When I opened Twitter this morning on my commute, I closed it down almost immediately. Not because I was “funeralled out”, as some on social media have suggested they felt – though we have been focusing on the death of the Queen in The Independent newsroom, of course, for the past 10 days without fail.
To the contrary: I have found working on the monarch’s memorial since the moment her death was announced profoundly moving and quite captivating; from the surprising, heady romance of The Queue of people lining up for hours to file past her coffin, right through to the austere ceremonial gun salutes and sombre, beautiful renditions of “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want” at Westminster Abbey yesterday.
I have been, like the rest of the nation, gripped by the sight of so many royals, dignitaries and world leaders; fascinated by both the insignificant – what they were wearing – and the significant (the remarkable display of Britain’s “soft power”, as dissected so cleverly by my colleague, John Rentoul, here).
So no, it was not because of over-saturation that I turned away from Twitter this morning – it is, after all, every journalist’s “go to” for “post-match analysis” (and that includes the poignant pomp and ceremony of Queen Elizabeth being laid to rest) – but because of the vile hatred and bile being spewed in the direction of Meghan Markle.
“It’s clear she’s playing a game. It’s time we banned Meghan Markle from entering the UK,” someone frothed. “Harry married Meghan Markle in haste and the cracks are already evident”, said another – having apparently not noticed the couple holding hands just days ago as they left the Westminster Hall service honouring the Queen.
Someone else sniped that Meghan had proved herself as an “actor” at the funeral; while one supposed “body language expert” for a right-wing US outlet declared Meghan “a fish out of water”. Much has been made of the fact that (yawn, wake me up when the idle gossip is over) Harry and Meghan sat in the – shock – second row during Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, while the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, sat up front.
One British newspaper declared that Meghan’s funeral outfit was an attempt to “ingratiate herself” with the royals; as though wearing black at a memorial were something new and different; and we heard GMB’s Dan Wootton interview with Tom Bower (yes, the same Dan Wootton who was mocked for his “performative mourning” after asking a friend to film him poignantly laying flowers at the Queen’s memorial, while apparently taking four goes to get the best side of his grief) in which it was declared: “The only person that Meghan I think at the moment is crying for is for herself. Certainly not for the Queen.”
Piers Morgan, meanwhile, saw fit to criticise Meghan for attending the funeral in the first place. “When I see her at all these events this week, I think a lot of British people find it very hard to stomach because they think, well, you made the Queen’s life so difficult the last two years of her life,” he told Fox News – echoing the spite expressed by journalist Petronella Wyatt, who tweeted: “May God forgive Harry and Meghan for causing the Queen so much pain, for I never shall.”
To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here
I saw sad and depressing and entirely unsubstantiated tweets accusing Meghan of “bullying” Princess Charlotte; other comments branding the Duchess of Sussex a “witch” and accusing her of “smirking” as she left Westminster Abbey. “Go home Meghan Markle” was, unthinkably, trending on Twitter – with all of the eyebrow-raising connotations such a sentiment holds for someone who has spoken previously about being treated differently because she is biracial.
I was, by far, not the only one to notice the savage outpouring of vitriol in Meghan’s direction – one political commentator tweeted: “Meghan Markle isn’t perfect – nor is Prince Harry (although he put his life on the line for his country and stood up for people who struggle with their mental health). But the nastiness and the viciousness directed at her (and Harry) come from a very dark place. Racism is rife.” Others agreed – and have rightly called it out.
I am not a close observer of the Royal Family but even I have been struck by the abuse and vitriol directed at Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex. This kind of sustained hate directed at one person can be very detrimental for their mental health & wellbeing and needs to stop.
— Professor Azeem Majeed (@Azeem_Majeed) September 14, 2022
Meghan, meanwhile, rose to none of it. Instead, she was the very picture of grace and elegance; maintaining perfect composure and playing a supportive, role at the side of her husband, Prince Harry, who has recently lost his grandmother. She was everything anyone could have expected of her – no different to Kate, no different to Camilla.
You couldn’t possibly criticise her outfit – as one tweeter said, “No royal besides Princess Diana has ever looked this iconic.” Her black cape, gloves and hat were perfectly pitched to the proceedings; she even wore earrings gifted to her by the Queen. Her mourning was understated, too; confined to a simple wiping away of tears as she joined other members of the royal family outside Westminster Abbey following the service. Yet still the baying hounds came for her – and will continue to come for her.
If Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is to forever be a source of British pride, then let the public treatment of Meghan Markle be our shame. We have absolutely nothing to be proud of.