Over the five years since Meghan Markle ascended from barely recognizable actress to Duchess of Sussex, you might have formed certain opinions about the Markle family — in particular, Meghan’s father, Thomas, and half-sibling, Samantha. You may, for example, think of them as the kind of trashy people who would sell staged paparazzi photos of themselves, pass private correspondence to newspapers and call Meghan “Princess Pushy” to journalists.
Such a reading, Samantha Markle says in this bizarre memoir, would be a wholly defamatory interpretation of perfectly innocent actions. Actions such as selling staged paparazzi photos of themselves, passing private correspondence to newspapers and calling Meghan “Princess Pushy” to journalists. The paparazzo who caught Thomas Markle not-so-candidly in an Internet café promised that no one would know that they had an arrangement, Samantha fumes, and the journalist who got the “Princess Pushy” quote tricked her by asking if Meghan was pushy. Perhaps he came back and tricked her into this book title too.
She loves Meghan, Samantha insists on nearly every page, and only solemn duty compels her to put the record straight. It is simply her nature, she explains, to “always speak out when I felt something was unjust, and tell the truth even if it made me unpopular”. And if you still doubt the nobility of Samantha’s motives in speaking to the press (and now publishing this book), she would like to remind you that “only some offered a small bit of pay”, and anyway “we all had bills”.
The journalist who got the “Princess Pushy” quote tricked her, Samantha fumes. Perhaps he came back and tricked her into this book title too.
With all questions of propriety comfortably put to bed, you can settle in to enjoy such intimate revelations as the fact that young Meghan liked the lid replaced on the toothpaste (this is relayed as evidence of Meghan’s nascent imperiousness and controlling tendencies) and the fact that she has “loved shoes since she was a kid”. If previous works of Meghanography have tended to be thin stuff (including Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s Finding Freedom, which had the benefit of input from Meghan’s aides), this is like chewing on bones.
What extraordinarily written bones, though. If one mark of good prose, per Orwell, is to never use a familiar figure of speech in print, it’s possible that Samantha is a genius of style. For instance, it seems highly unlikely that anyone else in the history of the English language has described the sound of cameras going off like this: “Photographers were snapping their cameras, as loudly and energetically as Irish dance sensations River Dance electrify stages with the thunderous rhythm of their clogs.” And hopefully no one will do so again.
The text is littered with thrillingly inexplicable moments, such as calling someone a “Walter Middy” [sic] character, and a reference to a “one-legged cat” that turns out, mercifully, to have actually had three legs. This is possibly an inheritance of the book’s unconventional origins; it has been brought out by Central Park South, a “hybrid publisher”, which is one notch up from a vanity house. A traditional editor might have denied us such bounty, as well as getting rid of the weird page breaks and erratic hyphenation that occurs throughout.
The text is littered with thrillingly inexplicable moments, such as calling someone a “Walter Middy” [sic] character, and a reference to a “one-legged cat” that turns out, mercifully, to have actually had three legs.
It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Samantha — who is 16 years older than 39-year-old Meghan and only intermittently shared the family home with her — doesn’t actually know Meghan very well. Fortunately, Samantha has lots to say about herself. We learn, for one thing, that she is definitely not racist, unlike all those people who dislike Meghan for being mixed race. At every opportunity Samantha lets us know that she is so incredibly not racist, the very existence of racism is shocking to her. In fact, Samantha’s levels of not-racism are so profound, she says, that she “was one of the people who believed … that OJ was framed”.
Samantha is a woman of simple principles. She admires her grandmother Doris, who “aspired to be an actress” but “abandoned the idea, choosing instead, to have a family”. She believes that fathers are important and says she tried to include her exes in her children’s upbringing. And she values forgiveness: “I felt if I expected at times to be forgiven by others, that I had to forgive others, where reasonable.”
If you suspect that this may be intended to convey a subtle message to Meghan, the actress who is estranged from her father and who shows no sign of tendering forgiveness, you would only be wrong, because Samantha has no idea what subtle is. Some people do beef. Samantha soaks every page in Bovril, dips it in tallow, sets it on fire then waves it around while screaming that it’s someone else’s fault that her house is burning down.
At one point she suggests that the whole awkward situation over the Markles not being invited to Harry and Meghan’s wedding can be explained as “a clash of communication styles in that The British Royal Family are traditionally more reserved”, and that is one way to put it. Palace politics is rough but not as rough as Samantha describing her own mother as “promiscuous”. (Samantha is also estranged from her mother, and her own daughter.)
The audience for this book is, fairly obviously, people who hate Meghan and will lap up every insinuation that she’s a disloyal social climber. Since she ushered herself and Harry out of the royal family, the shine she had as a new princess has tarnished. There’s the vulgar trademarking, the vapid podcast, the unconvincing claim to desire a life of privacy while settling in Los Angeles.
The ultimate beneficiary of Princess Pushy, though, is Meghan. However irritating it is that she has reinvented herself and Harry as a new form of royalty with no constitutional purpose and total immunity from criticism, one look at the appalling people who are out to get her leads to the regretful conclusion that team Meghan is the only team to be on. But this book also induces unexpected sympathy for the royal family. The problem with bringing a commoner into the Firm, you realise, is that they bring their common connections with them.