What’s On

From ‘Markle Sparkle’ to ‘Markle Debacle’: are the tabloid press to blame?

Weddings always bring out the best and worst in people. And just because it’s Royal nuptials clearly makes no difference given the lurid tabloid headlines in the build up to Meghan and Harry’s big day tomorrow…

What seemingly started as a fairytale engagement between the World’s most eligible Royal bachelor and his beautiful ‘sparkly’ Hollywood actress fiancée only 5 short months ago has rapidly descended into farce over the past few weeks with one louche revelation after another. And, somewhat predictably, the tabloid press have been positively reveling in the progressively scandalous behaviours of Markle’s distinctly dysfunctional family.

Now, we’ve all got those family members that fill us with dread with what they might do or say in the run up to a wedding or on the day itself. Siblings with scores to settle, parents with an axe to grind, Aunties who imbibe a tad too much Champagne, Uncles who are a little over familiar with the bridesmaids or so-called friends who want to upstage the bride by wearing white. It’s just that one rather has a prescribed level of expectation that a Royal wedding of this stature will be conducted with a modicum of decorum… frankly, not on this occasion.

First up, we have Meghan’s half brother Thomas Markle Junior who wrote an open letter to Prince Harry to try and convince him that he was marrying a wrong ‘un. Clearly stung by the fact he hadn’t received an invitation to the wedding he vented his spleen on the 26th April via US magazine ‘In Touch Weekly’ (stay classy) followed up by a series of vitriolic social media rants where he claimed:

“Meghan’s attempt to act the part of a Princess like a below C average Hollywood actress is getting old”

In fairness Meghan will only be a Duchess not a Princess but let’s not split hairs (heirs?).

Anyway, as if that blistering attack wasn’t sufficient for the regal couple then next up was Meghan’s equally odious older half sister Samantha. She has been a regular detractor of the wedding, presumably because she also wasn’t invited, culminating in a toe-curling interview with Piers Morgan on ‘Good Morning Britain’ a few days ago where she was described by the host as a “little vulture”. Morgan accused her of using her familial relationship to capitalise upon the media frenzy created by the wedding to publicise her new book “The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister”. I’m only surmising here but given the title of the book it probably won’t be a glowing tribute to her half sister? Proverbial grapes do not get much more sour.

And finally we have the errant father, Thomas Markle Senior, who it transpires will not be walking her down the aisle on Saturday after a suspected heart attack and subsequent operation this week. But just preceding this unfortunate medical condition he was caught up in a blatantly staged paparazzi photoshoot which had him posing for various shots in an internet cafe supposedly looking at online details about the wedding.

Prince Harry has often been hyper-critical of the press, even going so far as to issue a public statement last November where he berated the various media outlets and social platforms for their depiction of Meghan:

“the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments”

So it’s clear that Harry has previously blamed the tabloids for their level of intrusion and I highly suspect that he will be adopting a similar view with this latest spate of unsavoury stories. And I suppose we shouldn’t be unduly surprised. The tabloid press are notorious for putting people on a pedestal only for them to then take immense delight in knocking them off their artificial perch again.

But all that said, the individuals involved here surely need to shoulder some of the blame too? All three of the implicated Markle clan have sold their stories and pictures for the highest possible price to the media vultures more than willing to offer their 30 pieces of silver. As Hannibal Lecter would have said “not more than one generation from poor white trash”. They didn’t have to be interviewed or stage stupid fake photoshoots but they all did it willingly for the lure of the easy cash on offer. Happy families huh?

That says a lot about their motivations in life and the depths to which they were prepared to stoop. Interestingly all similar accusations that they have laid at Meghan’s door, in that she has ulterior motives of power and money, but the reality is that they are the only ones who have demonstrated those traits to date. Still I’m sure people are wondering whether those behaviours run in the family…

And should Meghan and Harry suck it up and simply accept that they haven’t handled the situation very well either? For example, with regards to her father, who is clearly not a well man either physically or (more importantly) mentally. It seems that Prince Harry has never even met Thomas Markle, so the first time he would have seen him (if things had worked out to plan) would have been just 3 or 4 days before the actual wedding itself? And given that both Meghan and Harry are both strong advocates in championing mental health issues, could they have not tried harder to help her own father through a time of obvious anxiety? Practice what you preach a little closer to home maybe?

Also did they really expect her half siblings to have kept quiet given the fact that they chose not to invite them to the celebrations? Maybe a more sensible course of action would have been to ask her siblings to attend rather than snub them in favour of a slew of Spice Girls?

Which brings me to my final point: Meghan and Harry have always maintained that their privacy is of paramount importance and they have eschewed the ‘celebrity’ that their Royal position affords them for a more ‘normal’ existence. Well given their decadent plans for the wedding that sentiment feels more than a little bit hollow to many people, myself included. 600 guests? A £100,000 dress? A royal carriage ride through the streets of Windsor with an expected 100,000 onlookers? Worldwide television coverage? An estimated £30 million taxpayers bill for security? Celeb guests including the likes of Sir Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Cara Delevingne, David Beckham and Serena Williams? Not exactly what you would call ‘low key’ is it?

So what do you think? Do you think the whole tawdry affair is tarnishing what should be a truly special day? Me personally? I don’t much care either way. I’m not an ardent Monarchist but equally I don’t despise them either. To date I have been pretty ambivalent about the whole thing but I must admit that as the torrid tale has unraveled over the past week my interest has been piqued and I am now looking forward to the wedding on Saturday even more than the FA Cup Final… the dance floor is now open for fighting.

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.