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Diana went from being a fairytale princess to a 'monster': Biographer Andrew Morton reveals how Meghan's family feuds, rift with Kate and 'difficult' reputation mirror her late mother-in-law's early days as a royal

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 8/02/2019 Andrew Morton

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A royal biographer has shed light on the striking similarities between Princess Diana and the Duchess of Sussex.

Andrew Morton, who has authored books on both Diana and Meghan, explained both women faced early difficulties adjusting to life within the confines of the Royal Family, particularly given their shared desire be seen as 'one of the people'. 

In a piece that first appeared in Spanish magazine Lecturas earlier this week, Mr Morton noted Diana was also compared to her sister-in-law, the Duchess of York, just as Meghan has been to the Duchess of Cambridge. 

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The princess also had her own strained family relationships to contend with, although they were far less public than the Duchess of Sussex's have been of late.

Here, Andrew Morton explores their similarities in full, and reveals the striking differences between the two. 

a person standing posing for the camera: A royal biographer has shed light on the striking similarities between Princess Diana and the Duchess of Sussex. Pictured, Meghan in Birkenhead last month © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A royal biographer has shed light on the striking similarities between Princess Diana and the Duchess of Sussex. Pictured, Meghan in Birkenhead last month

It didn't take long but the honeymoon was soon over. The honeymoon that is between the newly–minted Duchess of Sussex and the mass media.

When she walked alone down the aisle at St George's chapel in Windsor Castle last May, she was portrayed as Duchess Dazzling, lauded by the watching world for her determination to marry her way.

Diana, Princess of Wales posing for the camera: Diana memorably wore the same bold colour combination in Bangkok in 1988 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Diana memorably wore the same bold colour combination in Bangkok in 1988 Just a few short months later Meghan Markle, who is expecting her first child in April, was dubbed Duchess Difficult, blamed for the premature departure of royal staff, including her personal assistant Melissa Touabti, private secretary Samantha Cohen who is going after 17 years of working for the royal family and, most recently, her Scotland Yard bodyguard.

A Scotland Yard source explained that, unlike someone who has grown up in the royal family, having round the clock security, especially as Meghan wants to be seen as 'one of the people,' was 'quite constraining.'

a group of people wearing costumes: The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex are often matched against each other and there have been rumours of a rift. Pictured, the sisters-in-law at Christmas last year © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex are often matched against each other and there have been rumours of a rift. Pictured, the sisters-in-law at Christmas last year

Reported difficulties in adapting to the new life have been matched by the resurgence of old family bitterness. The very public fall out between father Tom Markle Senior and his daughter as well as her half brother and sister, Tom Junior and Samantha, has been in danger of becoming a TV soap opera. Her father has regularly used the media to chastise his now-famous daughter for refusing to have anything to do with him. The little matter of him agreeing to pose for cheesy paparazzi photographs in the Mexican resort town where he lives shortly before the wedding was the last straw in a rapidly crumbling relationship.

Not only have her own family been a continual embarrassment but she is said to have thrown her weight around inside her new family, the Queen informing her grandson, Prince Harry that his bride could not simply wear any tiara she wished on her wedding day. 'She gets the tiara she's given by me,' said an irritated Sovereign who had been informed about Meghan's apparent 'tiara tantrum'. For good measure Meghan was blamed as the cause of a rift between the hitherto inseparable brothers, William and Harry. Oh, and let's not forget that her abrupt manner apparently reduced Kate Middleton to tears.

a person holding a microphone: The Duchess of Sussex kisses her husband Prince Harry at a polo match in July 2018 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The Duchess of Sussex kisses her husband Prince Harry at a polo match in July 2018 "Diana was described as a royal shopaholic who lavished a fortune on designer outfits and who was responsible for the departure of a steady stream of royal staff"

Quite a charge sheet.

What is truly remarkable is that Meghan's media narrative virtually mirrors Princess Diana's early experiences inside the royal family. She fell out with her mother, was blamed for a series of staff departures and found the presence of a Scotland Yard bodyguard disconcerting. In a matter of months she went from being a fairytale princess to a 'monster'.

The stresses and strains surrounding her wedding at St Paul's cathedral in 1981 caused a long-time rift between the princess and her mother, Frances Shand-Kydd. She later told me : 'My mother let me down terribly with the wedding. She kept crying and being all valiant and saying that she couldn't cope with the pressure. I tended to think that I was the one under pressure because I was the bride. So I didn't speak to her for three or four years afterwards.'

Shades of Meghan and her father, Tom Senior – except that the row was played out in private not on breakfast television.

a person standing in front of a crowd: Princess Diana kisses her husband Prince Charles at a polo match in Windsor in June 1987 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Princess Diana kisses her husband Prince Charles at a polo match in Windsor in June 1987

The uncanny coincidences though continue. Shortly after the birth of Prince William when Diana was struggling with the eating disorder bulimia nervosa as well as post-natal depression, her own honeymoon with the media ended. Given her fragile mental state, it couldn't have come at a worse time.

She was described as a royal shopaholic who lavished a fortune on designer outfits and who was responsible for the departure of a steady stream of royal staff. At a time when dark thoughts of suicide crossed her mind, a well-known British gossip columnist opened the floodgates of criticism by describing her as a 'fiend and a monster.'

In reality Diana was trying to keep her head above water in choppy royal seas. Yet she shouldered the blame for what the media gleefully called: 'Malice at the Palace.' At one royal engagement the exasperated Princess told veteran royal watcher James Whitaker: 'I am not responsible for any sackings. I don't just sack people.'

"Just as Meghan and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, are endlessly matched against one another, it was the same a generation earlier with Diana and Sarah, the Duchess of York"

Her outburst came after the departure of the royal couple's private secretary, Prince Charles' long-serving valet as well as his Scotland Yard bodyguard.

a couple of people posing for the camera: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's royal wedding in May last year, pictured, drew comment around her strained relationship with her now estranged father Thomas Markle  © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's royal wedding in May last year, pictured, drew comment around her strained relationship with her now estranged father Thomas Markle  Sound familiar? It is however fair to say that amidst this speculation, Diana was responsible for the departure of her first bodyguard. Like Meghan, she took a long time to get used to being guarded and the officer in question made her feel 'jumpy and insecure.'

That's not all though. Just as Meghan and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, are endlessly matched against one another, it was the same a generation earlier with Diana and Sarah, the Duchess of York. For a time Diana felt threatened even though, unlike Meghan and Kate, she and Sarah Ferguson had been a friend for several years.

Diana later told me that she used to get terribly jealous of Fergie. In a sentence that could have been uttered by Kate Middleton when she too was struggling to cope in the early days, Diana told me: 'Sarah was actually enjoying being where she was whereas I was fighting to survive. I couldn't understand how she could find it so easy. I thought she would be like me and put her head down and be shy.'

a man and a woman in a wedding dress: The stresses and strains surrounding Diana's wedding at St Paul's cathedral in 1981, pictured, caused a long-time rift between the princess and her mother, Frances Shand-Kydd © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The stresses and strains surrounding Diana's wedding at St Paul's cathedral in 1981, pictured, caused a long-time rift between the princess and her mother, Frances Shand-Kydd

The current feud between Kate and Megham was seemingly sparked when Kate burst into tears over remarks made by Meghan about the bridesmaid dress to be worn by her daughter, Princess Charlotte. Given that the spat occurred shortly before Kate gave birth to Prince Louis, swirling hormones rather than personality clashes may have been more to blame.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it is obvious that Meghan and Kate are very different personalities from very different backgrounds. Whereas Kate is shy, retiring and eschews the spotlight where possible, Meghan is camera ready not camera shy, a woman who as a little girl always dreamed of being a princess.

Shy she might be, but beware thinking that Kate is a retiring English rose overwhelmed by the brash newcomer from Hollywood. When she was growing up she was highly-competitive particularly with her younger sister Pippa who has shown her discipline and prowess as a marathon runner and all round athlete. 'Friendly but edgy' is a phrase used by one onlooker to describe the relationship between Meghan and Kate, the two women quietly competing with one another in the fashion stakes.

"Meghan's easy entrance into royal life is in complete contrast to Diana who later told me that the first months of royal life were exhausting "

Meghan though has demonstrated that she is much more than a royal clothes horse. From the moment she entered the royal family the Duchess, as one Kensington Palace aide observed, hit the ground running, she has thrown herself into royal duties with enthusiasm and confidence . In her TV show Suits she was a team player, in the royal world she has been keen to fit in.

In less than a year Meghan has clocked up more than 100 royal engagements, visited four countries, including a tour Down Under to Australia and New Zealand, made numerous speeches and helped write a best-selling cookbook in aid of the victims of the Grenfell tower block disaster. A further sign of her integration inside the royal world is her acceptance of four patronages including the National Theatre, a natural fit for the one- time TV actress.

Alongside her burgeoning royal career, she has set up two houses – the couple plan to make a permanent base in the grounds of Windsor Castle at Frogmore Cottage – and performed on the world stage whilst heavily pregnant. Unlike Diana and Kate who both suffered from debilitating morning sickness, Meghan has sailed through her pregnancy determined that the impending new arrival does not cramp her evolving royal career.

Her easy entrance into royal life is in complete contrast to Diana who later told me that the first months of royal life were exhausting. 'The pace was phenomenal. I knew I couldn't do engagements as well as get married plus doing up two houses.'

Diana, Princess of Wales with collar shirt: Diana: Her True Story ¿ In Her Own Words is published for the first time in paperback © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Diana: Her True Story ¿ In Her Own Words is published for the first time in paperback

By contrast, Meghan, who has been known to send emails to her staff at five in the morning, shows no sign of slowing down. Her influence is not just on the royal family and the wider monarchy but closer to home. She has in spades what writer Janet Flanner described as the 'American woman's tendency to reform men in small ways.' This is where Meghan has truly exerted her authority. Over her husband. He has given up smoking and drinking to excess and taken up yoga, mediation and the gym. His life which was once 'total chaos' has settled into a regime of healthy eating and exercise.

When he gets nervous before making a speech, Meghan is the one who keeps him calm – not the other way around.

While she has clearly followed in the footsteps of Diana it is apparent that Meghan Markle is much more Duchess Dynamo than Duchess Difficult.

In pictures: Iconic pictures of Princess Diana


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