Full disclaimer here: I am not royal journalist. I am a royal historian who writes articles for this blog and for several magazines ... on royalty.
I am a careful observer of coverage of the British royals in the British newspapers. A number of reporters (no names) have largely strayed from the who, what, where, how and why in writing about the Duchess of Sussex, the former American actress Meghan Markle, who married Prince Henry of Wales - now the Duke of Sussex, last May.
The reporters have preferred to rely on innuendo rather than facts. They like throwing around the word "protocol" without knowing what it means.
FYI: protocol has nothing to do with nail polish or off the shoulder gowns. It has everything to do with diplomatic and state events or in medicine.
Nor has the Queen ever issued a decree or a Letters Patent regarding what color nail polish a distaff royal is allowed to wear. The Queen wears Essie's Ballet Slippers polish. That her is choice, her go to polish when she has a manicure.
I have checked the Gazette and have not found a Letters Patent that offers direction on what nail polish other royals can wear. This means there are no rules.
There is also no need to keep mentioning that Duchess' father is white and her mom is black. These are facts. We know these facts. The Duchess is a bi-racial American. This is a fact. There no need to write around it -- and try to make being bi-racial a bad thing. It is not. It is a good thing. Diversity is good. Celebrate it.
Adding color to a story does not mean writing about one's skin color. It means filling in the who, what, where, how and why of a story.
It is okay to describe the Duchess as a former actress. The late Diana, Princess of Wales was described as former nursery school teacher, which of course she wasn't. She was a teenage assistant who worked part time, wiping noses, playing with the kids, but she was not a teacher. Grace Kelly was an American actress who gave up her career when she married the Prince of Monaco in 1956. She did not have easy time adjusting to her new life in Monte Carlo.
Princess Grace was described as a former actress throughout her married life and she maintained contact with many of her Hollywood friends.
Unless a reporter has a direct quote from one the royals or has received information from one of the royal's staff, who was authorized to speak for that royal, don't try to write stories about alleged family disputes.
I am not surprised that the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex are not best buds. They are two totally different women with different personalities and backgrounds. Both come from middle class families. Both attended private schools. Catherine's parents are self-made millionaires. The Duchess of Sussex worked hard to achieve success in television. Acting is not an easy profession to break into and remain and build a career. Most actors will not win Oscars, star on Broadway or have their name above the title in movie ads. The Duchess was what many would call a "middling actor." This is not an insult.
She also used her position to support numerous charitable and humanitarian causes. The Duchess of Cambridge's entry into the charitable world largely began after her marriage when she began to take on several patronages. Her patronage list -- and the Duchess of Sussex's -- will continue to grow in the next few years.
The late Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, was rather scathing about her two sisters-in-law, the Duchess of York and the Duchess of Gloucester. (This was before Edward VIII abdicated in favor of the Duke of York, and married Wallis Warfield Simpson.) She described the two women as "those common little Scottish girls." Ouch. Marina was the daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and Grand Duchess Helen of Russia. Great titles, a few good jewels, but the Russian monarchy ended in 1917 and Marina spent a good part of her young life in exile in France due to the fragility of the Greek monarchy.
The Duchess of York was the daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the Duchess of Gloucester's father was the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury. Nothing to sniff at. These are ancient peerages with large estates and large back accounts. Both titles were much older than the Greek monarchy.
The Duchess of York became the Queen consort in 1936 when her husband succeeded Edward VIII. (Marina was a bit of snob. I can only imagine how she reacted to learning that the Hon. Angus Ogilvy turned down a peerage from the Queen and her daughter, Princess Alexandra, would have Mrs. in her title. Smelling salts anyone?)
Reporters asserted that the Duchess of Cambridge cried during a fitting of Charlotte's bridesmaid dress. This was followed by suggestions that Catherine broke down and cried during the fitting and it was Meghan who made her cry.
Several things here: we do not know if Meghan was present for the fitting. Is it not possible that Catherine cried because she was post-partum having giving birth to Prince Louis less than a month before? Did Charlotte have a meltdown? Little girls, even cute little Princesses, have temper tantrums?
We don't know why? But the reporters have written their articles to give the impression that a "difficult" Meghan was the reason for Catherine's tears.
We do not know. So don't write it. Stick to facts.
If I had been reporting about the move to Frogmore Cottage, I would have omitted the alleged tensions between the two brothers. Why? These are alleged and have not been backed up with real facts. How many brothers live next door to each other? It is possible that in the fullness of time that the Sussexes will have a London residence, especially after Charles succeeds to the throne. Clarence House, perhaps.
The Duchess of Sussex has barely put a foot wrong since coming out of St. George's Chapel. Okay, she didn't wear a hat when she went to Chester with the Queen for a master class in royalty 101, but the Queen did not seem to mind. There were no orders to send the Duchess to the Tower after they returned to London.
Who: the Duchess of Sussex. What: the British Fashion Awards. Where: Royal Albert Hall, London. How: a few things here. The winner was the designer of Meghan's wedding gown. The event honored British designers. That sort of thing. Why: So Meghan could present an award to the designer Clare Waight Keller.
It is all right to describe Meghan's gown, which was designed by Keller, who is Givenchy's designer. I am not usually keen on what a royal wears, but there are others who take pride in maintaining reference points on royal clothes. It is also important to acknowledge that fashion designers benefit (more jobs) from what royal women wear, especially the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex.
But there was no need to mention over and over again that the Duchess of Sussex cradled her bump. It is a very natural thing. Moms-to-be do it all the time. Catherine was photographed often patting her bump. Baby Sussex may be very active and mom was trying to calm her little one. Meghan's back might have been hurting and holding the bump may have offered a bit of comfort.
Cradling a baby bump is not important to a story unless you are writing about women cradling their bumps.
Meghan and Catherine are the same rank, royal highnesses. Meghan does not curtsy to any royal lady apart from Sovereigns and female consorts. If some one says or writes that a HRH curtsies or bows to another royal highness, look them straight in their eyes, take their hands to comfort them, and tell them they are WRONG. Period. Full stop. Smile politely and tell them to order a copy of Debrett's Correct Form because they need it.
Don't go to Compton. If you wrote that, you are being racist and ignorant. Meghan never lived there. Meghan grew up in a nice middle class area in Los Angeles.
Meghan is learning how to be royal and she has the support of her in-laws (Charles and Camilla) and her husband. The Queen, too. Royal staff were not keen on Prince Philip, who was born a Prince of Greece and Denmark. He was seen as a foreigner even though most of his childhood was spent in the United Kingdom, he attended British schools, his mother and maternal grandmother were born at Windsor Castle and his grandmother resided at Kensington Palace.
I realize that the reporters are writing for particular audiences, but do we want to continue to encourage racist and anti-foreign sentiment in the press. I hope not. Would it not be better to celebrate what the Duchess of Sussex is bringing to her role as a member of the Royal family?
If your editor tells you to write with a particular slant that does not ring true, but will appeal to the readership, just say no.
I hope that these reporter will not be finding coal in their stockings this Christmas.
Here is another idea: how about more diversity in tabloid newsrooms? Britons are white, black, mixed race, Arab, European, Asian --- it is time that the newspapers' reporting staffs reflect this growing diversity. Employing and training a diversified workforce can only help with better coverage all all subjects, not just British royals.
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