Ever since Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's interview with Oprah aired, people can't help but draw comparisons between Meghan Markle and Lady Diana's royal experience. Because clearly, the Royal family could not offer these women the kind of support they needed. To put it simply, their experience was anything but a fairytale.
Here's a look at some of the most striking similarities between Diana and Meghan's royal experience:
1. Not being provided adequate information about the expected code of conduct for the Royal Family.
Both Diana and Meghan talked about how, despite their best efforts to 'fit in', they often felt out of place as Royals. Not because of the rules, but because no one explained to them how to navigate the Royal life.
It was isolating, but it was also a situation where you couldn't indulge in feeling sorry for yourself: you had to either sink or swim. And you had to learn that very fast... No one sat me down with a piece of paper and said: ‘This is what is expected of you.’
- Diana to BBC
I didn’t fully understand what the job was: What does it mean to be a working royal? What do you do? What does that mean? He (Harry) and I were very aligned on our cause-driven work, that was part of our initial connection. But there was no way to understand what the day-to-day was going to be like, and it’s so different because I didn’t romanticise any element of it. As Americans what you do know about the royals is what you read in fairytales. It’s easy to have an image that is so far from reality, and that’s what was so tricky over those past few years, when the perception and the reality are two different things and you’re being judged on the perception but you’re living the reality of it. There’s a complete misalignment and there’s no way to explain that to people.
- Meghan Markle
2. Dealing with excessive media attention, both positive and negative.
Both Diana and Meghan were hounded by the British media, and at times, even vilified in an almost vindictive manner. Not only did the attention severely affect them, but the little to no support the Royal family offered further exacerbated the situation for them.
The most daunting aspect was the media attention, because my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn't; and then when we were married they said it would go quietly and it didn't; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop. And I was very aware of that.
Everyone in my world was given very clear directive, from the moment the world knew Harry and I were dating, to always say, ‘No comment’. That’s my friends, my mom, and dad. And we did. I did anything they told me to do — of course I did, because it was also through the lens of, ‘And we’ll protect you’. So, even as things started to roll out in the media that I didn’t see — but my friends would call me and say, ‘Meg, this is really bad’ — because I didn’t see it, I’d go, ‘Don’t worry. I’m being protected’. I believed that. It was only once we were married and everything started to really worsen that I came to understand that not only was I not being protected, but they were willing to lie to protect other members of the family but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband.
3. On their experience of Royal tours.
For both women, the Australia tour was the start to the end. Because it was one of the first examples of the women being loved by the locals and international media, despite not fitting the bill as per the British media and apparently, even the Royal family.
We went to Alice Springs, to Australia, and we went and did a walkabout, and I said to my husband: `What do I do now?' And he said, `Go over to the other side and speak to them.' I said, `I can't, I just can't.' He said, `Well, you've got to do it.' And he went off and did his bit, and I went off and did my bit. It practically finished me off there and then, and I suddenly realised - I went back to our hotel room and realised the impact that, you know, I had to sort myself out. We had a six-week tour - four weeks in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand - and by the end, when we flew back from New Zealand, I was a different person. I realised the sense of duty, the level of intensity of interest, and the demanding role I now found myself in.
It, coincidentally, was also the first time when both women had to take up Royal duties. Though both did a phenomenal job, as they'd admitted, these duties weren't something they trained for or taught about.
Consequently, the contrast between the image they presented and their actualy reality left both, Diana and Meghan overwhelmed and distraught.
You know, those tours are . . . I’m sure they have beautiful pictures and it looks vibrant, and all of that is true. It’s also really exhausting. Because we were doing our job. Our job was to be on and to smile. And so, when he (reporter Tom Brady) asked me that, I guess I had felt that it had never occurred to anyone that I, that I wasn’t OK, and that I had really been suffering.
4. Experience a complete change of lifestyle in a very short span of time, and being forced to hide/alter their true self.
Both Diana and Meghan were, with an alarming speed, thrust into a life very different from the one they'd led before their marraige. And that had an indelible impact on their spirit and sense of being.
In the space of a year my whole life had changed, turned upside down, and it had its wonderful moments, but it also had challenging moments. And I could see where the rough edges needed to be smoothed. Maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression (post-natal) or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you've never seen it before how do you support it? And it gave everybody a wonderful new label - Diana's unstable and Diana's mentally unbalanced.
I’ve always worked. I’ve always valued independence. I’ve always been outspoken, especially about women’s rights. I mean, that’s the sad irony of the last four years . . . is I’ve advocated for so long for women to use their voice, and then I was silent
5. Experiencing severe mental health issues while trying to adjust to their new life, but not being provided requisite help.
Excessive restrictions, negative media attention, and the image being presented to the media, together took a toll on both women's mental health. Unfortunately, adequate help was not provided to any of them.
I had bulimia for a number of years. And that's like a secret disease. You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable... It's a repetitive pattern which is very destructive to yourself... It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: they decided that was the problem - Diana was unstable... You have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it's the wrong help you're asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you're in the media all the time you've got enough "attention". But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales. So yes, I did inflict upon myself. I didn't like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn't cope with the pressures.
I just didn’t want to be alive any more. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember how he (Harry) just cradled me. I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. And I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution. I went to one of the most senior people just to get help. And I share this, because there’s so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help. And I know, personally, how hard it is to not just voice it, but when you voice it, to be told no. So, I went to human resources, and I said, ‘I just really — I need help’. And I remember this conversation like it was yesterday, because they said, ‘My heart goes out to you, because I see how bad it is, but there’s nothing we can do to protect you because you’re not a paid employee of the institution’. This wasn’t a choice. This was emails and begging for help, saying very specifically, ‘I am concerned for my mental welfare’. And people going, ‘Oh, yes, yes, it’s disproportionately terrible what we see out there to anyone else’. But nothing was ever done, so we had to find a solution.
6. On being blamed for trying to break up the monarchy, when in fact, they wanted to look out for their children's heritage and future.
I've heard people say to me that, you know, `Diana's out to destroy the monarchy', which has bewildered me, because why would I want to destroy something that is my children's future. I will fight for my children on any level in order for them to be happy and have peace of mind and carry out their duties.
I left my career, my life. I left everything because I love him, right? And our plan was to do this for ever. Our plan . . . for me, I mean, I wrote letters to his family when I got there, saying, ‘I am dedicated to this. I’m here for you. Use me as you’d like’.
7. On stepping back from their royal duties and/or public life.
The (media) pressure was intolerable then, and my job, my work was being affected. I wanted to give 110% to my work, and I could only give 50. I was constantly tired, exhausted because the pressure was just, it was so cruel. So I thought the only way to do it was to stand up and make a speech and extract myself before I started disappointing and not carrying out my work. It was my decision to make that speech because I owed it to the public to say that, you know, ‘Thank you. I’m disappearing for a bit, but I’ll come back
We never left the family and we only wanted to have the same type of role that exists, right? There’s senior members of the family and then there are non-senior members. And we said, specifically, ‘We’re stepping back from senior roles to be just like several . . .’ I mean, I can think of so many right now who are all royal highnesses, prince or princess, duke or duchess, who earn a living, live on palace grounds, can support the Queen if and when called upon. So we weren’t reinventing the wheel here. We were saying, ‘OK, if this isn’t working for everyone, we’re in a lot of pain, you can’t provide us with the help we need, we can just take a step back. We can do it in a Commonwealth country’. We suggested New Zealand, South Africa . . .
8. On finally breaking their silence.
Maybe people have a better understanding, maybe there’s a lot of women out there who suffer on the same level but in a different environment, who are unable to stand up for themselves because their self-esteem is cut into two.
As an adult who lived a really independent life to then go into this construct that is different than I think what people expect it to be, it’s really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes, I’m ready to talk.
9. The difference between the Royal Family and the Royal Institution (the firm).
I was the separated wife of the Prince of Wales, I was a problem, fullstop. Never happened before, what do we do with her? She won't go quietly, that's the problem. I'll fight to the end, because I believe that I have a role to fulfill, and I've got two children to bring up...The enemy was my husband's department, because I always got more publicity, my work was more, was discussed much more than him. And, you know, from that point of view I understand it. But I was doing good things, and I wanted to good things. I was never going to hurt anyone, I was never going to let anyone down.
There’s the family, and then there’s the people that are running the institution. Those are two separate things. And it’s important to be able to compartmentalise that, because the Queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me.
The one thing that Meghan and Diana's experiences make abundantly clear is the need to always be honest to your true self. And it's nothing short of commendable that the two women faltered, but never backed down from the many challenges life threw on their path.