As a swan song for Graydon Carter, the outgoing editor of Vanity Fair who announced his decision to quit the magazine at the end of the year this week, it was a great royal coup: an up close and personal interview with Meghan Markle, in which she spoke frankly and in lyrical terms about her love for her “boyfriend” Prince Harry.
In the most revealing section of the interview, Markle said: “We’re a couple. We’re in love. I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that it’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story.”
While the interview was greeted with rapturous enthusiasm by Harry and Meghan’s millions of fans around the world, it didn’t go down so well with old hands at the palace, and the millions of British people who believe all members of the Monarchy should emulate the example of the queen and be seen and not heard.
Once again, Harry (this time via Meghan; it is impossible to imagine she gave this interview without consulting with Harry) has broken the only rule of royal publicity which might be best summarized as: Say nothing that might cause a fuss.
Part of the resigned dismay from the old guard is frustration that Harry and Meghan do not seem to understand that they are opening themselves up to easily provable charges of hypocrisy by making such public requests for privacy (“I hope people will understand that this is our time”) that never go down particularly well.
And while it’s hard not to feel compassion for Meghan and Harry given the scrutiny they are now constantly under—she has to contend with photographers regularly camped outside her house—the cry of “please leave us alone!” is rather absurd when issued from the pages of the world’s most glamorous celebrity magazine, along with page after page of gorgeous photographs of the actress by Peter Lindbergh.
As the press have completely disregarded Harry and Meghan’s appeals for privacy one could equally argue that it makes no difference, and that the youngsters should not be criticized for doing whatever publicity they think is right.
But, as one source says: “I think it is a mistake. You can hardly bleat about privacy if you choose to do such things.”
Ultimately, to make a call on whether this was a good or bad idea, one has to question who this interview actually benefits, and what it achieves.
On the plus side, it has introduced Meghan in a very positive way and more or less on her own terms to a huge global audience. The article spoke warmly about her humanitarian work and general character, and her authenticity and charm was abundantly apparent.
A Vanity Fair cover will also be very helpful for Meghan personally if she chooses to continue with her acting career, either with or without Harry by her side.
On the negative side, the interview increases pressure on the couple to announce they are marrying. “It’s a declaration of intent,” says a source.
Christopher Andersen, whose book The Day Diana Died is currently topping e-book charts, told The Daily Beast via email: “For Harry a large part of Meghan’s appeal is that she breaks—make that shatters—all precedent when it comes to royal brides. She is a television actress, she is American, she is biracial, she is divorced.
“The fact that Meghan is the last person Britain’s establishment would choose for him to wed make her that much more irresistible to the renegade prince. Like Kate Middleton, Meghan has played her cards right. She seems utterly unflappable despite all the hounding by the press, and like Kate has demonstrated a remarkable amount of patience.
“The consensus now in royal circles is that a royal wedding is inevitable, and it will probably take place next spring. There’s no turning back really at this stage.”
The only possible way this interview makes any kind of long term strategic sense for Harry and Meghan is if they have already secretly decided to marry (much as some of their fans may wish, even Harry probably realizes that living as an unmarried couple long term is not realistic).
Indeed, Meghan’s comment, “I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves,” suggests that this is exactly what has happened.
In this case, the Vanity Fair profile is perhaps best regarded as the soft launch of the happy couple, and may not be as ill-considered a move as the naysayers insist.
The increasingly public manner in which Harry and Meghan are conducting their relationship is ramping up speculation that the couple will announce an engagement soon.
It’s very different from Harry’s previous relationship with Cressida Bonas, which was marked by a desire on his part to protect her from the press. The strategy worked for as long as the secret was kept, but once their relationship became public knowledge, the romance fell apart almost instantly.
Perhaps, then, all Meghan and Harry are doing is taking the opposite—and, let’s be honest, way more realistic—route.
The risk, of course, with fate so extensively tempted, is that something happens and the relationship breaks up.
If that happens, Harry may well find himself wishing he had observed the old model of public facing royalty, and that neither he nor his girlfriend had said a thing before they publicly put a ring on it.
Ultimately, outsiders should give Meghan and Harry the benefit of the doubt; assume they are playing their cards to the best of their ability—and expect an announcement of a new royal wedding in the next few months.