MEGHAN and Harry have become a national obsession. Today in The Sun on Sunday, two writers give their perspectives on the mindset and motivations of the Duchess of Sussex.
Ulrika Jonsson, who dated Prince Edward in the Eighties, gives an insight into the rules, traditions and restrictions – as well as the prince’s taste for Liebfraumilch wine – that left her wanting to run for the hills from The Firm, just like Meghan.
Meanwhile, behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings puts Meghan “on the couch”. She gives her take on how an inability to retain independence left Meghan feeling vulnerable.
Jo also reveals how free-spirited Meghan was not always able to make the compromises necessary to accept the constraints of royal life and analyses the “boyfriend shirt” she wore when first dating Harry . . . plus the Hamsa ring she put on to ward off evil.
Ulrika Jonsson says: "Walking away is insulting and it will end in tears"
I ALWAYS feel deeply unsettled when my own feelings of love, goodwill and optimism are turned on a sixpence in exchange for scepticism, cynicism and disappointment.
It indicates very strongly that I feel cheated and, perhaps worst of all, fooled.
It is no exaggeration to say that this has been the personal rollercoaster of emotions I have been on with Meghan and Harry.
I vividly remember standing in my garden that sweltering day during May 2018, looking through the living-room window to watch their royal wedding (while at the same time trying to develop a tan) and welling up with the emotion and promise of it all.
Strangely, I don’t recall experiencing the same when William and Kate married seven years earlier, but there was something truly significant about Meghan joining The Firm.
She signified new, fresh, modern, showbizzy blood — and abundant, gracious, progressive attitudes.
Above all else, the love they had for each other was palpable.
Perhaps I should already have been exercising some caution with my enthusiasm when Harry fired warning shots across the media about the treatment of his girlfriend and the supposed racist undertones.
But I, for one, felt utterly encouraged and buoyant about this woman’s humility, dignity, compassion and empathy.
What could possibly go wrong?
Now, 18 months down the line, I cannot deny I feel hoodwinked — and can well imagine that is how much of the population feels.
As a nation of welcoming Brits (being Swedish, I’m an honorary one), it is like we invited Meghan into our adorable, unpretentious and homely B&B. She stayed for dinner, took the complimentary soaps and shampoos then walked out in search of the nearest hotel.
TURNED THEIR BACKS TO THE UK
Regardless of how they want to dress it up, the two of them have turned their backs on the UK and it feels like a kick in the teeth.
What really stings is that it does not feel like it was a long-term plan, but it simply came about when Meghan re-read the membership rules, months after signing on the dotted line, and decided it cramped her style. I’m pretty certain all the statutes will have been made clear to her from the start, many times over. Everything will have been scrutinised and pored over in minute detail. The Royal Family is a watertight institution, after all.
But propelled by her personal ambition, and presumably a wilfulness to reform the family, becoming a royal would not only give her a platform for her humanitarian work but also fame on a level she would have been unlikely to have otherwise ever achieved.
What she could not cope with was her loss of control and the fact that being part of a team inevitably means diminished autonomy.
But some of her story has echoes of when Sarah Ferguson joined the family back in the Eighties.
Fergie was a jolly, fun, self-deprecating young woman who thought she would have the ride of a lifetime. But she found herself profoundly restricted by her mother-in-law’s budget and her husband’s dullness. Instead of making a dignified exit, she had her toes sucked by another man because life was not as much fun as it had promised to be. It was ugly.
The prospect of joining the Royal Family would fill me with horror — and it did so even way back in 1986, when I was pictured alongside HRH Prince Edward at the theatre.
I had become good friends with his best friend, James Baker.
One night I joined James, Edward and another of his friends to go to the theatre.
By sheer coincidence I was “papped” next to the prince.
Excited and furious speculation ensued the following day about the mystery Swedish blonde — I was 19 and not yet on the ladder of fame — and I was quickly dubbed his latest flame. One newspaper even ran the headline “The Prince And The Showgirl” with old photos of me in school drama productions.
It was my first experience of such widespread exposure and it came as an absolute shock.
HRH was kind enough to phone me to offer his support and urge me to “say nothing”, which I duly did.
After some months, the two of us did have a few dates, and while I, a most common commoner, would never have been considered “royal material”, life in The Firm crossed my mind on a few occasions.
And it did not especially fill me with joy.
I got the strong impression Prince Edward himself would have given anything to get in a car and drive away from it all, which was hardly the greatest endorsement. But despite getting a lot of flak over preceding years for dropping out of the Marines and then pursuing a career in the arts, the prospect of him walking away would never have been one he would have seriously entertained.
His sense of duty, loyalty and obligation was too great.
I really got a good insight into the restrictive life he led, along with his lack of access to any kind of normality.
All the while he was surrounded by rules and traditions, and then there are the courtiers and staff, there to stifle and control your many moves, constantly keeping your behaviour in check.
I would go to dinner and bring my own bottle of white wine because budget and taste would have dictated a ghastly bottle of Liebfraumilch or some other type of sweet white wine, and thus a less fun evening.
Because despite the Royal Family being an international brand, it seemed at the time, at least, that “taste” as such had somehow eluded Prince Edward.
He was stuck with whatever the butler would bring and I am guessing money spent on wine was not considered money well spent.
The food (again, at the time) was decidedly plain and a tad dull.
Everything in his apartment was so staid and old-fashioned.
Nothing had been redecorated for decades and the bathroom had a very quaint old toilet.
In my naivety, I had foolishly thought the royals would have the absolute latest in fashion and interiors, but it was like stepping back in time.
Perhaps this was how Meghan experienced things, too, but with thoughts and attitudes. I would swear and push the boundaries because I felt it might amuse and maybe inspire more than a touch of reality and authenticity.
But the thought of a loon like me being shackled to his life was enough to make me want to run for the hills — regardless of the universal fame that might have been waiting.
The idea of a woman as fiercely independent as Meghan being defined and tethered by such an exclusive, traditional club seems, with hindsight, utterly impossible.
Her initial sense of goodwill and charitable ambition appears to have been overtaken by her refusal to accept any opinion or critique.
I am afraid I know to great personal cost that the limelight can be blinding.
But it is a deal you make with yourself and, in her case, it was a deal she made with the British public — to serve.
It is not as if she has given it her best shot for seven years and can no longer hack it.
This self-defeating move away reeks of impatience, petulance and bitterness.
Put simply, her new life became burdensome and an inconvenience when she discovered she could not run her own show.
HARRY HAS GIVEN UP ALL HE HAS EVER KNOWN
Her father, like mine — who opened his doors to the media when I was photographed next to Prince Edward — became a thorn in her side and she had no tools with which to deal with him.
He became an embarrassment; a mistake and a mess she could easily have dealt with but felt it more important to proceed with her new life and leave him behind. And then there is Harry: A man smitten and obsessed, a man who has been waiting for a Meghan all his life, someone to nurture him.
He has sacrificed everything for his wife, willingly.
He has given up all that he has ever known and everyone he holds dear to chance it all thousands of miles away, isolating himself in pursuit of a life that is not only unclear but precarious.
There is no doubt that the Royal Family needs reduction and considerable reform to reflect modern times.
But the thought that a newcomer might consider herself best positioned to be that subversive influence would be laughable if it was not so hurtful and insulting to much of this country that has been so supportive of this historical institution. The noises from Team Sussex have been distracting, persistent and problematic because the life of a royal is, I am afraid, to toe the line.
There is no halfway house, no part-time royalty — the job is not part of the gig economy.
By trying to carve out a more contented, niche life for themselves, the Sussexes have made survival considerably more complicated with absolute exposure guaranteed and a lifetime’s guarantee of judgment and critique.
I cannot be the only one who feels painfully disappointed and cheated, beguiled by Hollywood stardust and false promises.
And now we are left wondering what the whole shebang was all about, because if Harry and Meghan thought exiting was challenging, when this all ends in tears — as I fear it will — coming back to the fold will be utterly inconceivable.
Jo Hemmings says: "She's assertive but also vulnerable and not as tough as she makes out"
I DO believe that Meghan married Harry with good intentions and had every belief she could make a positive contribution to the Royal Family.
I can also see how Harry, a vulnerable young man who lost his beloved mother at such an early age, could fall in love with a strong, independent woman who could provide some direction.
What I do not think Meghan was prepared for was the pressure of doing everything by the book and having to follow so many rules once she had entered into the so-called Firm.
The former actress was the first senior royal to have come from a background where she had already established her own successful career.
She is an ambitious and determined woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and wants to do things her own way.
Meghan is certainly assertive. She is determined in the face of adversity but is also vulnerable and perhaps not as tough as she likes to make out.
It is also clear that she became deeply unhappy with royal life and her inability to retain her independence.
During all that turmoil, Meghan was not able to publicly speak out about her feelings, so would send subtle messages.
She would express how she felt through her jewellery, such as the butterfly earrings she wore shortly after her pregnancy was announced, which symbolised lightness against tension and the sense of hope and endurance.
She was also seen wearing a Hamsa ring, used to ward off evil, while in the Canadian embassy. It was the day before the bombshell announcement that they were moving abroad.
She often handled her pregnancy bump, wanting consciously or otherwise to draw attention to her developing baby and what it represented moving forward — her new future and family.
There is no doubt in my mind that as much as Meghan adores Harry, she had a clear focus in mind from the moment they began to have feelings for each other. There were no coy hints or suggestions from her, as there were with Kate.
Nor was she prepared to play the waiting game, hanging on in there until Harry was ready to propose.
From the white “boyfriend shirt” she wore right at the beginning of their relationship to the way she looked at Harry and touched him, even in public, Meghan did not shy away from being loud and proud about where she wanted things to head.
I think this behaviour stems from a stubborn insecurity that will not go away, and Meghan is not good with situations that are out of her control.
Perhaps her coping mechanisms are not as strong as she thought. Maybe she is so determined her family will not suffer like she has in the past that she has become super-protective and frustrated at times.
Meghan has had to battle a fair amount of adversity in her life, even before she met Harry.
This includes a difficult, and now estranged, relationship with her father and half-sibling, with whom she no longer speaks.
I do wonder why she seems to be cut off from her close childhood friends. And why do some of Harry’s oldest pals feel they have been discarded as a result of his relationship with Meghan?
She is a strong influence on Harry, undoubtedly.
Meghan would probably admit that she is strong-willed, not always able to make the sacrifices or compromises which are necessary to accept criticism or interference from the Royal Family.
Perhaps there is a touch of the narcissist about her, putting her own feelings ahead of the dutiful life she signed up to.
For example, she seems to find it difficult to understand what her father has been going through or see his perspective.
Also, when she told the ITV documentary crew, “It’s not enough to just survive something”, before adding, “You have to thrive”, that shows how important her own happiness and wellbeing is to her.
But many strong and influential people have that narcissistic streak. They find it hard to tolerate a situation that makes them feel distressed or to manage a situation over which they have little control.
What is interesting is that, following the move to North America, Meghan and Harry have effectively swapped roles.
Instead of Meghan being the royal princess at Harry’s side, he will now be more at her behest, having to adapt to a totally different sort of life, and one that he could never have imagined.
He might feel some resentment in due course, or he may adapt like a duck to water.
Will their marriage last?
They have a tough journey ahead, but I hope so and I wish them well.