- Meghan Markle recently said she was “unprotected” from the British tabloids and that her Kensington Palace press team didn’t allow her to respond to articles written about her.
- While Kensington Palace declined to comment on the statement, royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams said the palace’s media policy is to reply to only the most “serious” articles.
- That could explain why Buckingham Palace was quick to defend Prince Andrew when he was first linked to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking scandal.
- However, Kensington Palace recently criticised a Tatler profile of Middleton which claimed she was upset about increased royal duties.
- There are a number of factors that could have contributed to the palace’s decision to defend Middleton and not Markle, including the Duchess of Sussex’s reported strained relationship with her aides.
- It has also been suggested that Middleton is treated differently because she is future Queen, and therefore higher in rank than Markle.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Duchess of Sussex has said she was “unprotected” and “prohibited from defending herself” from the media scrutiny when she was a royal.
In court documents filed for Meghan Markle’s lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday, her lawyers said that Kensington Palace didn’t give Markle the option to set the record straight on false stories.
“The stance of ‘no comment’ was taken by the KP Communications Team without any discussion with or approval by the Claimant, as is standard practice for Royal communications,” the duchess’ legal spokesperson said.
Kensington Palace declined to comment when contacted by Insider on Thursday.
The duchess’ statement that this “is standard practice” is perplexing. After all, the palace press team recently denounced a Tatler profile of Kate Middleton which claimed she was upset about the large workload she has been given.
A spokesperson for the duchess said the profile contained a “swathe of inaccuracies and false misrepresentation.”
Not to mention, Buckingham Palace defended Prince Andrew after he was accused of having links to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking scandal last year, and denied claims that he was “forced” to resign from royal duties.
Therefore, if Markle’s statement about being “prohibited” from responding to the press is true, then it’s worth investigating why this is the case for some royals, and not for others.
The palace has a policy of only responding to the press on the ‘most serious occasions’
Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator and former editor of “The International Who’s Who” said that it depends on what the press office deems the most serious articles.
“The royals and particularly senior members of the British royal family are the subject of enormous attention, both domestic and global,” Fitzwilliams told Insider.
“Royal press offices therefore do have a ‘no comment’ rule, on all but the most serious occasions and with good reason.
“They did speak out against the loathsomely cynical portrayal of Kate in Tatler, but this is rare,” he added.
Markle’s legal team say she endured “hundreds of thousands of inaccurate articles about her” – and they weren’t exaggerating.
There were 246,525 articles written about Markle between May 2019 and April 2020, according to digital PR agency Banc.
There were far less articles written about Middleton and Prince Andrew during that same period, with 96,460 on Middleton and 72,125 on Prince Andrew.
Fitzwilliams said it is typical for the press office not to respond to reports of this volume.
“If a tabloid believed it would automatically get a response from a palace there would be an added layer of sensation,” he said.
However, defining what the most “serious” stories are could be subjective. While reports on Prince Andrew’s links to Jeffrey Epstein could have dangerous implications for both him and Buckingham Palace, the same cannot be said for Middleton’s Tatler profile.
The article – titled “Catherine the Great” – included rumours that she had a fight with Markle over bridesmaids’ tights, and that she was upset about the larger workload she received as a result of Markle and Harry resigning.
Compare that to the stories that have been written about Markle over the years. For instance, the claims that she made expensive home renovations with taxpayers’ money and reports that she had completely cut her father out of her life after becoming a royal – both of which the duchess’ lawyers later said were untrue – influenced a largely negative public perception of Markle.
Markle had a strained relationship with the palace
Markle’s strained relationship with the palace may have been a contributing factor towards the miscommunication, or a result of it.
“However, from what Meghan’s legal team have said, the ‘no comment’ rule on reports in the press was applied ‘without any discussion with or approval by the Claimant,'” Fitzwilliams said.
“She was left with ‘tremendous emotional distress’ and damage to her mental health. Her relations with her own press team sound truly dreadful. One does wonder how it reached this state,” Fitzwilliams added.
The duchess’ struggles with palace staff is something that was reported on long before she resigned.
In March 2019, Tatler reported that Markle had been given the nickname “Me-Gain” by palace staff because of how much “trouble” she was to work with.
Markle and Harry’s announcement was made on their Instagram account, and it was hours before Buckingham Palace responded with its own statement.
This led to rumours that Markle and Harry didn’t inform their press team of the announcement beforehand – although they insist that discussions were held with the Queen and Prince Charles.
According to royal author Tom Quinn, it was always believed that the duchess would eventually distance herself from the palace press office.
“Royal courtiers at Kensington – the same tweedy, British, public school, ex-army aristocrats they have always been – simply did not know what to make of Meghan,” Quinn wrote in the book “Kensington Palace: An Intimate Memoir from Queen Mary to Meghan Markle.”
“After receiving a number of severe reprimands from her they were apparently relieved when she moved to Windsor, but this relief was tempered by deep anxiety at what she might do next.”
He added: “When Edward Lane Fox, Harry’s private secretary, resigned in 2018, the feeling was that Meghan planned to do her own PR – always a high-risk strategy, but ‘at least it will all happen some distance from Kensington Palace and the heir to the throne,’ as one former royal public relations man put it.”
The palace might be more protective over the Duchess of Cambridge because she’s the future Queen
Royal commentator Aubrey Hansen argued that Middleton is more protected by the institution because she is higher in royal rank than Markle.
“Meghan Markle fans won’t want to hear it, but their idol isn’t on the same level as Kate Middleton,” Hansen wrote in CCN in June.
“Kate Middleton is the wife of the future King of Great Britain. She’s going to be the Queen Consort. Meghan Markle is the wife of the guy who’s sixth in the line of succession to the British throne,” she said.
Hansen added: “The Royal Family isn’t going to change its media policy for a rank and file duchess. If they did, they’d never be out of court, as we see minor royals get bashed and ridiculed by the media all the time.”
It’s worth noting that this has never been confirmed by the palace, nor has the royals’ press policy.
However, a royal source previously told People that the duchesses were “very clear” on their difference in rank.
“Meghan is very aware that Kate [Middleton] will be queen; their roles are very clear,” the source told People, as cited by The Sun.
“Meghan doesn’t fit the mould while Kate was groomed for this. What’s challenging is when they are pitted against each other,” the source added.
Another possibility could be that Middleton already had a good relationship with the press – which subsequently makes things easier for her communications office.
Former royal protection officer Simon Morgan previously told Insider that the duchess has an unspoken agreement with the tabloids.
Middleton takes the official photos for her children’s birthdays each year, and she allows the tabloid press to print them. She also shares the photos on Instagram.
According to Morgan, this is a tactic used to decrease the tabloid and paparazzi intrusion.
“In regards to the royal family, they will give a little bit, and the media will give a little bit, therefore they can come to a satisfactory outcome, certainly in regards to access,” Morgan previously told Insider.
“Obviously the Cambridges are very good at that, with regards to the duchess’ pictures that she puts into the press.
“So the press ultimately don’t follow them around looking for those types of pictures. It’s a two-way scenario.”
It was clear Markle wouldn’t be taking the same path from the moment it was announced she would boycott the traditional hospital photo call after the birth of her first son, Archie.
Markle and Harry also kept Archie’s christening ceremony private, and were careful in their distribution of official photos.
Therefore, there could be multiple different conclusions drawn from Markle’s statement that she was “unprotected” by the palace.
While Fitzwilliams said it isn’t unusual for the palace to provide more support for royals in serious situations – such as Prince Andrew – this doesn’t explain why Middleton’s recent Tatler profile received such backlash from her press team.
The Duchess of Sussex made clear that there was no “discussion” between herself and Kensington Palace, and this certainly seems like it was a driving force behind the issue.
Whether the reports on Markle’s strained relationship with aides and Middleton being treated differently due to her rank is true, it all stems from this lack of communication.
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