VF: Duchess Meghan is ‘still living rent-free in their mind palaces’

Vanity Fair has two people doing royal coverage full-time: Katie Nicholl and Erin Vanderhoof. Nicholl is there because she has an “in” with the Middletons and with Kensington Palace. Vanderhoof is more like a neutral observer, but they’re letting Vanderhoof write more royal-analysis pieces and it’s going really well. She wrote this great VF piece this week called “Why Kensington Palace Just Can’t Let Go of Meghan Markle.” Vanderhoof excellently summarizes the events of the week, and includes some great analysis of just how pathetic it is that Kensington Palace is still obsessed with Meghan. Some highlights:

The particularly nasty Saudi-gifted earrings story: “Nor does anyone seem to bring up the earrings to suggest that the royal family should be more transparent about the gifts they receive from the Saudi royal family or other accused violators of human rights. It is, like so many of the supposedly damning stories that leaked out of the palace while Meghan lived there, just a detail arranged to make her look bad.

Americans view the royals as celebrities: It seemed that [the Sussexes] wanted to move, both figuratively and literally, closer to the type of coverage that American outlets were willing to supply. But in the months after their royal exit, their desire to extricate themselves from the palace itself has become equally obvious. Meghan was reportedly “convinced there was a conspiracy against her,” and in a court document that surfaced this past July, she wrote that she felt “unprotected” by the royal family during her pregnancy. As easy as it is to imagine that Meghan was demanding of her staff, it’s hard to see the constant relitigation of that period as anything but proof that she was painfully exposed.

Living rent-free in their mind-palaces: Even if we ignore the 20th century anecdotes about palace aides cowering in fear—or The Crown’s recent depiction of the family’s alleged hazing rituals at Balmoral Castle—and decide to believe that Meghan alone made the royal household a toxic workplace, there’s the small fact that she is now gone. The traditionalists should be celebrating their victory, but instead she’s still living rent-free in their mind palaces. The frustration is understandable; somehow Meghan and Harry emerged from the whole affair apparently richer, happier, and freer, with a clearer sense of purpose. Just look at Harry, tan and satisfied, on a double-decker bus with James Corden. And soon Oprah, one of the world’s most famous broadcasters and their new neighbor, will offer a sympathetic platform for Harry and Meghan to air their complaints about the monarchy, and the media, to the world.

Meghan doesn’t need to be perfect for Americans to love her: But any American watching the story from the beginning could have predicted this exact turn of events. In fact, it’s practically our cultural heritage. In a January essay for The New York Times, the novelist Claire Messud astutely likened Meghan to Undine Spragg, the woman at the center of Edith Wharton’s 1913 novel of social climbing, The Custom of the Country. “Both women—unconquerable, conceiving of themselves as heroines—seem to confront the challenge with their own best interests firmly in view and find a positive way forward,” she wrote. “They make lemonade out of lemons; they reinvent themselves; they keep on climbing.” This is not a particularly flattering comparison, but it helps explain why pearl-clutching criticism of Meghan has long seemed bizarre to her fellow countrymen. She doesn’t need to be perfect to be fascinating or worthwhile, and it’s more honest to admit that.

[From Vanity Fair]

All of this is dead-on. Vanderhoof even quotes some of the huffy British reporters who have been whining and crying about how the “bullying” accusations have failed to make a dent in Meghan’s popularity in America. The British reporters seem deeply concerned that we recognize Meghan as one of our own, that we find her and her husband charming, fascinating and yes, worthwhile. Americans do view the royal as celebrities as well, which, frankly, is how royals around the world should be viewed. Don’t give any of these people actual power. They are, at best, soft-power diplomats and official ribbon-cutters whose assorted melodramas and soap operas amuse the masses. We love the fact that Meghan is a self-made woman, it’s part of the American DNA, and we love that a ginger prince has come to our shores to start over and reinvent himself too.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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