Duchess of York says social media abuse of Kate and Meghan reminds her of old 'rivalry' stories about Diana

Hannah Furness
Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York in 1990 - UK Press

The “sewer” of social media is pitting high-profile women against one another, Sarah, Duchess of York has warned, as she says it is reminding her of the difficult days of her so-called rivalry with Princess Diana.

The Duchess said the descent of social media into “appalling” vicious comments “terrifies” her, as she joins a campaign for online kindness inspired by the treatment of the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex.

Saying “bullying, sniping, bitching, even the most appalling sexism, racism and homophobia are commonplace” online, she said: “Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt.”

The Duchess, writing in Hello!, has added her support to the magazine’s campaign about social media, which was inspired by extreme abuse of both Kate and Meghan on websites including Kensington Palace’s own Instagram.

Palace sources disclosed how staff are now spending hours monitoring vile messages - many of which are racist or sexist - in comment threads, with opposing groups of fans uniting behind one Duchess or the other to fight amongst themselves.

The Duchess of York at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The Duchess of York compared the current situation with the world she experienced in the 1980s, when she and Diana Spencer married into the Royal family and went from being portrayed as a glamorous double act to competition.  

Saying social media companies and news websites must do much more to protect against abuse, she wrote: "It's time to confront head on the fact that much of social media has become a sewer.”

The Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Sussex at Wimbledon Credit: Heathcliff O'Malley

“People feel licensed to say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone's face, and that encourages others to pile in,” she added. “It's so ubiquitous that we've all become numb to what's going on.

“I believe that it's time to take a stand. This isn't about freedom of speech.

“The truth is, it's not acceptable to post abuse or threats on social media or news sites, and it's not acceptable to harangue other users simply because they disagree with you.

“It's not acceptable to pit women against one another all the time. It's not acceptable to troll other people viciously online.”

The full article is published in Hello! magazine, out now.