I was on Team Maybe Tina Brown Will Really Dish The Royal Dirt, but I was wrong. I admit that fully, I was totally wrong about Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers. I thought she was doing the thing that some royal commentators do, criticizing the royals under the guise of embiggening them. Not so much – The Palace Papers is apparently deeply sourced within Camp Cambridge, meaning it’s a litany of bullsh-t about how everything the Duchess of Sussex did was completely wrong. The WaPo review of the book points out Brown’s clear bias towards the Duchess of Cambridge, and Brown’s blind spot when it comes to how f–king racist the Windsors and the British press were to Meghan. Here are some lowlights from The Palace Papers:
Before Meghan, Harry & William fought about patronages: Intriguingly, she says that the relationship between the two siblings began to decline long before the destabilising arrival of Meghan Markle. ‘Friction between the brothers escalated over their professional alignments,’ Brown writes. ‘William knew he had to be respectful of hierarchy when it came to his father’s ownership of the environmental platform, but he was less willing to accede to his brother.’ For his part, Harry felt William was ‘hogging the best briefs’, a rivalry especially keen over their joint interests in Africa and conservation. Brown claims that Harry wanted the prestigious rhino and elephant charity the Tusk Trust, of which William had been patron since 2005. ‘Harry was a very, very angry man. I think those were absolutely Olympic rows,’ she quotes a friend of the brothers as saying.
William is terrible public speaker: ‘If William makes a speech, everything from “Good evening” onwards has to be typed out and handed to him,’ a charity official tells her. ‘When he came to our dining club one evening, as soon as he got up to speak he froze.’ Harry knew how to work a room like his grandfather Prince Philip, starting with a joke to break the ice.
When Harry Met Meghan: She and the prince became ‘drunk on a shared fantasy of being the instruments of global transformation who, once married, would operate in the celebrity stratosphere once inhabited by Princess Diana’.
Meghan is horrible for being a good public speaker: The world caught a glimpse of this power grab at the unveiling of the so-called ‘Fab Four’, when Meghan articulately spoke with all her actressy skill at a meeting of their Royal Foundation, which had set up the Heads Together mental health charity. ‘Harry looked on with awe and his brother and Kate stood by with expressionless irritation,’ Brown writes. ‘When it was Kate’s moment to speak, she was strikingly less articulate, as well as brief.’
Dusty palace courtiers had no idea how to harness Meghan’s charisma: So far so glamorous, but what Palace insiders saw as Meghan’s ‘wilful blindness to institutional culture’ was a clash with the actress’s world view. ‘In the ranking system of the entertainment world, star power — wattage — equals leverage . . . Alas, she seemed oblivious to the one critical factor that would determine the outcome of her plans for the future: primogeniture.’
Meghan got freebies, oh no: In the book, Brown shines a fascinating and waspish light on Meghan’s life just as she was meeting Harry and how her then blog, The Tig, was a dragnet for luxury freebies. ‘She won a reputation among the marketers of luxury brands of being warmly interested in receiving bags of designer swag.’ A publicist is quoted as saying she had been copied in to a message from a member of Meghan’s team after she became Duchess of Sussex. ‘Make sure [the publicist] knows that she can still send me anything. She’s always been one of the good ones.’
Meghan’s conclusion after the South Pacific Tour: Her view, according to Brown, was that ‘the monarchy likely needed her more than she needed them. ‘She had starred in the equivalent of a blockbuster film and wanted her leading-lady status to be reflected in lights’.
Here’s the thing, I’ve never believed that Meghan is a saint who walks on water, but it’s increasingly ridiculous for biographers to continue to lay the blame for everything at Meghan’s feet. Say what you will, but Meghan f–king TRIED. She tried to learn about how to work within the institution. She tried to find ways to follow “the rules” (which kept changing to only apply to her) while still doing good work. And they trashed her, they lied about her, they spread smears about her, they tried to bully her out of the country.
Also: the freebies thing is so bizarre, of course actors get freebies from designers. Meghan had a celebrity profile and an Instagram account and her own blog. Of course companies were sending her things.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Instar and Backgrid.