LONDON: Last May, millions across the world tuned in to watch Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry tie the knot with his American actress girlfriend Meghan Markle, with the media feting the couple as the epitome of glamour and royal modernity.
But less than a year later, the couple have found themselves on the receiving end of much less flattering coverage as they prepare for the birth of their first child this spring.
“Frown Jewels: Meg is banned by Queen from using Di gems,” the front page headline on Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper The Sun said over a story which claimed the monarch had banning Meghan from wearing royal jewellery, a sign of growing tensions between Harry’s wife and senior Windsors.
“Meghan Markle ‘pretty difficult’ person to deal with — ‘Harry is Miserable,’” said a Daily Express headline last month, while the Daily Mail ran this story in January: “How Meghan’s favourite avocado snack ... is fuelling human rights abuses, drought and murder”.
There is no doubting the enduring, global fascination with the British royals. On Tuesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as Harry and Meghan are officially known, launched their first Instagram account. Two days later, it had 3.4 million followers.
While much reporting by the British press on the royal family is respectful, verging on the sycophantic, at other times it can be harshly critical, even cruel.
“The press here in Britain is very aggressive, and they don’t hold back,” said veteran Sun photographer Arthur Edwards who has covered the royals for more than four decades.
The first public acknowledgement that Harry and Meghan were dating in November 2016 came in a statement criticising the media for intruding into his then girlfriend’s private life.
It was indicative of how Harry views the media which he blames for the death of his mother Princess Diana. She died in Paris in 1997, when he was just 12, when her limousine crashed as it sped away from chasing paparazzi photographers.
“If there is a story and something’s been written about me, I want to know what’s been said. But all it does is upset me and anger me,” Harry said in a broadcast interview while on military service in Afghanistan in 2012.
In his youth, Harry found himself in the headlines for under-age drinking, wearing a Nazi outfit to a costume party and scuffling with photographers outside London nightclubs. But his popularity grew both with Britons generally and the media who loved his antics when on official engagements, such as posing with the likes of Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt.
“When you went on tour with Harry before he was married, it was a fantastic tour. Every day he would make great pictures, he would do something that was spectacular,” Edwards said. “We think he’s the best thing in the royal family.” But since Harry tied the knot, something changed, he said. — Reuters