In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year: Great Britain’s Prince Harry is marrying American actress Meghan Markle on Saturday, May 19. The news coverage has mostly been glowing. Does the media never get fed up with the term “fairy tale?” Apparently not. But when they get back from their honeymoon, Harry and Meghan should sit down with their advisors and review their media strategy. They need to make some changes – fast.
Up to now, the couple has mostly been flying high on a cloud of positive coverage. Sure, anti-monarchists have been harping about the cost. They do that with every royal wedding. And, as usual, the general public doesn’t care. Royal weddings are too much fun. But the other negative story that keeps cropping up is Meghan’s troubled family. Her dad, Thomas Markle, used to be a lighting director in Hollywood, but he filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and now lives a reclusive life in Mexico. Her half-brother, Thomas Markle, Jr., was arrested last year after a drunken altercation in which he reportedly held a gun to his girlfriend’s head. Her half-sister, Samantha Grant, claims Meghan cut off contact with her after she was diagnosed with MS.
The media will naturally have an interest in this, but Meghan turned a side bar into a major story by not inviting her half-siblings to her wedding. (It appears her dad will be there). They are now giving interviews to every media outlet that will host them to say how hurt they are and how Meghan has become too good for her home.
Thomas, Jr., talked to the British Tabloid Daily Mirror about the non-invite. “It’s torn my entire family apart… I’m not bitter, just baffled. It’s hurtful given how close we once were. Meg likes to portray herself as a humanitarian, a people’s person and a charitable person but she is none of those things to her family.”
Of course, there are always two sides to every story. It is unlikely that Thomas, Jr., and Samantha are the totally innocent victims of Meghan’s snobbishness. They may have truly wronged her. But the fact is: she should have sucked it up and invited them. It would have stopped them from constantly badmouthing her. And it’s not like anyone would be offended by their presence. We all have a few relatives we wish we could forget.
In fact, Meghan’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, knows all about this problem. Kate’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, has been married four times, talks about his famous niece to the media, and was secretly filmed offering cocaine to an undercover journalist. He arguably is as bad as any member of the Markle clan. Did Kate still invite him to her wedding? Yes, she did. She made a statement that family is family, no matter how much you disapprove of their behavior. Ms. Markle should have followed Kate’s example.
And it doesn’t seem like Harry is giving his fiancée very good advice. He even fanned the flames of this story in January when he said in a radio interview that Meghan loved spending Christmas with him and the royal family because “it’s the family that I suppose she’s never had.”
That gave Samantha an opening to shoot back on Twitter, “She has a large family. She always did. Our dad is amazing and completely self sacrificing. We made it so that she had two houses. How fun it was!” Even pro-royal media outlets covered Samantha’s Tweet because Harry’s comments had made Meghan’s family a legit news story.
And this is hardly the first time he has put his foot in his mouth. Harry should consider the example of his grandmother, the Queen, who has never given an interview. He’s given a ton of them and they regularly land him in hot water.
For example, in 2017, he talked to Newsweek about walking behind the coffin of his mother, Princess Diana, at her funeral in 1997. His words were widely interpreted as a scathing criticism of his father Prince Charles. “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today,” he said.
The interview caused such an uproar that he quickly had to backpedal and tell the BBC that he was “very glad” he could be part of the funeral. He praised his father Prince Charles, saying, “He was there for us.”
Harry and Meghan should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the positive coverage they’re currently receiving. British royal weddings are beloved around the world and no one wants to spoil the party. But once it’s over, the media will be hunting for a new story to cover. Harry and Meghan would do well to consider the words attributed to Pythagoras, “A fool is known by his speech; and a wise man by silence.” They need to rethink their behavior and learn from their mistakes. Once their real honeymoon is over, their honeymoon with the media will be over too.
[Image Credit: By Mark Jones [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]