Grave warning signs for Meghan Markle, Prince Harry as popularity plummets

In American college basketball there is such a thing as March Madness, but I reckon it’s an annual feature in the lives of Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

In March 2020, they flew back to London for their final round of official engagements, where they managed to generate more column inches of news coverage than a minor ground war and accidentally revealed just how hostile things had got within this family.

The following March came their Oprah Winfrey interview, a day that will long live in royal family and TV ratings infamy.

This March has not proved any less headline-making or turbulent with the World having found out that, humiliatingly, King Charles has turfed them out of their UK home Frogmore Cottage and has offered the keys to Toad of Toad Hall’s human equivalent Prince Andrew.

When the couple christened their daughter Princess Lilibet, confirming she and brother Archie would take the titles available to them now, Buckingham Palace responded with a very well-bred shoulder shrug.

Then there is the less-than-glowing press they have been getting.

As March ended, the hits kept coming, with two US reports coming out, describing her as “desperate” for media coverage, that she is “not on the level” and that she and Harry are going to lengths to “[play] the Hollywood game”.

Exhibit A here is a podcast interview with Vanity Fair writer Vanessa Grigoriadis, who in 2018 reported a lengthy deep dive into the Duchess and her family background. (Want to feel the painful passage of time? According to the story, the LA native had “become the darling of the British press”.)

Speaking to former BBC journalist turned podcaster Andrew Gold, Grigoriadis described Meghan as having “a strange relationship to objective reality”.

“She has this warped reality and then she marshals evidence underneath it to support a thesis that may not be the case,” she wrote.

“And she very much seems to think that everybody is too dumb to figure out what she’s doing and that’s where her fatal flaw lies.”

At one point, Grigoriadis mentioned a writer she knew who had spent time with the Duchess for a profile, saying “Her takeaway was, ‘This person just is not on the level.’”

Grigoriadis, who interviewed Meghan’s estranged half-sister Samantha Markle for that 2018 piece, said of the Markle family, “There’s just something a little off about all of ’em.”

Then of the couple’s highly turbulent relationship with the press, Grigoriadis commented, “It’s not a monster in her mind because she is the one who would go out for drinks with Piers Morgan. She was desperate for the press to be interested in her.”

This is only the latest clue that the tide would seem to be turning against the Sussexes in the States.

In January, after the release of Spare, Newsweek published a story titled “The More Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Say, the Less Americans Like Them.”

In February, Newsweek reported that their popularity in the US had fallen to an all-time low, putting both she and Harry deep into negative territory. (That means the percentage of people who support them was heavily outweighed by those who do not.)

Then there was that South Park episode. Even the most well-balanced and psychologically robust of people would not be immune to that particular burn.

Come March, Harry and Meghan started being photographed at LA hot spots, a four-hour round trip from home, for the first time since Megxit.

On the same day that news broke about them being booted out of Frogmore by King Charles, they popped up at LA private members club, the San Vicente Bungalows where they were papped going in and out.

One member told Page Six that “they have way bigger stars than Harry and Meghan coming in and no one will ever know they’re there”.

Turns out, according to that member, the couple chose to leave via the main entrance, which of course put them right back in the loving embrace of a whole bunch of cameras.

Then, only a week and a bit later, Meghan was back in LA lunching at another ‘very in’ joint, restaurant Gracias Madre where – this is so strange – she was photographed by the paparazzi again!

Page Six said the reason the Sussexes were suddenly logging so many miles on the Pacific Coast Highway to make the slog down to Los Angeles was because they “seem to be playing the Hollywood game like the old pro that former Suits actress Markle is”.

But, why would the Duke and Duchess need to play any ‘games’? They are meant to have a reported $200 million, combined, of content deals.

However, I suppose that the Duchess of Sussex might have a whole lot of time in her day with no confirmed projects or jobs on her agenda. At all.

Last year in a broad round of cost-cutting including a number of high-profile projects, Netflix cancelled the animated children’s series, Pearl, that Meghan had been working on.

While Page Six says that a second series of her podcast Archetypes will happen, there has not been a peep out of the streamer.

The same goes with a possible book.

Previous reports have suggested that the deal inked in 2021 with Penguin Random House and which led to Harry’s Spare breaking records (and probably his father’s heart) that Meghan might pen a tell-all too.

(Last year in that interview with The Cut she revealed she had kept a journal during her brief royal tenure.) So far, there have been no new suggestions that a book by the Duchess might be in the offing.

Aside from Harry’s Invictus doco and his day job as Chief Impact Officer for BetterUp, the couple’s diaries are looking, as far as is publicly known, inauspiciously empty.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the royal family has been having a positively splendid time.

This week, Charles and wife Queen Camilla have been in Germany for their first state visit which has seen huge crowds gather to try and catch a peek of the septuagenarian power couple.

Testament to their surprising pulling power is that during one outing to view a military unit, large numbers of people gathered on a bridge to catch the most distant of distant glimpses of the King. (I write about the royal family and even I’m not sure I’d spend ages in the cold just to be able to spy the blob-like shape of His Majesty in the far off.)

Similar scenes played out when Their Majesties visited a Berlin market where the Kinder (or whatever young people are in German) seemed quite excited to get up close and personal with the King and Queen.

(Charles, as always, looked ebullient making small talk with the public about small goods while Camilla looked like she deeply wished she was back at the hotel with some Duty Free and the remote. Can’t blame her.)

Ditto the week prior when Prince William travelled to Warsaw in support of the war effort in Ukraine where this otherwise unremarkable middle-aged man drew excited hordes.

What seems clear is that the royal family’s image overseas, or at least in Europe anyway, is tickety-boo, despite the Sussexes having repeatedly and over years painted Buckingham Palace and its various titled denizens as bigoted, pretty heartless and self-serving.

Soon, we will hit the point where the couple will have been in North America for twice (40 months) as long as they lived in the UK after their wedding (20 months). While the royal family are off being welcomed like junior members behind the scenes, the Sussexes seem to be, for whatever reason, pulling moves out of the B-list star playbook.

Dear god, let’s hope and pray we never get to the knicker throwing stage when the newly uber popular Charles and Camilla are doing walkabouts …

Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Meghan Markle

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