LONDON (Reuters) – Last May, millions across the world tuned in to watch Queen Elizabeths grandson Prince Harry tie the knot with his American actress girlfriend Meghan Markle, with the media feting the couple as the epitome of glamour and royal modernity.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leave after the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey, on Commonwealth Day, in London, Britain March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

But less than a year later, the couple have found themselves on the receiving end of much less flattering coverage as they prepare for the birth of their first child this spring.

“Frown Jewels: Meg is banned by Queen from using Di gems,” the front page headline on Britains biggest-selling newspaper the Sun said on Thursday over a story which claimed the monarch had banning Meghan from wearing royal jewellery, a sign of growing tensions between Harrys wife and senior Windsors.

“Meghan Markle pretty difficult person to deal with – Harry is Miserable,” said a Daily Express headline last month, while the Daily Mail ran this story in January: “How Meghans favourite avocado snack … is fuelling human rights abuses, drought and murder”.

There is no doubting the enduring, global fascination with the British royals. On Tuesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as Harry and Meghan are officially known, launched their first Instagram account. Two days later, it had 3.4 million followers.

While much reporting by the British press on the royal family is respectful, verging on the sycophantic, at other times it can be harshly critical, even cruel.

“The press here in Britain is very aggressive, and they dont hold back,” said veteran Sun photographer Arthur Edwards who has covered the royals for more than four decades.

The first public acknowledgement that Harry and Meghan were dating in November 2016 came in a statement criticising the media for intruding into his then girlfriends private life.

It was indicative of how Harry views the media which he blames for the death of his mother Princess Diana. She died in Paris in 1997, when he was just 12, when her limousine crashed as it sped away from chasing paparazzi photographers.

“If there is a story and somethings been written about me, I want to know whats been said. But all it does is upset me and anger me,” Harry said in a broadcast interview while on military service in Afghanistan in 2012.

In his youth, Harry found himself in the headlines for under-age drinking, wearing a Nazi outfit to a costume party and scuffling with photographers outside London nightclubs.

But his popularity grew both with Britons generally and the media who loved his antics when on official engagements, such as posing with the likes of Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt.


“When you went on tour with Harry before he was married, it was a fantastic tour. Every day he would make great pictures, he would do something that was spectacular,” Edwards said. “We think hes the best thing in the royal family.”

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But since Harry tied the knot, something changed, he said.

Newspapers were given minimal access to the couples wedding in May and there has some discontent among senior figures in the industry about the level of access to the royals who continue to be a huge draw for readers.

“Suddenly hes turned completely the other way – hes Mr Cool,” Edwards said. “He thinks, possibly, why should I do anything for them?”

The reason is likely to be the recent coverage of his wife.

There have been numerous reports of excessive demands the new duchess has made of staff and of rifts between Meghan and Harry and his elder brother William and his wife Kate.

Also, Meghans family, particularly her father, have regularly made headlines with critical comments about her.

Meghan herself said she avoided newspapers or Twitter. “I dont read anything, its much safer that way,” she told a panel discussion at Kings College London in March.

But in January, U.S. magazine People said five of Meghans close friends had broken their silence to speak about the “lies and untruths” and “global bullying” the duchess had suffered and their fears about how this would affect her and her baby.

The following month, her friend, Hollywood film star George Clooney told Australian magazine WHO the media were harassing Meghan as they had Diana.

“Shes a woman who is seven months pregnant and she has been pursued and vilified and chased in the same way that Diana was and its history repeating itself,” he said.

Royal commentators and even those on the receiving end say media negativity is a rite of passage for the royals.

“It was something that Prince Charles said years ago when he and Diana were receiving some negative coverage. People put you on a pedestal just to knock you off,” Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, told Reuters.

Those who write about the royals say the problem is not so much the media itself, but vicious comments from online trolls and heated social media arguments involving Meghans fans. The rise in such abuse led Britains royals to unveil a new online protocol last month warningRead More

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