Backlash as press revels in royal feud claims

Family: Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, has condemned the “cruel and heartless” attacks on his daughter.

Are Meghan and Kate victims of sexism? Reports of tears and explosive rows between the Duchesses have sparked claims that the media is unfairly pitting the women against each other.

“Meghan made Kate cry,” blared The Sun’s front page. Over the last week, a press storm has taken hold.

Rumours of a rift first surfaced when it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan are leaving Kensington Palace, where they live with Prince William and Kate, for Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. The couple is expecting their first child in the spring.

The resignation of Meghan’s assistant after six months in the role added to the furore, with unnamed sources describing the Duchess of Sussex as “difficult and demanding”.

Tabloid stories are circulating that Meghan’s bossiness made Kate cry during a dress fitting for Princess Charlotte, while The Sun claimed the two women had an “explosive row” after Meghan was rude to Kate’s staff.

“This never happened,” said Kensington Palace, firmly denying the rumours.

Whatever the truth, the story has provoked a debate about sexism in the media.

“Our appetite for salacious gossip is trumped only by our appetite for pitting women against one another,” writes journalist Bek Day.

Much of the narrative has focused on the perceived differences between the women. Meghan is an American actress and vocal feminist, while Kate, who is from a wealthy English family, is seen as more reserved and traditional.

Day says this plays on stereotypes of women as either bossy and uncontrollable, or quiet and obedient.

Meghan is no stranger to media scrutiny. When the couple had just started dating two years ago, Harry released a statement accusing the press of subjecting his girlfriend to a “wave of abuse” with “racial overtones”.

In the run-up to her wedding, feverish focus on Meghan’s paternal family culminated in her father, Thomas Markle, not attending the event.

Before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married, Kate was called “Waity Katie” when the press thought William was taking too long to propose.

William and Harry are also understood to be distrustful of the media for its treatment of their late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

Are Meghan and Kate victims of sexism?

Royal rift

Absolutely, say some. The coverage of their relationship plays on old stereotypes of women as catty and jealous. It is perfectly possible for two successful, high-profile women to get along, and the media’s insistence on pitting them against each other is clearly sexist. Men simply don’t have to face the same scrutiny.

It’s not about gender, reply others. Kate and Meghan are two very famous people. The press should have the right to examine a relationship that could have an impact on the royal family, one of the UK’s most important institutions. Besides, there is also speculation about Harry, who has been accused of being “dictatorial”.

You Decide

  1. Does the press treat women in a sexist way?
  2. Would you like to be a member of the royal family?

Activities

  1. Write down a list of words that you associate with the royal family. Do they reveal anything interesting to you? Are they more negative or positive? Have a class show of hands on who thinks the royal family should be abolished, and who doesn’t.
  2. Write your own opinion piece for a newspaper or magazine that expresses your view on the “royal rift”. Is it fair game or sexist speculation?

Some People Say...

“Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.”

Claud Cockburn

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Duchess of Sussex, more commonly known as Meghan Markle, has been at the centre of a media storm that claims she and her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, or Kate Middleton, do not get along. The tabloid reports include stories that suggest Meghan is bossy and controlling, while Kate is over-emotional and jealous.
What do we not know?
Whether there is any truth to the rumours. Many commentators have suggested the rumours of fights have been exaggerated because the press likes to artificially create feuds between high-profile women, based on out-of-date ideas about women being jealous and competitive. There are perfectly reasonable explanations for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s move to Windsor, such as their need for more space and desire to raise their child outside of London.

Word Watch

Furore
An explosion of public interest or anger about something.
Unnamed sources
Dramatic reports claim that royal staff are “hunting” for the person who spread these rumours to the press.
Tabloid
Traditionally, tabloids have smaller pages and contain more sensational stories than broadsheet newspapers.
Scrutiny
Observed or examined in a critical way.
Paternal
Her family on her father’s side. Meghan’s parents are divorced and she is close with her mother, Doria Ragland. Shortly before the wedding, it emerged that Thomas Markle staged pictures of himself preparing for the nuptials in exchange for money. Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Markle, has frequently appeared in the press to criticise the Duchess, who she has not seen for many years.
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris after her car was chased by paparazzi photographers in 1997. The driver of her car, Henri Paul, was drunk at the time. He and her partner, Dodi Fayed, also died.
Stereotypes
A common but oversimplified idea of a particular type of person. They often contribute to discrimination.