NOTHING KEEPS THE newspapers busy like a Royal Wedding. This Saturday, Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle will marry at Windsor Castle in an event that will be watched by millions around the world. Even for a Royal used to living under scrutiny and an actress with a long list of TV credits, there will be pressure. And to add to that pressure, Thomas Markle, Meghan’s dad, won’t be attending.
Thomas Markle has said he is undergoing surgery following a heart attack. But that doesn’t tell the full story. On Monday, he had said he did not want to cause further embarrassment to his daughter or the Royal Family after it emerged that he had worked with the paparazzi to take photos of himself preparing for the wedding. In one he reads a book called Images of Britain and in other he is measured for a suit. But Thomas Markle is being far too hard on himself, even if the revelations were ‘said to be deeply embarrassing for Kensington Palace’ and even if he has been vilified by the British press.
Let’s not forget that collaboration with the paparazzi is nothing new. Plenty of people, from Taylor Swift to Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, have made deals with press photographers. New York paparazzo Justin Steffman told Cosmopolitan that ‘there is an unspoken deal between Swift and paparazzi, and her bodyguards make it clear … it’s all about business for her.’ Paltrow and Martin worked directly with an infamous photographer in New York to stage baby photos when their daughter, Apple, was born. And Kim Kardashian, the undisputed queen of self-promotion, has a personal paparazzo who takes ‘candid’ photos she then approves. Even in the Royal Family, these kinds of deals aren’t new. Princess Diana, still an icon in much of the world, worked closely with press photographers during her first years as a royal, and quickly became the most photographed woman in the world. She may have been ‘courting’ the media or keeping it at bay through diplomacy, but deals were nonetheless made.
Thomas Markle and his daughter Samantha Grant, who has claimed responsibility for setting up the controversial photoshoot, don’t deserve such aggressive criticism. We should have more sympathy for someone plunged into such an unfamiliar situation. We should see the hypocrisy in our criticism as well. Jane Merrick, writing for CNN, suggested Mr. Markle, given no protection by Kensington Palace, was trying to ‘tame’ the paparazzi monster by offering them something, as many others have. She suggests the viciousness of the criticism aimed at Mr. Markle reveals an anti-American bias. Sarah, the Duchess of York, who has capitalised on her royal connection to write books and appear on television, has rarely been criticised. The Middletons have been accused of using their connections to drum up business as well, but they have received little criticism. Maybe Jane Merrick is right. If Mr. Markle was not an American, would there still be so much public shaming?
Meghan Markle’s dad should walk her down the aisle. If he can’t make the wedding for health reasons, that can’t be helped. But if it can, the press and the public, through their criticism, should not deny him the honour of seeing his daughter get married because he was put in a difficult situation and handled it less than well. That would be a disgrace.