It was just eight days after I broke the world-exclusive story that Prince Harry was dating Meghan Markle in October 2016 when the decision was taken to present the then US actress as an unwitting victim of her circumstances.
Written by Jason Knauf, then communications secretary to Harry and the Prince and Princess of Wales, a 403-word statement was released on Nov 8, 2016 that could not have been clearer.
“The past week has seen a line crossed,” it read. “His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment.”
There had not only been a “smear” on the front page of a national newspaper, but comment pieces had “racial undertones”.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” it added.
“It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm. He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his.”
The implication was obvious – Ms Markle was in danger of turning into Diana, Princess of Wales – hounded by the media until her dying day. In his recently published book, Courtiers, royal author Valentine Low claims Meghan threatened to “dump” Harry if he didn’t put the statement out.
In a subsequent communique, released on Oct 1, 2019, with the announcement that the couple were suing Associate Newspapers, the prince spelled it out even more clearly: “My deepest fear is history repeating itself.
“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
The latest trailer for their imminent Netflix series appears to mark the conclusion of this particular “story arc”, as it is known in Meghan’s former trade.
Depicted as a woman at first revered and then reviled by the media (complete with a voice over from her arch-nemesis Piers Morgan), the one-minute film is unashamed in its comparisons with Harry’s late mother, who briefly appears in footage shielding her face from paparazzi with a tennis racquet.
It even features a clip of a then Kate Middleton being followed by photographers, as Harry decries the “feeding frenzy” that has contributed to “the pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution”.
Once again, preaching the gospel according to Oprah, he declares sagely: “No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth.”
Which of course would be more believable if this latest trailer wasn’t so dishonest.
As is ever the case with the Duke and Duchess of Disingenuity – nothing is quite what it seems.
For starters, Harry’s pained admission that it is “really hard to look back on… what on earth happened” doesn’t quite chime with the couple’s decision to make a six-part documentary raking over the horror of it all.
He talks of “a feeding frenzy”, seemingly oblivious that he and Meghan are the ones actively stirring the publicity pot.
He hints at the media pitting princess against princess – only for last week’s trailer to have delighted in shamelessly depicting Kate as the source of Meghan’s misery.
And his suggestion that stories are “leaked” and “planted” by his nearest and dearest would perhaps garner more sympathy were it not for People’s February 2019 cover story, headlined: “Meghan Markle’s Best Friends Break Their Silence: ‘We Want to Speak the Truth’.”
In the face of negative headlines, Meghan declares dramatically: “I realised, they’re never going to protect you,” perhaps forgetting that she was once privy to taxpayer-funded Metropolitan Police bodyguards and an entire palace press office. (The same PR team, incidentally, that willingly released the aforementioned statements, allegedly largely dictated by her while still being advised by US spin-machine Sunshine Sachs.)
As Harry puts it: “This is a dirty game”, apparently unaware of the grubby role he has played in it by selling out his family for Kardashian amounts of cash.
A more honest approach might be to take some responsibility. But instead these anti-monarchy Royals, who insist on keeping their titles despite decrying the institution to which they belong, revert to House of Windsor route one… and blame the media.
The game doesn’t just seem “dirty” but downright deceitful with the discovery that most of the images of the evil, invasive UK press have actually been shot in the US, the Sussexes’ supposed sanctuary. As the Yanks might say: “Go figure.”
“I was terrified”, insists Harry, reflecting on that truly horrifying period living in a multi-million-pound Grade II listed mansion in the middle of the “hood” that is Windsor Great Park.
To any vaguely impartial observer, the “full truth” is rather less black and white than Christopher Bouzy’s claim that: “It’s about hatred, it’s about race” or Jenny Afia’s suggestion that: “There was a war against Meghan to suit other people’s agendas.” But if both trailers are anything to go by, it seems unlikely we will hear from anyone with a degree more objectivity than a man who produced a report on the trolling of Meghan by bots, and a woman who is paid by the hour to defend her.
The Duchess suggests that with the click of her fingers, “everything changed”.
Yet a documentary seeking the “full truth” would not just focus on the public narrative turning against the couple after they were married.
It would also surely explore why it turned against them privately with the lodging of a bullying complaint in October 2018 – less than six months after the fairytale Windsor Castle wedding. It remains to be seen whether any disgruntled staff will make a contribution to volume one or two but one gets the distinct impression that the same diktat applies now as it did when Mr Knauf released that first statement, six years ago: “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”