The secret is out. Over the past seven months, Meghan Markle has been guest-editing the September issue of Vogue. And now, naturally, she is being criticised for it.
If one were to make a list of all the barbs that Meghan Markle has faced in the 14 months since her marriage to Prince Harry, there would probably be enough material to fill another issue of the fashion bible. This is just the latest stick with which to beat her.
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The September issue, entitled Forces for Change, features 15 influential women on the front cover, from Sinead Burke to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. In the magazine, there is a candid interview with Michelle Obama, as well as promotion for grassroots organisations and charities.
Despite this altruism, Meghan has been attacked for being opportunistic and using the edition for self-promotion. Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote that she has a “persistent feeling that the cause the Duchess is mostly supporting is the Me, Myself & I Foundation.”
She has also been accused of hypocrisy for simultaneously trying to protect her privacy and contributing to a publication that will be read by millions.
All this would be easier to accept, perhaps, if Meghan had made herself the cover star and filled the pages entirely with her own endeavours. But the guest-edit will not be an exposé of her private world. She has consciously shifted the spotlight to causes and people she finds inspirational – which is part of her royal duty.
She felt appearing on the cover would appear “boastful”, according to editor Edward Enninful. Instead, it is a celebration of 15 influential female role models – and it is particularly refreshing to see so many talented BME women on a Vogue cover. Meghan and Prince Harry’s @sussexroyal Instagram account explained: “The Duchess chose a diverse selection of women from all walks of life, each driving impact and raising the bar for equality, kindness, justice and open mindedness.”
This includes model and former addict Adwoah Aboah, whose work helps addicts; Laverne Cox, an influential transgender actress and LGBTQ+ activist; and 16-year-old environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg. Within the magazine, the Duchess will promote charities that she cares about such as Smart Works, which prepares women for job interviews.
But, of course, this attempt at modesty has somehow been turned into alleged proof of Meghan’s conflict with Kate Middleton, who appeared on the cover of Vogue in 2016. Because two young duchesses in the same family must, naturally, mean there is a catfight.
Make no mistake, the September issue will be widely read; many women who haven’t bought the magazine in years (myself included) will now do so because of the Markle Sparkle. There is potential for the edition to prompt a real cultural shift – something Meghan has acknowledged by making the 16th square on the cover a mirror. Her message? You too could change the world.
And for all those claiming that the duchess has broken with protocol and saying that “royals don’t guest-edit magazines”… lest we forget, they do.
In 2013, Prince Charles guest-edited an edition of Country Life to mark his 65th birthday. Not only was he on the cover, but many of the features revolved around him – including a column that expressed his views on culture and the countryside. He did it again in November to commemorate his 70th birthday. Despite appearing on the cover, Prince Charles, unlike Meghan, was not accused of being a narcissist or breaking the rules. Instead, he was lauded for raising his concerns about the environment.
Where were the critics when Prince Harry guest-edited Radio 4’s current affairs show Today in December 2017? Even the Duchess of Cambridge escaped unscathed when she helped produce the Huffington Post in 2016 to raise awareness around children’s mental health.
So why has there been such a backlash against Meghan’s guest edit? Unlike other royals, she has a reputation for being “too independent-minded” – which has led to unflattering nicknames, such as “Duchess Difficult” and “Me Gain”.
They expect a 37-year-old woman, who built her own successful career before marrying in the Firm, to suddenly fall silent.
If only her critics, who are some of the most vocal and nit-picky in recent royal history, would do exactly that.
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