Word from the queen? Meghan Markle should stop using royal title to lobby U.S. politicians, palace officials say
By Martha Ross
In what may be an official warning from Queen Elizabeth, “senior” Buckingham Palace courtiers have expressed “unease,” saying it’s “outrageous” for Meghan Markle to use her Duchess of Sussex title to lobby U.S. lawmakers on American policy, including Democrats’ efforts to enact paid family leave.
The courtiers have told the Times UK that the U.S.-born Meghan, who gained the title by marrying Prince Harry, is “using her title out of context” for political lobbying in the United States.
Buckingham Palace continues to insist that the royal family should have “no say in American politics,” the Times reported. Constitutionally, members of the royal family are obliged to be “above politics” and to stay politically neutral, the Times added.
A senior palace aide told the Times: “As a member of the royal family, if you use the title, it means you steer clear of those kinds of things. Otherwise, you’re using the title out of context.”
Another courtier said that Meghan’s use of the tile is “outrageous.” The former TV actress invoked the title when cold-calling Republican senators Susan Collins and Shelley Moore Capito about paid family leave last week and when writing an open letter to Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer last month.
“The Duchess of Sussex doesn’t have the right to have a more powerful voice (on the issue) than any other mother in America,” another courtier said. “She should not be playing in politics.”
The courtiers’ comments come as some of the usual “royal experts” and critics of Harry and Meghan continue their calls for the queen to strip the couple of their royal titles. Meghan has been facing criticism on both sides of the Atlantic for using her royal title in her advocacy for paid family leave in the United States.
President Biden has proposed a nearly $2 trillion version of a social spending bill that would give families up to four weeks of paid leave, for reasons such as the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick loved one.
While the queen and Buckingham Palace haven’t issued any official comment on Meghan’s use of the title, it’s fair to wonder whether the comments from multiple “senior” palace aides is meant to convey displeasure from within the palace, or even from the queen herself.
A source close to Meghan insisted that she contacted members of congress “in her personal capacity as an engaged citizen,” the Times reported.
Even many who agree that paid family leave should be federal law in America have said they found it off-putting, pretentious or historically tone-deaf for the California resident to use her recently acquired connection to British royalty to weigh in on an American social and political issue. As some pointed out, Americans fought in a revolution in 1776 to be free of interference from British royalty.
There’s also the matter of Meghan and Harry stepping away from being senior members of the royal family and moving to California in 2020.
Presumably that means that Meghan, a feminist and one-time activist, can go back to more freely expressing herself on political issues, as she did before she began dating Harry. From what courtiers told the Times, it seems that their objections mainly rest with using her title as she tries to exert influence on U.S. policy.
Meghan’s critics ask why she remains so eager to use the title, which is associated with a 1,000 year-old monarchy that she has criticized for being archaic, racist and dysfunctional. It’s as if she still wants the prestige of being a royal without the responsibilities, critics say.
There also continues to be speculation that Meghan may one day want to run for political office in America. Her critics ask: If she runs for a U.S. political office, will she run as “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex?” How would that name look on a ballot?
Neither Maine Sen. Collins nor West Virginia Sen. Capito seemed overly impressed when Meghan invoked her title during cold calls to them last week, urging them to vote a particular way, Politico reported.
“Much to my surprise, she called me on my private line and she introduced herself as the Duchess of Sussex, which is kind of ironic,” Collins said, according to Politico. The call came while Collins was at her gym.
“I was happy to talk with her, but I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it,” Collins added.
Like Collins, Capito also received a call from Meghan on her private line. Because the caller ID was blocked, she didn’t know it was the globally famous celebrity on the other end. “And she goes, ‘Senator Capito?’ I said, ‘Yes?’ She said, ‘This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.’”
Politico reported that Meghan was directed to call these senators by Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand (D-N.Y.), who is pushing her party to include paid leave in its social spending bill. Gilibrand also told Politico Wednesday that she gave the senators’ private numbers to the duchess and she plans to include Meghan in “a working group” to work on paid family leave in the long term.