Prince Harry has had relationships before, often for several years at a time, usually with horse-loving blonde home counties types. But never has a girl changed his personality before.
He has always remained (and emerged afterwards) as the same happy go lucky bloke with the cheeky ready smile, universally liked and popular with everyone who encounters him. Caring too and committed to patronisng many worthy charities in the memory and footsteps of his late mother.
This time things are different.
Reader, he married her.
At first everyone is delighted and charmed. Here is a genuine 'breath of fresh air' joining the Royal Family, American and mixed race to boot. Stylishly dressed and made up on every occasion in modest yet figure flattering designer outfits, Meghan's joining 'The Firm' will surely bring the Royals into the modern age, if Prince William marrying Kate Middleton, another commoner, several years previously had not.
Meghan has a brief 'starter marriage' behind her, but she loves dogs and children and alarm bells were slow to ring, unless of course you count her rather unorthodox wedding where she called many of the shots on everything from choice of preacher to flower arrangements with the royal band excluded, notwithstanding her side of the chapel was decidedly empty, except for her mother Doria.
Her estranged father gave some embarrassing media interviews begging her to reconcile with him, joined eventually by her equally embarrassing elder step-sister, but this provoked public sympathy rather than otherwise as her relations were clearly 'on the make' looking to cash in on Meghan's new Royal status, unlike her mother, who remained quietly dignified.
All in all though, this marriage looks like it will be a major and internationally unifying union, a reboot to any stuffy notions about the Royal Family and a clear sign that it has learned from the tragic saga that was Princess Diana's life and is embracing new and more progressive times.
Trolls and cynics abide in manageable numbers at this point.
Fast forward 19 months since the wedding and Prince Harry;
1. No longer sees his former friends
2. Is no longer close to his brother William, who had always been his closest ally
3. Following an unprecedented seven week hiatus away from his birth family over the festive season and holed up with Meghan in Canada, he has come home to be rude to his beloved Grandma, the Queen - a move to separate him from his country? Tellingly baby Archie has been left behind in Canada - collateral in the face of any obstacles against stepping down from Royal duties...?
4. The latest is that Prince Harry has voiced fears for his 'mental health', which suggests a man torn - perhaps between two ultimatums: ie; 'It's me and the baby or your family. Which are you going to choose' v 'It's your family or your wife and baby. Which are you going to choose?' It may not be a decision to step back for him so much as an agonising dilemma with unbearable pressure and conflicts of love and loyalty on both sides. And of course his family is no ordinary family. Not as easy to turn his back on as, say, Meghan's father was for her.
Too fantastical to believe?
Well I am not the first to comment on the personality change in Prince Harry from easy going bloke up for a laugh and a joke to worried looking 'Prince of Woke.' He has changed everything from his style, attitude and habits to his diet, and all since he met Meghan. This is a classic sign of being in a coercive relationship. Coercive relationships work a bit like a cult. A predator targets someone they wish to manipulate, charms and convinces them that they are what they need/all they need/their soulmate and it's them against the world, plays on their weaknesses and exploits them. Their target can be highly intelligent but still possess emotional vulnerabilities (Harry lost his mother at a young age for example and will always feel that void). A predator will then begin to convince their target that friends and family are bad for them or don't have their best interests at heart like they do, just by sowing seeds of doubt in their minds or playing on a perceived fault or failing in a friend or loved one until it becomes a full blown estrangement or feud.
This behaviour is more common than people think, hence there are now laws against coercive control in the UK and it is classified as a form of abuse in a relationship. Coercive control doesn't always involve physical or emotional violence (or taking charge of a target's bank account and keeping them short of money) either, just manipulation and the victim slowing losing control of their life and sense of self and sanity as divide and rule takes effect. It can be perpetuated by either gender and either gender can be a victim.
In Meghan's case she has gained a real Prince along with a title, a baby and a world stage for any woke charitable foundation she cares to found. She is known the world over (which she wasn't as an actress) and has also gained a bevy of powerful celebrity friends including Michelle Obama, the Clooneys and the Beckhams, people she probably wouldn't have been best buds with otherwise. Moreover she has gained money and a share of the Duchy of Cornwall pie, just as her career in Suits was probably nearing its final season and her acting career about to wane. There is now talk of book deals, Netflix films and a whole host of projects being lined up on the back of her brief career as a Royal. Harry, as the potential victim, also has a subconscious trigger for playing along - here is the independent woman he loves breaking free from the Royals but attempting to keep her status, just as his beloved mother tried to a generation ago, only she was not allowed to emigrate with him and William as the direct heirs to the throne.
So what evidence is there?
Apart from obediently pulling the plug on her lifestyle website and personal social media accounts for the sake of Royal protocol when she got engaged, how hard has Meghan actually tried to be a Royal, knowing it was a complete lifestyle change, incompatible with being the strong independent feminist she claimed to be, and doubtless well briefed by Harry and others as to what she would be letting herself in for?
Has she even realised there is a difference between being a celebrity and being a Royal and that the two are mutually exclusive? Is she trying to create some kind of hybrid in MeghanMania ™ world? Just as there is a difference between environmentalism and conspicuous consumerism including private jets and mashed avocado and the two are mutually exclusive.
1. She stage managed her own Royal wedding and refused to let her father attend, rather turning it into a celebrity-laden gathering to showcase herself and her marriage and substituting her own choice of preacher, music and decorations. No Royal bride has ever exercised this level of control over a Royal wedding.
2.She arrogantly turned down a plush apartment at Kensington Palace insisting that Frogmore Cottage be refurbished to her taste at huge public expense.
3. Meghan retained her Manhattan PR agency throughout her courtship and marriage. Why? What possible use could she have for them in her new permanently changed life as a member of the British Royal Family?
4. She had the Sussex Royal website created a full 9 months before the announcement they wanted to step back from Royal duties and move to Canada.
5. She had various friends leak her 'struggles' within her new role, akin to Princess Diana's 'cries for help'.
6. She upstaged Princess Eugenie's wedding by announcing her pregnancy on the same day.
7. She upstaged Harry by appearing at a presentation he was hosting and making a cringe-worthy speech of her own, even though not scheduled to do so.
8. There was the extravagant jet-set baby 'shower' in New York bankrolled by the Clooneys
9. There was the strange pregnancy without end where everyone waited for weeks for an announcement and even the date and venue of birth kept changing (to the point there were suspicions of a surrogate).
10. Then baby Archie was hidden for weeks, cameras not even allowed at the Christening.
11. There was the embarrassing 'Not many people have asked if I'm ok' interview in the midst of their African tour, which seemed to be more about them and their first world problems than the deprivation all around them.
12.There was a free holiday at Elton John's gaff by private jet, after which Sir Elton infamously claimed to have offset the carbon used via a donation to an environmental charity (a claim that backfired).
13. She guest-edited Vogue with a feature 'Forces of Change' featuring many of her inspirational women friends without seeking Royal approval.
14. There was the 7 week break from Royal duties and spending Christmas with the Royals as tradition expects.
15. There is now the extraordinary announcement that they intend to 'step back' from Royal duties and emigrate to North America without prior agreement or negotiation with the Queen and on their terms - ie keeping Frogmore cottage and other Royal perks, despite claiming to wish to become financially independent.
16. Finally there was the telling comment from Prince Harry's own lips; 'What Meghan wants Meghan gets...'
I don't doubt the newspaper scrutiny has been an irritant and bane to the Sussexes, but they have not helped themselves with their strange self-entitled behaviour and refusal to play ball and throw some bones to the press in terms of the standard event pictures and interviews they would expect to participate in as Royals. And let's face it they have also failed to play ball and work with the Royal Family itself, despite being members of it! It is a bit like actors accepting roles for a long-running play but then refusing to follow the script. Harry knew the drill when it came to how to play the media, but has clearly been overruled by his wife. As for Meghan, she is no shrinking violet when she wants media attention. And she clearly does want to play a centre stage role in the world. It just has to be on her terms.
One thing is for sure. Harry has not been wearing the pants in this relationship. Meghan has been the driver from day one and she definitely has an agenda, even if she has made some ill-judged moves and gaffes along the way, and Meghan is definitely at the heart of her own agenda.
It will be interesting to see how the Sussex story plays out from now on. I suspect the plans to break free from the Royal Family but still enjoy Royal perks will backfire for this couple somehow. I thought Meghan would wait until at least baby no. 2 before making such a dramatic move, though I assumed it would be in the form of a marriage split rather than trying to disrupt the actual core structure of the Royal Family.
I also suspect she won't hold onto her current level of power and influence, over either Harry or the world. When all is said and done Meghan is no match for the Queen, whatever she tells herself.
Laura King © 2020