We Need to Talk About Meghan. What exactly did she do wrong?

Just now and then, life throws up a character who turns out to be a sort of Rorschach Test of public taste –  someone who, like the famous inkblot, can prompt reactions which reveal deeper psychological truths.

Usually these Rorschach characters are obvious  –   Johnson, Trump, Nadine Dorries  – but sometimes there are surprise candidates.

One is the artist formerly known as Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex. We shall be hearing a lot of her and her husband over the next few days as a Netflix documentary about their lives is broadcast. Most of the coverage, I am prepared to bet, will be venomously critical.

There was a brief period when Meghan Markle was seen as something of a role model for strong, independent 21st century women. She was clear-eyed, bright and articulate. She appeared to have empathy for others and, perhaps more unusually, emotional resilience.  She had made a confused young man in public life happier and more confident than he had previously been.

Something happened. In a relatively brief period of time, her popularity faded. Today she is, to a large number of people she is  – let’s just take the first few items that come to hand on Twitter  –  ‘profoundly despicable, lowest of the low,’ ‘a lying rat’, ‘a jealous, vindictive liar’, ‘a terrible person’.

The right-wing press – that is, all the most-read newspapers in the country  – are ranged against her, either subtly or openly. Attention-seeking columnists, like the absurdly petulant Piers Morgan, compete with one another in piling sneers and insults on her head. There are anti-Meghan jokes. Newspapers show photographs of her and her husband which are analysed by ‘body language experts’ who pronounce –  always negatively, of course  – on what she is really thinking.

The entire might of the Buckingham Palace press machine appears to be dedicated to discrediting her –  always in careful anonymity. In one Sunday Times hatchet job, I counted over 30 quotes from a ‘senior royal source’, or ‘a palace insider’, or ‘an equerry’ and so on. Naturally, not one of these respectable members of the establishment was prepared to go on the record.

Normally, anything that the Sun and the Daily Mail hate my liberal, left-leaning friends will like, and vice versa. Strangely that’s not the case on this occasion. I have good friends who become apoplectic at the mere mention of her name. She is a trouble-maker. She is faking emotion (she’s an actress, you know). She’s just out for herself.  She plays the victim. Oh, she’s just… ghastly.

They have looked at the Rorschach inkblot that is Meghan and have seen see a witch, a scheming villainess of the worst kind.

What’s going on? This all looks, sounds and feels like mass bullying. Yet no one in our great caring age really calls it out. Apparently here is one public figure who is fair game to the media, to those in power, to the majority of the public.

I have a simple question. Why? I ask out of genuine curiosity. What has this woman done to deserve all this hatred? She seems sensible and kind in interviews. If she wants to influence the public narrative about her by doing interviews or appearing in documentaries, is that so surprising? Is there something that everybody else knows and that I’m missing?

I know she has refused to play the royal game, as the Buckingham Palace and the press like it to be played. She speaks her mind. She lives in California. She’s foreign. It is presumably thought that, through her evil wiles, she has upset some sacred status quo. (Interestingly, Camilla  – now a sort of semi-Queen – played that role in the past but has always known how to play the game and is now well on the way to becoming the nation’s favourite grandma).

So what is really going on here? Could a vague, ill-defined sense of snobbery  –  spiced up with a touch of misogyny, a dash of racism and a spoonful of xenophobia  –  be at work?

I have no particular interest in the royal family but it all seems very odd. In the Netflix documentary, her husband refers to the way he and his wife have been treated as ‘a dirty game’.

That’s just how it looks to me.

Could someone explain to me why I’m wrong?