It’s hard to believe it’s been over 25 years since Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car accident while fleeing the paparazzi. The hounding and incessant media presence in her life went far beyond the public’s need to know, and made her life miserable up until the end. The media’s responsibility was called out at her funeral by her brother Charles, the Earl of Spencer. Much was supposedly done on behalf of preventing another such catastrophe by a relentless press.
One would think that such would not be a problem today, and yet history seems to be repeating itself the way the media has treated Meghan Markle. Harry blames the media in large part for his mother’s death and seems determined not to let the same fate affect his wife and son.
Now, Harry and Megan have made the decision to step down as senior royals and live as much of a normal life as possible. Here are the eerie similarities between Princess Diana and Meghan, and the photos of Diana that may show why Harry and Meghan have decided to live a more private life.
On the surface it seems like Diana and Meghan’s childhoods have little similarity. But there is one major influence that affected them both: they dealt with the divorce of their parents at a young age.
Diana’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Spencer, divorced when she was seven years old. Similarly, Meghan’s parents Thomas Markle Sr. and Doria Ragland divorced when she was six.
Both women’s fathers had a profoundly negative influence on their lives after the divorce. Diana’s father remarried and her stepmother was unkind. Meanwhile, Meghan’s father moved away and little to do with her. They remain estranged to this day.
Diana was born into a world where it was expected she would marry laterally into nobility. Her father John Spencer was a British peer and nobleman, the Viscount Althorp and 8th Earl Spencer. She even grew up in in Park House on the Sandringham estate owned by Queen Elizabeth. Despite her privileged upbringing, she did not attend college. Her career before marriage included being a nanny and a teacher’s assistant.
Meghan, on the other hand, grew up in Los Angeles and was no stranger to Hollywood. Her father was a director of photography and lighting director on TV shows such as Married… with Children. Meghan graduated from Northwestern University with a double degree in theater and international studies. While taking small roles on soap operas and television shows, Meghan taught bookbinding and calligraphy. Eventually, she became a successful actress starring on the TV show Suits.
It’s amazing how two totally different women could end up marrying into royalty. It’s also amazing how similarly they would be treated by the media once they became part of the royal family.
Prince Charles appears to have gotten engaged to Diana because Queen Elizabeth did not approve of the woman he was really in love with, Camilla Shand. Charles was next in succession to the throne and the woman he married would be expected to continue the line. A disastrous televised interview with Diana and Charles about their engagement that did not paint their relationship in a romantic light. When asked if they were in love, Diana responded, “Of course.” But Prince Charles answered, “Whatever in love means.”
Meanwhile, Harry and Meghan’s engagement didn’t have the same feeling of royal obligation. Harry is well out of the line of succession thanks to his brother’s three children. But there was one major consideration about Meghan marrying into the royal family that caused a stir with the press. Meghan is biracial, having a caucasian father and an African-American mother. From the very early stages, it seemed as if race would play a major part in how she was perceived, and how the monarchy would be perceived when she joined it.
Charles and Diana were married in 1981 with all the pomp and circumstance necessary for the future King and Queen. Harry and Meghan had a less extravagant ceremony but one filled with glamour all the same. Diana’s wedding day was broadcast around the world with much excitement.
Meanwhile, Meghan had to contend with family drama of the most unwelcome sort surrounding her wedding. Her estranged father would not stay away from reporters in the build-up. The biggest controversy came days before the wedding when it was revealed he had sold staged photos of himself preparing for the ceremony. And then, more controversy brewed when he backed out of the wedding after suffering a heart attack.
In his own way, he made Meghan’s wedding a much bigger media circus than it would have otherwise been. And it was already out of hand — just look at the crazy pieces of merchandise the wedding generated. Harry and Meghan even got their own wax figures at Madame Tussauds during the press frenzy leading up to the wedding.
Birth of First Child
Diana’s first pregnancy was all over the papers. She was literally carrying the fate of the monarchy. When she gave birth to Harry’s older brother William, the world congratulated her for what amounted to doing her duty to the crown. Harry’s birth two years later gave rise to the saying that Diana had provided “an heir and a spare.”
But Harry’s role in the monarchy was to be determined only by his older brother’s actions. When William married Kate Middleton and began having children, Harry could breathe a sigh of relief. Some of the courtly pressure had been lifted from him. When Meghan gave birth to their son Archie, the couple decided to raise him as normally as possible.
Both Diana and Meghan grew to be fashion icons, but it was Meghan who launched a business and a website. Diana seemed to be more the product of her status than the driving force behind it. But both women have cherished social causes associated with them. Diana’s special concerns were the AIDS crisis and the removal of old land mines from abandoned battlefields. Meghan works with race and gender inequality issues. Both women were very vocal about their causes, even when it was not polite or politic to do so.
Diana’s Divorce and Final Years
Diana and Charles divorced in 1996. She was stripped of the HRH title and all but shunned by the crown, but the media converged around her. Part of this was due to the lurid details of the divorce and Charles’ infidelity. But even after she started a new life outside of the royals, the media dogged her every step, finding her even in her most private moments. It was her death in 1997, in an accident caused by her fleeing the ever-present papparazzi, that cemented her place in history alongside other tragic figures like Princess Grace of Monaco and Marilyn Monroe. Her funeral, televised live, was watched by millions of people around the world. Prince William was 15 and Prince Harry was just 12 at their mother’s funeral.
Preventing History from Repeating Itself
Harry has famously never forgiven the press for his mother’s treatment both during and after her marriage. Now out of the line of succession, Harry has taken the opportunity to move his family out of the royal spotlight, but not before bad press about Meghan started to surface.
Every single move of Meghan seems to get slammed by the tabloids. “Why can’t Meghan Markle keep her hands off her bump?” the Daily Mail wrote when she was pregnant. And The Daily Express took Meghan to task for the faux pas of putting her hands in her pockets.
Harry has made his position clear, taking the press to task. In a statement explaining his decision to sue the media for publishing a private letter of Meghan’s in 2019, Harry said, “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.”
Now, Harry and Meghan have stepped away from their royal duties and moved to Canada to raise their son Archie. Like Diana after her divorce, they no longer bear the HRH title. The question remains if their decision will grant them the privacy they crave from the paparazzi.