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.
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.
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.)
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.