Meghan Markle and Prince Harry aren’t giving critics an inch.
Britain’s Duchess of Sussex announced earlier this month that she is suing the Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter she wrote her father Thomas Markle, claiming it breaches copyright infringement. The couple launched a website specifically for the purpose of the announcement in which they denounced their treatment by the British press and Harry invoked his mother Princess Diana’s memory, saying his “deepest fear is history repeating itself”.
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“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces,” he wrote.
Harry is also suing The Sun and The Mirror alleging phone hacking dating back to the early noughties. Notably, he’s using a separate law firm Schillings – who traditionally work with high profile celebrities – over the royal family’s usual roster of lawyers. They have also hired a separate communications team, mixed of British and American experts, in their attempt to carve out a role independent of what has so far been expected of them.
Their decision to sue was, as Harry said, “not the safe one, but the right one” left his feelings towards journalists in no uncertain terms and could potentially launch a backlash from upset editors.
On Tuesday night, Meghan made a solo appearance at the One Young World Summit in London, a four-day event which she has been involved in for a number of years, holding her head high and ‘putting on a brave face’.
But her choice to re-wear a purple Aritzia dress is no coincidence: she debuted the midi dress last year while six months pregnant and has been incorporating a number of her maternity clothes into her post-partum wardrobe.
Not only did it allow the focus to shine entirely on the event – although her spectacularly styled hair was an undeniable talking point – it was a note to critics who accuse her of spending too much on clothes.
It echoed her appearance last week alongside Harry at the WellChild Awards, which celebrates the UK’s seriously ill children and their carers, even more notable and Meghan’s decision to continue her habit of outfit recycling a safe one.
For much of the couple’s South Africa tour, Meghan wore either an outfit repeat or a similar trenchcoat dress throughout. It was a strong statement that while she could not comment directly on the criticism aimed at her, but she could communicate through her wardrobe and seems to be shunning the lavish ensembles which have drawn consistent judgement is the cost of her wardrobe.
Her decision to re-wear the green P.A.R.O.S.H. dress from her engagement interview with Harry back in 2017 was an easy victory and a simply way of combating a potential problem before it became one. The Sussexes are at a time when some are looking for any reason to comment and instead of debuting a new €5,000 ensemble, as she did for last year’s WellChild Awards, she ensures the focus stays on their message of goodwill.
Wardrobe ‘recycling’ – a term which often draws ire – is a clever way for a royal to appear down-to-earth and by choosing this particular dress, worn on what was the biggest moment of her life becomes a simple manoeuvre to which she can remind some of the public of that beloved interview between a young couple in love.
The couple pulled out all the stops ensuring positive coverage, competing for column inches with Kate Middleton and Prince William in Pakistan, when Harry spoke emotionally about becoming a father.
“Last year when my wife and I attended we knew we were expecting our first child – no one else did at the time, but we did,” he said.
“And I remember squeezing Meghan’s hand so tight during the awards, both of us thinking what it would be like to be parents one day, and more so, what it would be like to do everything we could to protect and help our child should they be born with immediate challenges or become unwell over time.
“And now, as parents, being here and speaking to all of you pulls at my heart strings in a way I could have never understood until I had a child of my own.”
The couple have taken an aggressive PR approach to their public appearances: there is no more overt PDAs, no more flashy ensembles, but instead, using clothing as armour to echo the sentiments they made in their ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.
“When I first met my now husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy. But my British friends said to me: ‘I’m sure he’s great. But you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life,” Meghan explained in the programme.
“I’ve said for a long time to H (that’s what I call [Harry]), it’s not enough to just survive something, right? Like, that’s not the point of life. You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy.”
Meanwhile, their decision to be so open has polarised pundits: some say it’s a slap in the face to the ‘heritage business’ of the monarchy, according to PR expert Mark Borkowski in The Guardian, while others praised their openness when discussing mental health struggles. If you ask others, CNN’s Max Foster said a Buckingham Palace source is crediting them with “single handedly modernising the monarchy.”
Privately, it’s believed Prince William is concerned for the couple as they appeared fragile during the interview process.
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