Are friends doing Meghan Markle a disservice?

In a few days Meghan Markle will have been in her new job fourteen months.

Quite a lot has happened; she’s been scrutinised and found wanting, her behaviour and motives have been questioned, her background has been under the microscope. Not just here, but around the world. It must have been tough.

She has many friends and supporters though, not least Prince Harry her loving husband who has chosen to guide her through the labyrinth of being the newest member of The Firm.

Supporting someone whatever they do can have the effect of reinforcing poor decisions and inappropriate behaviours and this can be as ultimately damaging as constant criticism. Everyone needs a balanced appraisal in order to develop to their best potential. To do other is to do a disservice.

What do we know?

  • star of a hit American television series
  • Harry’s senior by three years
  • American by birth and of mixed-race
  • fervent campaigner for equal rights

What are we told in second-hand reports?

  • used to being centre stage
  • difficult family relationships
  • has the support of her mother

What don’t we know, nor can ever know?

  • how she feels about her new role, as a wife, mother, and royal
  • how secure she feels in her adopted country
  • what hopes she has for the future

What did Meghan bring to the job?

  • experience of being in the public eye due to an acting background
  • an affinity with people and an easy, pleasing manner
  • a strong desire to campaign for human rights

What might prove difficult?

  • being deferential and sharing the limelight
  • having to conform and following protocol
  • assuming the qualities of a British royal

Meghan Markle’s innate qualities should have helped in her assimilation. Yet fourteen months on she still appears to be ‘not quite there’. In any other role the expectation would be that the settling in process would be over by now. While the ‘walkabout’ public appearances go smoothly owing to her natural charm and friendly demeanour, more formal occasions do not.

Turning around on the Buckingham Palace balcony as the National Anthem is beginning is not only untimely but tantamount to rudeness. Put bluntly she disrespected her husband’s grandmother and the ruling Monarch of her newly adopted country – the person who pays for a considerable portion of her new lifestyle. I listened to a supporter say that Meghan had not long had a baby and was probably exhausted and not in her right mind. What? She just had to stand there for a few minutes. Many new mums have to look together for the in-laws and without the luxury of nannies, cooks, or housekeepers; I had to, while my whole family support system lived on the other side of the world.

The bottom line is that she made her living as a successful actress. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get into role, assume a character, with the same level of success. Hundreds if not thousands do it every day without the benefit of it being a chosen career path. Being on stage is anathema to me, but day after day as a class teacher I wore a mask, put on an act. In the staffroom, in meetings, I rarely spoke – but put me in front of a class I assume the role of the perfect teacher. Just weeks before the orchestrated bullying by senior staff drove me to a mental breakdown that had me re-admitted to hospital I was still working full-tilt. Add the fact that I have serious mental health issues and autism, I think you’ll see why I don’t have much sympathy.

It’s easier if you’re born to it

Think about that. Yes, the royals (the closest family members to the Queen) were born ‘royals’ – i.e. they did not have a choice, and many would not have taken up that particular mantle. Think Prince Philip and Princess Royal – no wonder they come across as being short-tempered and rude. Charles and Edward? Andrew? And the Queen herself. She’s much happier around her horses and dogs than celebrities and politicians.

What about those who made the choice to marry into The Firm? Some thrive (Kate and Camilla), some keep their head down (Sophie), others go off the rails. It all depends on how seriously you take on the new role, as much as how willing you are to leave your own demands behind locked doors. Ultimately, they made the choice as adults, and as adults they should at least have done their research.

How do we learn and develop?

Mostly by getting things wrong – it’s way harder to improve significantly without some failure. But we need to know we’re off the mark and that’s where real friends who aren’t afraid to speak the truth, not “friends” who think they’re being supportive, come in.

On our side. we need to listen to advice and be prepared to act on it especially when faced with a totally unfamiliar situation. When Meghan rocked up at Wimbledon in jeans had no-one suggested that wasn’t the most suitable attire, especially if she planned to use the Royal Box? As for the taking photographs business, we’ll never really know who said what and why, but perhaps it wouldn’t have grown into something news worthy if there hadn’t been other issues at the event. Circumspection goes a long way.

Please note: this is my opinion of the role of friends, especially those of individuals in the firing-line of the media; I have focused on aspects of Meghan Markle’s interaction with the public to highlight a problematic relationship. In this context I also refer to people in the media who act as surrogate friends.