For too long Meghan Markle has served as the world's punching bag.
While there is certainly a large camp of people praising the new Duchess of Sussex for her authenticity, her efforts to modernize the monarchy and, yes, her knack for putting together a designer ensemble, since her May vows to Prince Harry it has almost become sport to pick her apart. Royal watchers have criticized everything from her lack of pantyhose to her supposed request to wear a particular emerald tiara on her wedding day.
And with November's announcement that the expectant mom and her groom will relocate some 25 miles from Kensington Palace to nest in Windsor Castle's Frogmore House came a slew of stories that the move was prompted by Meghan's inability to get along with her sister-in-law Kate Middleton. Through it all, in the spirit of her new heritage, Meghan kept calm and carried on.
But her friends never agreed to do the same.
In an effort to stand up against what one former costar called "the global bullying we are seeing," five of the retired actress' closest companions spoke their truth to People magazine last week. Asked to give their take on the California native, the five woman painted a picture of someone who was decidedly not a pampered princess.
The Meghan they knew was the first to toast her pals' achievements and handle their tough times "with Kleenex and a shoulder and a glass of wine and the best chat and a book that will help pull me out of wherever I am," said a close confidante. She was the type of host to fix up the guest bedroom with a robe, slippers and homemade cookies, noted an L.A. friend.
The onetime calligrapher—she handled the lettering on the invitations for Robin Thicke's 2005 nuptials to Paula Patton—was also a fan of the written word. Following a 2014 USO tour, she formed a number of pen pal relationships, handwritten notes criss-crossing the globe, said the L.A. friend, and for any kind gesture or present she receives, "She sends so many thank-you notes, all in her beautiful penmanship."
As it turns out, she's mailed other letters too.
Three months into her now-legendary family feud with father Thomas Markle, one that began with the 74-year-old's regrettable decision to work with a paparazzo and quickly spiraled from there, Meghan sent him a note essentially asking him to shut the eff up around the press. "She's like, 'Dad, I'm so heartbroken. I love you. I have one father. Please stop victimizing me through the media so we can repair our relationship,'" a close friend shared with the magazine. "Because every time her team has to come to her and fact-check something [he has said], it's an arrow to the heart."
As a response, the friend continued, "He writes her a really long letter in return, and he closes it by requesting a photo op with her. And she feels like, 'That's the opposite of what I'm saying. I'm telling you I don't want to communicate through the media, and you're asking me to communicate through the media. Did you hear anything I said?' It's almost like they're ships passing."
While the cover story included interesting tidbits about Meghan's ability to whip-up chef-worthy meals and tell a wickedly funny joke, the dueling missives quickly became the main takeaway of the whole piece.
They were certainly the part that Thomas fixated on.
Feeling that his daughter's friends were attacking him, and had received her express permission to do so, he responded by...releasing the exact note they had mentioned, feeling it would somehow vindicate him.
"The letter was presented in a way that vilified me and wasn't true," he explained to the Daily Mail, which printed select excerpts of the five-page missive. "It was presented as her reaching out and writing a loving letter in the hope of healing the rift, but the letter isn't like that at all. Meghan can't have it both ways. She can't use the press to get her message across but hang me out to dry. I have the right to defend myself."
His other daughter, Samantha Markle, always ready to pile on, took it a step further, telling UK's The Sun the note "was nasty. Dad is prepared to release more of it."
But by releasing portions of the letter—and threatening to unleash more—Thomas has, perhaps unintentionally showed his hand. No longer can he claim that he's simply a grieving father hoping to make nice with his beloved daughter. (Though he can and he has, insisting, somewhat inexplicably to the Daily Mail that he simply wants to put this mess behind him.) Rather his actions are that of a man scorned, intent on proving he's right and repairing his personal reputation at any cost.
And the price may be quite high.
Sources tell Vanity Fair that by sharing the letter with one of his go-to media outlets, the exact thing Meghan requested he stop doing, the retired lighting director has also relinquished any chance that he might one day repair his relationship with his youngest child. While a source says Harry is "angry" and "upset" that his father-in-law continues to speak to the press, Meghan is simply "at her wit's end."
A single-minded Thomas, however, seems to be more focused on his reputation than their relationship. Though he gives lip service to the idea that all he wants is to speak to his daughter, it's hard to imagine he feels insulting her is the way to go about doing that.
"This is not the girl I know. It's not the way she talks," he lamented to the paper. "For her friends—and by default Meg—to portray this as a loving letter is ridiculous. Love isn't mentioned once in the entire thing." Which, it is, just not in the spot he's fixated on.
"This letter is cold," he continued. "When she signs off it's 'Meg'. You read the way it ends and it felt like a final farewell to me. It doesn't even start out with 'Dear. It's just 'Daddy'."
Never mind that she followed that up by saying, "It is with a heavy heart that I write this, not understanding why you have chosen to take this path, turning a blind eye to the pain you're causing," and noting, "Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces," words that would certainly jolt most fathers. He had some complaints.
Going through point by point, Thomas shared with Daily Mail the parts of the letter he felt were mischaracterizations. He took umbrage with the idea that she had learned of his heart attack through the press and phoned him some 20 times only to get voicemail ("There were no missed messages,") or that he'd cashed in on their fractured relationship. ("I've only accepted a few payments. I worked it out and if I'd taken all of the offers I've had, I could have made $600,000.")
He also rejected her notion that she has, indeed, offered up financial help, saying any "modest" gifts were "greatly appreciated" and fought back against her assertion that he's made "attacks" against Harry in the press. When he told The Sun the prince needed to "Man up and get over it...If I'm the first person who's insulted you or hurt your feelings, you've got a long way to go," it was to be seen more as a request. "I've never attacked Harry," he said, perhaps forgetting about the part where he called him arrogant. "I asked him to man up."
As for his written reply, suggesting they pose up for photographers—or, as he put it, "I wish we could get together and take a photo for the whole world to see. If you and Harry don't like it? Fake it for one photo and maybe some of the press will shut up?"—he feels the request was "totally misinterpreted." He wasn't trying to drum up some good press for himself, he swore, or pocket some cash through a side deal with a photographer, he truly felt it was the best solution to getting the relentless reporters at a distance.
"When Doria was photographed with Meghan and Harry for the first time it took the heat off Doria," he opined of her September 2017 appearance at Toronto's Invictus Games. "It showed she was part of the family. I don't want a picture for any other reason than if we show harmony then the press will back off."
He also seemed to bump against one phrase, where she mentions him being "so far down this rabbit hole" in his relationship with the press, that convinces him Harry is pulling the strings. "Americans don't know what the hell 'down the rabbit hole' means? It's apparently to do with Alice In Wonderland," he told the UK outlet. "You Brits use it. That feels like pure Harry."
Call us crazy, but we've fallen down the rabbit hole on many a celebrity story—only realizing that we're in too deep after we've scanned the fifth Bachelor contestant's Instagram.
Either way, by parsing the letter for hurtful language, Thomas is allowing the point to sail right over him: What her friends said was absolutely true—she did write him a letter begging him to stop trashing her in the press in the hopes they could take steps toward repairing their relationship.
And if her words were a bit harsh—nasty seems like quite the leap—well, wasn't her anger kinda justified?
By the time Meghan penned the missive, her dad had already granted three increasingly hostile interviews where he transitioned from speculating about how miserable she appeared to poking fun at the in-laws that had warmly welcomed her into the fold ("They're just like a Monty Python sketch. Say a few critical words about the Royal Family and they put their fingers in their ears, cover their eyes and pull the blinds down," he opined to the Daily Mail), to openly taking credit for everything she had accomplished in her life from her dual college degrees to her acting career to the work she'd done to move the needle on key causes she held dear. "She'd be nothing without me," he told the paper. "I made her the Duchess she is today. Everything that Meghan is, I made her."
And, then, in perhaps the most hurtful move he dubbed her as "cold", attacking her "sense of superiority". His own daughter.
With his willingness to throw around such harsh language, it seems strange that he wasn't more receptive to some admonishing of his own behavior.
Perhaps it stung to have his daughter accuse him of lying and "creating so much pain" or "manufacturing this fictitious narrative", but that pales in comparison to some of the insults he dispensed. And if you can dish it out, well, he should be a little better at taking it.
Whether or not Meghan gave her friends tacit approval to speak to People, she's now a bit stymied as to what to do next. By allowing a newspaper to print her letter, Thomas has now proven there's no boundary that he won't cross, so any hope of working things out privately have been dashed.
And while she could certainly go on the offensive, rightfully attacking her dad for keeping the narrative of their fight alive and well in the press, making him look bad has never been her M.O. She could have certainly directed the Palace to release a statement admonishing his insult-ridden interviews months ago, but instead chose to remain silent as he took her to task.
Because as much as she's hurt by his behavior, perhaps part of her can understand how he got to this point. For months, he had been prodded by the British media intent on painting him as some sort of recluse holed up in a Mexican shack, capturing pictures of him buying a toilet and paper plates or picking up a four-pack of Heineken. So when his eldest daughter offered the suggestion that he pose for a set of staged shots as a solution—noting to Vanity Fair's Vanessa Grigoriadis that plenty of celebs "do this sort of thing—why can't my dad?"—he acquiesced.
Of course the fix had become the problem the moment another tailing pap latched on to the scheme and, well, things had spiraled from there.
"She cares for her dad, and has concerns for him and his mental health, which is one of the reasons she doesn't want to comment on this," an insider explained to Vanity Fair. "It's a very complex, very emotional situation, and let's not forget she is seven months pregnant."
Thomas, of course, has offered up a solution.
"I want nothing more than to sort this mess out," he told the Daily Mail, sticking to his standard refrain. "I would ask her and Harry to contact me. All it would take is one phone call and most of this craziness would stop."
With all due respect, though, it'd appear that Meghan already tried that tactic, albeit she went the written route. And it'd be hard to argue that it stopped one shred of the craziness. So at this point it's anyone's guess as to what comes next except we'd imagine Meghan should keep working on that stiff upper lip.