Theirs has always been the most intriguing of relationships. Both dazzling beauties and outsiders who married into the Royal Family.
Here were two very different women: Kate with her charmingly English reserve in public and Meghan a poised and glossy American performer.
One restrained by the knowledge that she is destined to be queen, the other articulate and comfortable in front of the cameras.
After Sunday night’s devastating Oprah Winfrey interview, there can be only one serious conclusion. Again and again, Meghan steered the conversation round to Kate, their status and how differently they were treated. Or at least that’s what she claimed, and it bordered on obsession.
To Meghan’s thinking, throughout her time in the Royal Family there was ‘a narrative of a hero and a villain’ for the two women. And she left viewers in no doubt that she was the one being painted as the latter.
Theirs has always been the most intriguing of relationships. Both dazzling beauties and outsiders who married into the Royal Family
The interview simmered with barely concealed resentment towards Prince William’s wife, who might so easily have been Meghan’s greatest ally as she struggled to adapt to royal life. In Kate, she had a ready-made buddy living next door at Kensington Palace who probably knew Harry as well, if not better, than she did herself.
And here, quite possibly, lies the heart of the problem. Did Meghan envy that easy kinship that existed between William, Kate and Harry, who had turned themselves into the most popular act on the royal stage?
Their natural warmth and affection for one another shone through the pictures at engagement after engagement. Whether it was the London Olympics, a premiere for the film Paddington Bear, visiting the set of the Harry Potter films or cheering on runners in the London Marathon, their faces were always wreathed in smiles.
And when William wasn’t around, Harry was always a reliable stand-in to accompany Kate, whom he once memorably described as the sister he’d always wanted.
Any outsider invited to join this cosy trio might have found the prospect daunting — but for one thing. Kate and William were thrilled that Harry had found love, and whatever their private fears that he was being too hasty to get engaged, they were put aside to make Meghan welcome.
Here were two very different women: Kate with her charmingly English reserve in public and Meghan a poised and glossy American performer
In no time the three of them had become a fab four. Strolling arm in arm with Kate and Meghan on a Christmas morning at Sandringham, William and Harry radiated goodwill. Two months later came their first official appearance, all four together at an event for a mental welfare charity.
It was an occasion brimming with royal promise for the future. But already all was not well and, within months, the true nature of this new family unit had been exposed for its fragility.
There were reports of brotherly rows, raised voices, slammed doors and, yes, tears.
This, then, was the background that was troubling Meghan when she sat down for her appointment with Oprah.
No opportunity to settle scores was wasted. And the opening credits had barely rolled before Kate’s name was first mentioned.
Just six months had passed since the Sussexes’ wedding when reports emerged that Meghan had made Kate cry. This, Meghan declared during the interview, was ‘a turning point’.
For the reverse had been true, Meghan explained. It was not she who had made Kate cry in the frenzied days running up to her and Harry’s wedding. But rather the Duchess of Cambridge who had made her cry.
Pictured: Kate Middleton with Prince Harry at the London Olympics in 2012
‘The narrative with Kate — which didn’t happen — was really, really, difficult. I think that’s where everything changed,’ she said.
The stories suggested that Kate had been reduced to tears after a bridesmaid dress fitting for Princess Charlotte. There were apparently other claims of disagreements between the two women, over whether the girls should have bare legs, favoured by Meghan, or wear tights, as Kate reportedly thought was more appropriate.
According to Meghan, this was ‘the beginning of real character assassination’, with the Palace refusing to set the record straight.
Giving her account of this apparently petty incident, Meghan insisted she was not ‘sharing’ it to be ‘disparaging’ to Kate. The duchess, she said had ‘owned it’, had ‘apologised’, and ‘brought me flowers and a note’. But within 24 hours of the Oprah interview being aired, another account of the episode was at odds with Meghan’s version. The Times newspaper reported that Kate had indeed left the dress fitting in tears.
The following day, she reportedly took flowers to Nottingham Cottage — Harry and Meghan’s home at Kensington Palace at the time — as a peace offering.
The newspaper claimed that Meghan slammed the door in Kate’s face.
Last night, a royal source told me that Meghan had thrown the flowers away. In the interview, Meghan told Oprah that she had forgiven Kate, but then added: ‘I think it’s really important for people to understand the truth.’
Whose truth, of course? When Harry joined the fray in the interview, another bombshell was detonated. He said relationships within the Royal Family began to change after the couple’s tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
But he did not explain what changed. The trip was a stunning public relations coup, but the implication of his remark was that he and his new wife had been out-shining his brother and Kate. Meanwhile, it was not long before Kate’s name was raised again.
Asked about the moment when the two sisters-in-law had visited Wimbledon together to watch a tennis match, and whether Kate had helped her into the family, Meghan replied: ‘I think everyone welcomed me.’
How different her comments seem in comparison to those generous remarks she had made about her future sister-in-law during her and Harry’s engagement interview in November 2017.
Then, she had gushed about how Kate had been ‘wonderful’. But her enmity towards the Duchess of Cambridge was not confined to the wedding episode.
She suggested that while Kate Middleton may have been mocked as a royal girlfriend, her own treatment had been worse because it was racist.
In a clip which did not appear in the final cut of the interview but was later broadcast, Meghan talked about her experience of life as a royal being ‘different’ to what other family members went through.
‘Kate was called “waity Katie” — waiting to marry William,’ she said. ‘While I imagine that was really hard, and I do, I can’t picture what that felt like. This is not the same. And if a member of the family will comfortably say: “We’ve all had to deal with things that are rude.” Rude and racist are not the same.’
In another sign of the fractured relationship with William’s wife, she and Harry pointedly did not once refer to the Duchess of Cambridge as Catherine, the name the Royal Family use for Kate.
There are tragic echoes here of the rift that happened in the Royal Family 85 years ago when another American divorcee captured the heart of a dashing British prince.
This was Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced adventuress, and that prince’s obsession with her led to him as Edward VIII giving up the throne in 1936.
Harry, of course, is not heir to the throne and Meghan is no Mrs Simpson. But there are uneasy similarities between Meghan’s and Kate’s frosty relationship and that of Wallis and the then Duchess of York, who later became Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Is history about to repeat itself?
Certainly, friends of Kate believe she has been ‘thrown under a bus’ by Meghan’s incendiary interview. But she is resilient; Middleton family blood has seen to that.
Where Meghan is impetuous and outspoken, Kate is gracious and deferential. Where Meghan is drawn to the glamour of celebrity, Kate has settled for a less starry circle of friends.
She has not sought fame for fame’s sake; indeed, motherhood is a more precious commodity to her than the red carpet.
But then Kate did not rush into royal life, she took her time — hence the Waity Katie nickname.
She and William were together for eight years before they became engaged, and the prince, knowing how his bride’s life would change irrevocably, gave her every opportunity to back out.
That she did not was in part thanks to the strong sense of responsibility inherited from her businesswoman mother, Carole and father, Michael, but also, crucially, because William was the perfect guide.
‘She was around the Royal Family for a long time and knew what she was letting herself in for,’ says a Middleton family friend.
Compare that with Harry and Meghan. Harry fell headlong for the American actress and was determined to make her his wife, despite the warnings of caution from his elder brother.
While he and Meghan certainly knew one another well enough, instead of teaching her about the pitfalls and privileges of royalty they appeared to spend their time compiling a bucket list of grievances.
There was one other fatal ingredient: hierarchy. To the Californian who had found success and (limited) fame on her terms, the prospect of forever playing second fiddle to Kate, whose accomplishments had been secured via a wedding ring, was unpalatable.
While this is no doubt a perilous moment for the House of Windsor, William and Kate can surely be its salvation. For they are the only two family members who have the star power to out-dazzle the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
With support for the royals on a knife-edge in America, they should be sent there as soon as travel restrictions allow. Not to California, but to New York and the East Coast: Diana territory.
There, they could give a real example of duty and public service that is far removed from the woke monarchy channelled by Harry and Meghan.
Such a scenario has happened before. In the 1990s, Prince Charles scarcely dared visit the U.S. because of his estranged wife’s popularity — and because his reputation was in tatters.
But in 1994 he embarked on a visit to Los Angeles and, thanks to a Hollywood reception, it was an unexpected triumph. His image was rebuilt from then on.
For Kate and Meghan the future is vastly different. Meghan and her prince face long exile from the Royal Family.
In contrast, with William at her side, Kate represents our best chance of saving the monarchy.