes when addressing Sussex fan pages or replying to news coverage of Meghan.
Conversely, pages in ‘support’ of the Sussex family regularly attack Catherine for her wrinkles, her ‘lack of a voice,’ and her upper-class background.
Across the board, substandard language is a given yet the backlash towards the Duchess of Sussex is almost always underscored by sexist or racist tones and the language utilised is downright vile.
THE SILVER LINING
This article may paint a grim picture of the future for the Duchess of Sussex. However, she is undeniably the best thing to have happened to the royal family in years.
Meghan is the most relatable woman in the entire family and is the best representative of a modern woman.
This modern woman has a voice, is self-sufficient, cares about her fellow women and is actively involved in trying – little by little – to make improve society.
Whether through her feminist, environmental or racial advocacy, Meghan is a Duchess we can all embrace and view as a beacon of light for the future of the monarchy. Some will find this terrifying but most will find it an exciting prospect.
In order to unleash the potential of the unconventional Duchess, it’s time the traditionalists took off the blinkers and shifted the focus away from traditions of the past to embrace the royal of the future.
Image by Rachael Sharman