When it comes to the royal family, it’s no secret that Meghan Markle wasn’t received with the same warm welcome as Kate Middleton. Sure, she had her fans and supporters (the Queen herself notably among them), but her very presence sowed constant conflict with the UK public, royal commentators, and those within the family to whom tradition is particularly important. Some of this backlash was racism, pure and simple, an unfavorable reaction to Meghan becoming the first Black UK royal in recent memory. But a new theory about how Kate Middleton took cues from Prince Philip in her relationship to Prince William may be a further key to understanding why Meghan just couldn’t seem to fit in.
Royal biographer Penny Junor was the one to draw the connection between Kate and Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband of over 70 years. Since William is in line to be king, Kate has always adopted the position of a quiet supporter, much how Philip positions himself with the Queen.
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“I think that Kate is a bit like Prince Philip supporting the Queen,” Junor told People. “She doesn’t outshine William but still has a lot to say herself.”
Sarah Gristwood, the author of Elizabeth: The Queen and the Crown, adds that Kate’s marriage to William took on an “old-fashioned” dynamic from the start.
“In one sense hers and William’s was a modern royal marriage, in that it was a love match,” she explained to People. “But in another it has been old-fashioned. She mostly appears as a supportive figure to her husband.”
While Kate’s support of her husband over the years has been admirable, it’s immediately clear how this model wouldn’t work for Meghan and Prince Harry. For one, Meghan came into the relationship with celebrity of her own, and a global fan base. Whether or not her intention had been to “outshine” Harry, the public was inevitably more interested in her actions than Harry’s at various turns — a reaction that was likely ill-received by the royal family.
Conspiracy theories aside, it wouldn’t have just been impossible for Meghan to mimic Philip & the Queen’s relationship — there’s no sign that it would have been a useful, tactical move, or that Harry even wanted her to. Since Harry isn’t directly in line for the throne, there’s no need for him to establish himself as an authoritative figure, as William may want to, or for Meghan to devote her public persona to her husband’s ascent, as Kate may have wanted to.
And given Harry’s mixed past with the media, there’s no sign that the ex-royal ever wanted the spotlight to begin with, a theory strengthened by his decision to leave the royal family with Meghan. In fact, Harry may have secretly hoped to be the Philip to Meghan’s Queen Elizabeth, a quiet supporter determined not to outshine his powerful leader of a wife. In any event, that seems more likely than Meghan adopting the same stance Kate and Philip have taken on.
In their new life in North America, Meghan and Harry won’t be beholden to any traditions of the royal family. But as Kate becomes a firmly entrenched royal herself, it will be interesting to continue to track the path she’s chosen — and Meghan has refused.
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