The world may be obsessed with William, Harry, Meghan, Kate and..well, just about everything they do.
Thanks to the enduring legacy left behind by Princess Diana, who rocked the British monarchy to its core, her sons have – unwillingly or not – followed directly into her footsteps. On the one hand, they are continuing her selfless good work and championing causes close to their hearts, but on the other, they are both players and victims to a relentless media cycle fuelled by the British tabloids, in particular.
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Most recently, Meghan and Harry have all but gone rogue as displayed by their ITV documentary Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, a one-hour programme hosted by Harry’s long-time confidant, broadcast journalist Tom Bradby, which was intended to highlight the philanthropic work they were doing during their tour; but instead turned into a frenzy of gossip.
Harry describes his mother’s death, 20 years on, as a “wound that festers” and said he refuses to play the [media] game which played a role in it. The Telegraph posed the question: ‘Is this Harry’s Panorama moment?’, referring to Diana’s infamous interview in 1995 in which she said there were three people in her marriage to Prince Charles, referring to his now-wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
By all means, it’s a harrowing commentary which only a handful of people in the world might be able to comprehend. But, being frank, bickering behind palace gates about protocols, sibling rivalry and tantrums over tiaras by men and women who are literal queens and princes, is as juicy as it gets for us common folk.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of royalty in Europe and beyond, and while they are aware more than ever for the need of self-preservation, there are plenty of royal houses that have weathered their fair share of controversy in recent years. During each scandal, it is hailed as ‘the beginning of the end’ for each respective country’s monarchy. But the crown, no matter on whose head it sits, was built to endure.
Most recently, in Sweden, Prince Carl Philip’s choice of bride in 2015 wasn’t without its criticism. he had been dating Sofia Hellqvist (now the Duchess of Värmland) for six years before their wedding and in an interview earlier this year, Sofia opened up about just how difficult it was to be publicly vilified for her past.
Her crimes? She was a former glamour model, who posed topless on one occasion with a snake, was named Miss Slitz (so called after a men’s magazine) and enjoyed a stint on a reality tv show called Paradise Hotel.
“It was very tough. People had comments on everything possible, on what I do and how I look,” she told TV4 in July.
“I was met with an enormous hate storm from people who had opinions about me as a person, about my relationship. I was surprised and it definitely affected me. I didn’t understand that people had such need to express how badly they felt about me. It was very tough.”
And while some were quick to point out elements of her career they found unsavoury, her work with children well before her wedding went largely ignored.
In 2005, she lived in New York where she studied accounting and business development and work as a waitress to support herself. She then studied at Stockholm University where she studied global ethics, child and youth science, children’s communication and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
After that, she established the Sofia Hellqvist Project Playground, which supports underprivileged children in South Africa; similar to Meghan Markle’s work as a World Vision ambassador years before she even met Harry.
The country was already accustomed to the aftermath of its leaders trading it all in for love: King Gustaf ascended the throne in 1973 and within a year, Sweden’s modern monarchy stripped the role of any legislative powers. In 1976, he married Silvia Sommerlath, a German interpreter he met at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and after their wedding, she was named Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.
Gustaf has the most influence over deciding who, if anyone, receives royal titles, what they are – and if they will be revoked (as was the case with his sister Christina who was removed from the royal house after marrying a non-Swedish man). He later established a practice of marrying outside nobility, which was followed by all three of his children.
In royal circles, one’s choice of partner becomes part of public discourse because of the public’s ever-complication relationship with the crown. In Norway, when Crown Prince Haakon married single mother and former waitress Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby in 2001, she was forced to give an interview condemning any controversial elements of her past, including exposure to drugs.
Her ex-partner Morten Borg, and the father of her son Marius Borg Høiby, was convicted of violence, drunk driving and cocaine possession. “My youthful rebellion was stronger than it was for many people,” she said, sobbing, in 2001 in a press conference with her future-husband.
“We stepped over limits, and I’m very sorry about that. It was important for me to live in defiance of what was accepted.”
Even Haakon’s younger sister Princess Märtha Louise, who is fourth in line to the throne, has given up her title publicly after she was accused of monetising it while touring with her boyfriend, a shaman, and claiming she can communicate with angels.
It’s of little surprise the Norwegians have been dubbed the ‘most fun royals in the world’ by newspapers.
Similarly, in The Netherlands, King Willem Alexander (then Prince) announced his engagement to financial sales director Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in 2002 after three years of dating. On paper, marrying outside nobility was par for the course by the early noughties, but what was unusual was Máxima’s familial circumstances.
Her father Jorge Zorreguieta was a high ranking politician involved in Argentina’s brutal regime under President Jorge Rafael Videla.
The criticism was so unwavering that Jorge was not invited to their wedding, a decision which Máxima said she understood as being part of her royal duties.
In Luxembourg, the former Princess Tessy (née Tessy Antony) was branded a “gold digger” by an unforgiving press during her 2018 divorce from Prince Louis. The former couple married in 2006 and have two children, before they split in an acrimonious divorce last year.
Louis, who met his former wife in the army, was forced to give up his right to the throne as they had a child out of wedlock.
Now living in London, Tessy said her oldest brother no longer speaks to her for bringing such intense scrutiny in their family for so many years.
“My family suffered greatly when I married into the family. My little cousin needed to change school twice,” she told Sky News. “My twin brother was incredibly bullied a work – still is today – my sister, my parents suffered…my oldest brother doesn’t talk to me any more because of that, because it was too much for him to handle,” she told Sky News last year.
And how could we forget the runaway bride fiasco that was Monaco’s royal wedding in 2010? The rumours that Charlene Wittstock, the South African Olympic swimmer, had her passport removed at Nice Airport as she reportedly attempted to flee Monte Carlo days before her wedding haunted their wedding day. The pictures of her in hysterical tears walking down the aisle did little to deter the rumours. (She later called the speculation “categorical lies”.)
In comparison, two brothers having a falling out isn’t exactly the headline of the year is it?
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