You might not expect this of a duchess-to-be, but Meghan Markle has problems. Not the literal headache that comes from road-testing antique tiaras, or the metaphorical one from having to pick a dinner service from the priceless array in the Windsor Castle China Corridor; or even the hassle of faxing non-disclosure agreements to anyone she’s even thought about discussing the wedding with, or even the aggravation of knowing half the British press is stalking anyone who comes within a thousand meters of Kensington Palace carrying a garment bag.
No, the problem of which we speak is far more familiar, and painfully so to anyone who’s ever planned a wedding: her wingnut relatives. Simply put, they will not stop yapping, and it has to be giving Meghan some serious stress lockjaw.
We all have the equivalent of the cousin who’s always looking for a loan, or the aunt who thinks climate change is a racket and sells LuLaRoe leggings out of her handbag. But unfortunately for Meghan, she can’t just hide from them on Facebook and avoid them at her wedding. She’s the most famous woman in the world at the moment, which means that when a variety of her relatives decide to use the press as their free personal therapists and/or PR reps, someone is always listening—and printing whatever they have to say. The twin siren calls of We Need Clicks and I Want Attention have commingled, and now everyone knows that Meghan’s got a cannabis-farming nephew selling a new strain of weed named Markle’s Sparkle; a cousin allegedly writing personal letters to Prince Harry begging for a wedding invitation; an ex-husband who sold a TV pilot about—wait for it!—a man whose former wife marries royalty and how hard it’s been for him; and a truly wacktacular half-sister, Samantha, who seems like the worst sibling pain-in-the-ass since Amy March burned Jo’s manuscript. Name something that you’d want your sister to keep to herself, and Samantha Grant has said it. She’s claimed (essentially) that Meghan is embarrassed that Samantha is in a wheelchair, that Meghan is a social climber, and that Meghan neglects their father financially, and perhaps also emotionally. It was only upon learning—to her astonishment and no one else’s—that she was not invited to the wedding that Samantha launched into half-baked backpedaling about how their sisterhood runs deep and eternal, all while talking up a book she’s written called The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister. Except now she insists the title is not an insult, that it’s actually an incisive and sensitive look at race in America, and that she’s probably changing the name to A Tale of Two Sisters. Which is a little like changing your last name back to Markle as soon as Meghan put Diana’s diamonds on her ring finger. And guess who also did that? Bingo.
Worst of all, Samantha and Tyler, aka the pot farmer, have reportedly been offered jobs commentating on the wedding, despite having rarely spoken to Meghan in the past decade. As if Meghan wasn’t already worried enough that it might physically rain on her wedding parade, she now has to sweat the metaphorical dramatic downpour as well. Imagine having to sit down to tea with the Queen and say, “Um, so about the marijuana. At least his online reviews are good?” Every time another one of these people opens his or her mouth, she must want to scream into a commemorative throw-pillow.
Meghan Markle’s Style Evolution: See Her Transformation to Princess-To-Be
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017 in London, England. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been a couple officially since November 2016 and are due to marry in Spring 2018.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took their first public pictures as a couple at Invictus Games Toronto.
Actress Meghan Markle leaves the “Today Show” taping at NBC Rockefeller Center on July 14.
Actress Meghan Markle enters the “Today Show” taping at NBC Rockefeller Center Studios on July 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
Actress Meghan Markle attends the Instagram Dinner held at the MARS Discovery District on May 31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.
Meghan Markle attends Glamour and L’Oreal Paris Celebrate 2016 College Women Of The Year at NoMad Hotel Rooftop on April 27, 2016 in New York City.
Meghan Markle attends P.S. Arts’ The pARTy at NeueHouse Hollywood on May 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Actress Meghan Markle attends AOL Build Presents “Suits” at AOL Studios In New York on March 17, 2016 in New York City.
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – JANUARY 20: Actress Meghan Markle attends ELLE’s 6th Annual Women In Television Dinner at Sunset Tower Hotel on January 20, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for ELLE)
Meghan Markle attends the 12th annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards at Spring Studios on November 2, 2015 in New York City.
Meghan Markle attends the Prada presents The Iconoclasts with Michael Wilkinson and Tim Martin event during the 2015 New York fashion week. Photo by BFAnyc.com.
Meghan Markle attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 13th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit at Cipriani Wall Street on October 28, 2014 in New York City.
Meghan Markle attends Wes Gordon runway show during MADE Fashion Week Fall 2015 at Milk Studios on February 13, 2015 in New York City.
Meghan Markle attends the UK Premiere of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” at Odeon Leicester Square on November 11, 2013 in London, England.
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 08: Model Meghan Markle poses backstage at the Herve Leger By Max Azria fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2014 at The Theatre at Lincoln Center on February 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week)
Meghan Markle attends the London Global Gift Gala at ME Hotel on November 19, 2013 in London, England.
Meghan Markle attends the Tory Burch fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on September 10, 2013 in New York City.
Meghan Markle attends the Novak Djokovic Foundation New York dinner at Capitale on September 10, 2013 in New York City.
Meghan Markle attends the Gala Tribute To Cate Blanchett during the 51st New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on October 2, 2013 in New York City.
Megan Markle arrives on the red carpet at the 2013 MuchMusic Video Awards at Bell Media Headquarters on June 16, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.
Meghan Markle attends USA Network 2013 Upfront Event at Pier 36 on May 16, 2013 in New York City.
Meghan Markle attends the ELLE’s Women in Television Celebration at Soho House on January 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California.
Meghan Markle arrives at NBC Universal’s 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards after party held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 13, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California.
Meghan Markle attends The Paley Center for Media’s presentation of An Evening With “Suits” at The Paley Center for Media on January 14, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California.
Meghan Markle arrives at the GQ Men of the Year Party at Chateau Marmont on November 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Meghan Markle attends TV Guide Magazine’s 2012 Hot List Party at SkyBar at the Mondrian Los Angeles on November 12, 2012 in West Hollywood, California.
Meghan Markle attends the HBO Luxury Lounge Featuring L’Oreal Paris And New Era Cap – Day 1 at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles on January 14, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.
Meghan Markle arrives at the 13th Annual InStyle And The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Toronto International Film Festival Party at the Windsor Arms Hotel on September 11, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.
Meghan Markle attends the USA Network’s and The Moth’s Storytelling Tour “A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power” at the Pacific Design Center on February 15, 2012 in West Hollywood, California.
But Meghan, take heart. You may be making history with this union, but familial crackpots are old hat for the royals, and no one inside the palace walls can even begin to pretend otherwise. The Windsor egg carton is full of cracked ones. And yet nobody in the world at large seems to punish William, for example, for the fact that his uncle Andrew, the Duke of York, once touted his friendship with a convicted solicitor of child prostitutes, and that is way worse than fancy branded weed. Likewise, Harry isn’t paying the piper for Andrew’s ex Sarah Ferguson being caught asking for cash in exchange for access to the Duke, and it’s not Sarah’s fault that her own dad Major Ronald Ferguson got caught in a brief dust-up about whether he belonged to a gentlemen’s massage parlor that offered saucy bonuses.
For that matter, the Queen isn’t taken to task for Princess Michael of Kent, and her long history of bigoted behavior, up to and including wearing a Blackamoor brooch to a lunch at which she knew Meghan would be present. (“Welcome to the family, my dear; please enjoy the sight of my favorite piece of racist jewelry!”)
And if you really want to go there, Richard III might have murdered his two nephews, Edward VIII was reportedly a Nazi sympathizer, and Henry VIII invented a whole new religious offshoot just to make divorce legal and beheaded two of his wives for good measure. Compared with that, a Markle-themed blunt or a Princess Pushy press tour sounds rather mild. The Windsors, in fact, are lucky to be welcoming into their family a woman whose most troublesome big-mouth relative routinely discredits herself because she can’t keep her own stories straight—and you can tell Prince Philip we said so. Although, given that he did get flack for how many of his own sisters were married to card-carrying Nazis, he’s probably fairly sympathetic already.
From Kate Middleton and Prince William to Charles and Diana (and Camilla), a Brief History of British Royal Weddings—And Their Attending Scandals
Original diva Queen Victoria might not have been the first bride to wear white, but she was the one who made a white gown something of a protocol. Victoria commissioned a white lace dress for her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert, intending to support the struggling lace-making industry and best showcase the textile. Further, she destroyed the pattern for her dress so it could not be replicated, and she decreed no one else could wear white to her wedding. After the ceremony, she and Albert—for whom London’s Victoria and Albert museum is named—traveled to Windsor Castle for the night; though Albert had hoped to take a two-week honeymoon with his new wife, already the reigning queen, Victoria told him she could not take that much time off from work and they limited their vacation to just a few days.
On April 26, 1923, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon married George VI, who would go on to become king—and she, the Queen Mother, giving birth to Elizabeth II in 1926. Queen Mary, George’s mother, lent her daughter-in-law the lace veil she wore for the occasion. British designer Madame Handley Seymour made the dress—custom dictated it must be a British creation—but its silhouette was based on those of Jeanne Lanvin, then very much in vogue.
Between Victoria, which stars Jenna Coleman as the titular monarch, and The Crown, with Claire Foy as Elizabeth II, British royals’ romances have been the subject of much pop culture fascination lately. Elizabeth, who was crowned queen in 1953, wore an elaborate dress by Norman Hartnell for her 1947 wedding to Phillip Mountbatten. If she resembles someone out of a Botticelli painting, that’s precisely what the designer intended with the delicate floral embroidery and 10,000 seed pearls sewn into the design. It was just two years after the end of World War II, and austerity measures were still in place rationing fabric, buttons, and types of trim, so, reportedly, young women all over England sent their clothing coupons to Princess Elizabeth; with her own savings, plus a 200-coupon bonus from the government, she was able to afford the dress, which took six months to make. (The Crown’s reproduction cost a reported $37,000 and took seven weeks.)
Elizabeth’s younger sister Princess Margaret married the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, a contributor to Vogue and Vanity Fair, on May 6, 1960. It was a lavish affair, costing a reported $65,000—not to mention the additional $115,000 of her seagoing honeymoon—that didn’t do much to improve her reputation among her subjects. Margaret had previously been embroiled in scandal, engaging in an affair in the early ’50s with Captain Peter Townsend, a war hero 15 years her elder, who happened to already be married. Townsend later divorced his wife, but Margaret was nevertheless unable to marry him because her religion—and the royal family’s adherence to Catholicism—prohibited her from wedding someone who had previously been married. Still, her subsequent marriage to Armstrong-Jones ended in divorce in 1978.
When Charles, Prince of Wales, was 24 years old, he met Camilla Parker Bowles. But, according to biographer Sally Bedell Smith, the prince was not yet ready to commit to marriage and gendered double standards of the mid-20th century meant Charles was expected to marry a woman who could plausibly present herself as a virgin. Cue Diana: Though Charles remained enamored of Bowles, he ended up marrying Diana Spencer, a woman 13 years younger whose grandmothers had been ladies-in-waiting to Charles’s grandmother, Elizabeth, the queen mother, in 1976. They divorced in 1996, after both had engaged in affairs (Charles, picking up his relationship with Bowles again); Diana died in a car crash in 1997.
Andrew, Duke of York, the third child of Queen Elizabeth II, and Sarah Ferguson began their relationship in 1985 and married in 1986. They were both 26 years old. Her gown, by the designer Lindka Cierach, featured detailed iconography embroidered throughout, representing Andrew’s naval service (anchors, waves), romantic symbols, and images drawn from Ferguson’s own family crest. They divorced 10 years later.
Prince Charles, currently next in line for the throne after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, married his longtime romantic partner Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony on April 9, 2005. Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, wore a dress by British designer L.K.Bennett with a Phillip Treacy hat for the wedding and a Robinson Valentine ensemble for the service afterwards. The couple opted for a civil service in lieu of a full church wedding, presumably to avoid the controversy that could attend a religious ceremony, given the crown’s stance on divorce. (Both Charles and Camilla, at this point, had divorced previous partners.)
In 2011, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the eldest son of Charles and Diana and the current second in line for the throne after his father, married longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton, now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on April 29, 2011. (The media circus that surrounded the event just evidences the continued adulation of the British public, though the royal family no longer has any legislative power in the United Kingdom.) Middleton’s dress, custom-designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen with its deep-v neck, long sleeves, high collar, and lace overlay, has inspired countless replicas; among the frontrunners for designers to create the gown were Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney. Designers Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, and Vera Wang all praised the design, comparing it to royal weddings past like Elizabeth II and Diana. Also at the wedding: Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton, whose own wedding is slated for this weekend and who drew headlines of her own with her clingy white dress, also by Alexander McQueen.
UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 18: The Wedding Of Tim Taylor To Lady Helen Windsor At St Georges Chapel Windsor. Wedding Dress By Catherine Walker (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
And when it comes to royal brides, Meghan can always pop across the Kensington Palace courtyard to find another person who’s traversed the path of Oh My God My Family Is So Embarrassing Right Now and not only survived, but thrived. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was herself widely accused of being a social climber, took it on the chin for having parents who’d dared to work for their money, and came with an Uncle Gary who owned a villa in Ibiza that he called La Maison de Bang Bang, which… frankly, Tyler Dooley the Cannabis Nephew could stand to learn from him in the catchy-name department.
The year after William and Kate got hitched, Kate’s sister Pippa got caught with friends in Paris who were pretending to point a gun at paparazzi, and landed in major hot water. Then there’s the curious case of James Middleton, who once tried to spin an offshoot of the family business Party Pieces into his own naughty cake bakery (seriously) and now owns a company that personalizes marshmallows (also seriously, and we will never stop mentioning that at every opportunity). Kate and Meghan can even share a pint while commiserating over how both Uncle Gary and Meghan’s half-brother Tom Junior have recently contended with domestic abuse allegations. Crikey, maybe make that two pints.
Yet despite all this Maison de Bang Banging, Kate has managed to make it through official and private Windsor functions with nary a blemish—neither on her personal record, or, let’s be real, on her face. So, breathe easier, Meg—there is precedent for known associates talking out of turn, yet everything still coming out all right in the end. (And we haven’t even gotten into Kate’s school chum who owns a members-only swingers club (At least none of Meghan’s classmates or castmates are hosting orgies.) (Yet.)
Royal Engagement Portraits Through the Years: From Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for one of two official engagement photos at Frogmore House in December, 2017 in Windsor, United Kingdom. Photo by Alexi Lubomirski via Getty Images.
Prince William and Kate Middleton pose for photographs in the State Apartments of St James Palace on November 16, 2010 in London, England. The couple became engaged during a holiday in Kenya having been together for eight years. Photo by Chris Jackson via Getty Images.
Sophie Rhys-jones And Prince Edward on The Day Of Their Engagement. Photo by Tim Graham via Getty Images.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer pose outside Buckingham Palace following the official announcement of their engagement. Lady Diana, 19, had been a friend of the Royal Family all her life. Prince Charles, 32, was regarded as one of the world’s most eligible bachelors. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Prince Andrew with Sarah Ferguson at Buckingham Palace after the announcement of their engagement. Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images.
Princess Anne and Mark Philips Engagement In London On 1973. Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images.
Princess Anne and her fiance, Captain Mark Phillips. Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images.
Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones in the grounds of Royal Lodge after they announced their engagement. Photo by Hulton Archive via Getty Images.
Princess Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace shortly before their wedding. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
The first official picture after the announcement of the engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the former Prince Philip of Greece, at Buckingham Palace. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
The fact is, none of this should be constricting Meghan’s chest in the first place, because none of it should reflect on her. As much as the media might want to make a meal out of the few rotten apples on her family tree, it’s a basic fact of humanity that you are handed your family by genetics and happenstance, and that it’s the people you choose to keep close that say more about who you are. (Meghan and Samantha, for example, supposedly have not spoken since 2008, though potentially her name has been uttered multiple times recently amid a string of creative curse words.) Meghan’s own behavior has been unimpeachable. In her shoes, we’d be opening fake Twitter accounts to subtweet the stuffing out of her half-sister. In fact, we hope she has; everyone needs to get self-care where she can. But she has met every official obligation that’s been asked of her with elegance and composure that belies the constant screeching of her attention-starved relatives and the headlines they’ve garnered. And while hers is certainly a remarkable love story, hopefully Meghan knows—as should everyone, her future in-laws and the Daily Mail comments section alike—that there’s nothing more ordinary than having a few extended family members who regularly make you cringe. In this, princesses and plebes are much the same, and anyone who says otherwise is lying—or trying to sell you a tacky tell-all.