Even as the final spit and polish is put on Windsor Castle for Saturday’s royal wedding, heat is being put on Kensington Palace for its handling of this week’s Markle family debacle.
Instead of concentrating on a juice detox, yoga and makeup possibilities in her last days as a single woman, bride-to-be Meghan Markle has endured a PR disaster of soap-opera level proportions.
But rather than lay the blame for Prince Henry of Wales’ wedding almost being derailed by the shenanigans of Meghan’s American family, the British press has turned on the palace.
The royal communications machine, according to critics, has royally stuffed up.
Two days before saying her vows, former Suits actress Meghan, 36, was forced to issue a statement confirming her father Thomas Markle won’t be present at her wedding.
It brings the number of her family members now attending to exactly one – her mother, Doria Ragland, 61,
Leaving those odd family dynamics aside, the UK press has asked how things went wrong and who is to blame.
Commentators said neglecting to fly Mr Markle, 73, to London months ago to meet his future son-in-law or provide him with basic media training had “blown up” in the royals’ faces.
As the BBC’s royals correspondent Jonny Dymond put it: “How has Kensington Palace, the office and residence of Prince Harry, which has rolled out the royal wedding plans and strategy over the past few months, dropped the ball so spectacularly in the last four days?”
The palace’s usual tactic is to ignore rumours in the hope they will vanish, but this week, said Mr Dymond, it became increasingly clear “no comment” wouldn’t cut it.
Royal etiquette expert William Hanson told The Telegraph that the “well-oiled machine” of the palace is culpable in two ways.
“In many ways Kensington Palace is to blame for not realising the Markles needed assistance,” he said, calling Meghan’s family “people who aren’t used to celebrity or royal lifestyle”.
As well, Mr Hanson added, the palace may have been “too controlling” with the media when it came to the wedding: “By not feeding the beast, the beast is going to go elsewhere for food,
Taking to social media, ITV host Lorraine Kelly also slammed the royal family’s communications team for not realising that if Mr Markle had “protection” from seasoned PR palace advisers, he may not have done a deal with paparazzi.
“The only positive to come out of this is that people will feel (quite rightly) sorry for Meghan,” Ms Kelly said.
The day before the wedding, the BBC’s Mr Dymond became more measured in his assessment of the palace’s handling.
“BBC News understands but is unable to confirm that @KensingtonRoyal, the office and residence of Prince Harry, did offer assistance to Thomas Markle in the months running up to #RoyalWedding2018,” he tweeted.
— Jonny Dymond (@JonnyDymond) May 17, 2018
It wasn’t the viewpoint of British TV personality Piers Morgan, who wrote in the Daily Mail that palace staff had “completely and shamefully lost control of the narrative of this wedding”.
From the time of the engagement, when global press interest was soaring, “they should have taken immediate steps to ensure Meghan’s family were protected from the inevitable massive media attention heading their way”, Morgan wrote.
Instead, the father-of-the-bride was “left to fend for himself” in Mexico, and made the decision to use gossip website TMZ as his personal publicist.
Noted commentator Sarah Vine, “Managing the expectations of tricky guests and pushy minor players” is the stock in trade of the palace, yet they “failed” to see the “problems inherent” in Meghan being from a different country and having a family not used to the spotlight.
“It does make you wonder whether there is a single grown-up in charge at Kensington Palace,” Vine said,