This week began with another set of challenging headlines for the young royals, as the internet continued to feed on the most compelling royal story in years: reports of a rift at the heart of the royal family, with a feud developing between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry and Meghan).
However, midweek, a concerted fightback began, with what appeared to be a deliberate leak from Kensington Palace that not only will both families be at Sandringham, the queen’s estate in Norfolk, for Christmas, but that they will be under the same substantial roof, Kate and William’s country gaff, Anmer Hall.
Finally, it seems, the royals and their handlers are recognizing the strategic value of publicly being seen to play nice.
Making this announcement, albeit via backchannels, is a hugely significant shift, and a welcome sign that the palace may finally be facing up to the reality that its principal actors play a starring role in the global showbiz gossip industry. Simply doing nothing and relying on the majesty of one’s position to carry one serenely through isn’t always the best option.
The strategy seems to have been at least partially successful. The news that the two families will spend Christmas in Kate’s house has drawn, for now at least, a line under the feud story, even if the palace has found itself unable to deny that there may well have been teething problems as Meghan attempted to settle into one of the world’s most screwed-up families.
It seems William really did express doubts to Harry over his choice of bride, that Kate really did tell her off for being rude to her staff, and that Meghan genuinely did make an emotional, post-partum Kate cry during the bridesmaid’s dress fitting for her daughter.
The accounts certainly chime with gossip that has come the way of The Daily Beast over the past year, and the palace has wisely not sought to pretend that the relationship between Kate and Meghan is perfect—the form of words used by sources leaking to the media this week is that the two women are “very different people.”
The arrival of Meghan has not been the smooth, easy transition that palace elders might have hoped for, but it was never going to be.
Meghan’s arrival was billed as a breath of fresh air, but it has turned out to be more of a seismic event, sculpting new contours into the once-familiar landscape of royal life. It is clear that it is taking a little time for some old hands to get used to the new view, and Meghan has put some noses out of joint.
By encouraging the two couples to demonstrate friendship and solidarity in such a public fashion—exactly as The Daily Beast suggested the palace should—royal handlers are hoping to make the case to the public that all this is in the past, and merely part of the natural recalibration when any newcomer joins a family (and a complex family business at the same time).
In the old days, the royal family, which for so long operated on the basis of “never explain, never complain,” would have silently sucked it up.
But this time (admittedly after a long delay), KP came out to bat, and it has worked. After all, even the most determined of journalists can’t really keep insisting two people hate each other if they are voluntarily spending Christmas together.
Actions speak louder than words, and the symbolic value of Meghan and Harry as Kate and William’s honored guests cannot be overstated—especially if, as The Daily Beast has heard, Meghan’s mum Doria is included in the Anmer Hall house party.
With the feud apparently kicked into the long grass for now, palace spinners should turn their attention to a more serious issue that the disagreements between Kate and Meghan have helped to expose, which is that the palace and Meghan are very different.
Meghan, it has been reported, is demanding, and doesn’t do things the Windsor way. (But aren’t the Windsors themselves demanding? It’s a bit rich to criticize Meghan for the same thing.)
Reportedly, she is given to sending 5 a.m. emails to her team and apparently earned her husband a telling off from the queen when she refused to accept that an emerald tiara she wanted to wear for the wedding was not appropriate due to its dubious Russian provenance. And she allegedly requested the church be spritzed with delightful-smelling atomizers.
Prince Harry is said to have roared, “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets,” at his staff in the run-up to the wedding. In that final case, she didn’t. The queen thought it was ridiculous and said no, and the spritzing story leaked to The Sun and was seized on to bolster the notion of Meghan-as-diva.
But what this may actually be is just typical tabloid sexist clap-trap, and the “feud” between Kate and Meghan nothing more than the recycling of another sexist tabloid trope.
It may sound absurd in the context of the butlers, ladies-in-waiting, and courtiers of the royal family, but the truth is that service culture at the very highest end of British society doesn’t come close to what is delivered as standard in America.
The Daily Beast has heard that Meghan can be brusque. One source told The Daily Beast that a floral arrangement presented for her consideration ahead of the wedding was rejected with a one-word, “No,” and a spin on the heel, which left the florist dismayed. (Kensington Palace declined to comment.)
That would never be Kate’s style. People who have worked for her and William have told The Daily Beast that they go out of their way to make people who work for them feel included. First names are the order of the day and curtseys, bowing, and scraping are not encouraged.
In this, they emulate the queen.
Meghan can have no better mentor as she navigates these waters than her new husband.
One person who attended a meeting at Kensington Palace told me that Harry popped out to Starbucks on Kensington Gore to get coffee for the team.
“He just pulled on a baseball hat and went out,” the person told me. “I was like, ‘He can’t do that,’ but he did, and he came back with them.”
One hopes Harry is being as kind and thoughtful to Meghan as she undergoes this latest tabloid drubbing.