Meghan Markle was always destined to be the talk of the official send-off for England’s Queen Elizabeth II’s as a nation in mourning grapples with how to react to the royal family’s common-born, controversy-magnet American celebrity royal.
There was pretty much no way for her not to make the whole thing awkward, and awkward she appears indeed to have made it.
Markle, the Duchess of Sussex and wife to now-King Charles III’s son, Prince Harry, is credited with being the driving force behind her and Harry’s public semi-retirement from working royal life.
If their official break from the royal family was not distasteful enough, Markle has inspired the ire of the British public thanks to her salacious, tell-all interviews bashing her in-laws and virtually accusing them of racism and abuse.
So as you can imagine there were tepid reactions at best when she hopped sheepishly across the pond upon the death of the great Queen Elizabeth to join the mourners.
Last week, Markle and Harry made a surprise appearance with Harry’s brother William, the now-Prince of Wales and his wife, Princess Kate, to greet well-wishers outside Windsor Castle shortly after the queen’s passing.
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan joined Prince William and Kate to view messages and flowers left by supporters outside Windsor Castle following the death of Queen Elizabeth pic.twitter.com/7mo7y84x1l
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 10, 2022
The surprise appearance of the two couples together came as rumors have been swirling that Harry and Markle’s public criticism of the royal family has caused tension between the two princes — but even if the rumors are untrue, body experts say Markle gave every indication of sensing some tension between herself and members of the public.
“Meghan looked like a woman waiting for her cues rather than pushing herself forward,” Judi Jones told Page Six of the duchess’s appearance.
She pointed to the actress’ “frequent hair flicking” as she and Harry greeted well-wishers and examined flowers and cards that had been placed to commemorate the queen, behavior which “suggested some inner anxiety.”
This is behavior that is uncharacteristic of the notoriously publicity-hungry celebrity, said Dr. Lillian Glass, who noted a marked change in Markle’s behavior during this sad return to the country she’s spurned.
“Usually, we have seen Meghan with a smile plastered on her face, whether it is appropriate or not,” she told the gossip column.
“But this time, she actually seemed more genuine and humbled,” Dr. Glass said. “There is no question that she was in fear, as she hung on to Harry’s hand for dear life as they walked together. She was serious and even stood back when Harry was speaking to someone. Usually, she is front and center, but the fact that she hung back was very telling of her fear.”
If Markle was afraid, she has good reason to expect a less-than-warm reception. During her and Harry’s visit to the United Kingdom to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June, they were booed.
The retired royals were met with similar hostile behavior from members of the public just days before the queen’s passing, in fact, when a hostile crowd outside the One Young World Summit 2022 greeted them with jeers and signs branding them “fake royals.”
James also pointed out that, if body language is any indication, there could be some weight to the rumors of an ongoing feud between Meghan and Harry and Prince William and Princess Kate.
“While William was a bit more cordial, he was still serious around [Meghan] and didn’t show his usual megawatt smile. Kate even refused to even look at Meghan or in her direction,” Glass noted. “She was being genuine. It was not in her heart to smile at Meghan, so she didn’t do it.”
Page Six noted that Markle once accused Kate of making her cry during wedding preparations before her nuptials with Harry in 2018.
“Meghan, on the other hand, looked like a sad and desperate puppy as she tried to catch Kate’s eye gaze repeatedly. But Kate was having none of it,” she said.
Some mourners, on the other hand, appear to have been even more overt in their intention of snubbing Markle.
One clip shared on social media showed three women who appeared to be deliberately ignoring her — ouch.
Lady in blue & others ARE ALL OF US. They refuse to shake hands with Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Netflix.#GoHomeMeghanMarkle
— Yoru Barman (@heg_emon) September 11, 2022
Now, let’s be fair to the Duchess of Sussex.
She was not going to win this one either way. I think it a bit silly that #GoHomeMeghan was trending on Twitter — we all know she would have been slammed that much more if she’d refused to make an appearance for her well-loved grandmother-in-law, too.
Yet it is also fair to say that Meghan brought the awkwardness upon herself.
At the end of the day, Meghan Markle, like every single member of the royal family, is a human being. We will likely never truly know the state of her heart or what motivated her to give her account of what it has been like marrying into the House of Windsor.
The cynical attitudes are certainly understandable, but it is also easy to imagine that it’s hardly easy being thrust into such a fickle spotlight — the global public has been trying their darnest to extract every ounce of possible scandal and gossip out of Europe’s royals for years, those connected to the British crown most of all.
Whether Meghan was thrust into the role of a disrespectful interloper, has taken it upon herself, or some mixture of the two, it’s clear her casting in the drama of the royal family is incredibly difficult.
Amid all the pomp, circumstance and sizzling scandal of how the public is digesting the official mourning of Elizabeth, it’s hard not to see the glaring frailty of human life in the midst of it.
The Windsors, for all their fame and infamy, are exactly like the rest of us at the end of the day. We reap what we sow, we make mistakes, we struggle in relationships, we seek after our own, and, as the dear deceased monarch herself most strikingly reminds us, we will all return to dust one day.
Perhaps we can take some time to simply pray for these frail royals as their grief and familial strife take the spotlight.
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