The confetti has barely settled from celebrations marking Prince Harry's historic engagement to Meghan Markle, and yet she's already learning that being a royal has a definite downside.
Within days of the couple’s wedding announcement, Meghan was on the receiving end of a string of cruel comments from critics - including a former best friend and Harry's own stepmother, Camilla.
The barrage of mean jibes has prompted the Duchess of Cambridge to leap to her future sister-in-law’s defence, vowing to protect Meghan, 36, from negative forces both inside and outside palace walls.
‘Kate’s been there and done that and knows how hard those first few weeks of royal life can be,’ says a palace source. ‘Kate learnt very early on that you have to have thick skin to handle Camilla and all the critics that come out of the woodwork to have a swipe at you.
‘Having such cruelness thrown at you when you’re in the early days of your engagement can be devastating. Kate suffered it when she was slammed for being ‘commoner Kate’, and the fact that Meghan is an actress and divorced means there are plenty of people out there in line to throw eggs at her.
‘Kate, as a result, has vowed to take Meghan under her wing and shelter her through it all. Harry is like a brother to Kate, and she’s never seen him so happy. She wants to protect Meghan from all the negative parts of royal life and – in particular – from Camilla.’
Palace insiders say Camilla has complained for a long time about Meghan and Harry’s relationship, believing the actress was ‘not suited for royal life’ and that a member of Britain or Europe’s high society was more suited as his bride.
But last week, her contempt reached fever pitch when it was announced the couple would marry next May at the same church where Camilla and Charles exchanged vows, which the 70-year-old claimed ‘threw mud on their marriage’.
‘Camilla believes that Meghan and Harry marrying at the same church where she and Prince Charles – the next King of England – had their ceremony, is a slap in the face,’ says a palace insider.
‘She believes the fact that this is Meghan’s second wedding means they should have had the ceremony at a less prestigious palace church. She wasn’t shy about it either – she told the Queen and even Harry right to their faces.
‘Harry, of course, was angry with her – but it was Kate who really stood up to Camilla and told her to leave Meghan alone.
‘Kate knows what it’s like to be on Camilla’s bad side and wasn’t having any of it. She later took Meghan aside and told her exactly how to deal with Camilla and not to let her get to her. Kate vowed they’d beat her together.’
As part of her commitment to Meghan, Kate, 35, made a surprise appearance at the Queen’s Diplomatic Reception last week, after learning Camilla would also be there.
The Duchess of Cornwall’s harsh comments came after a string of other hurtful remarks from global commentators.
The Suits star’s own maid of honour – at her 2011 wedding to first husband Trevor Engelson – Ninaki Priddy, slammed the future royal bride as heartless and fame-hungry, claiming she turned cold on her ex just after their wedding, before splitting two years later.
‘After the wedding, it was like a light switched off,’ Ninaki told Mail Online. ‘There’s Meghan before fame and Meghan after fame. After three seasons of Suits, she called me to say the marriage was over. The way she handled it, Trevor definitely had the rug pulled out from under him. He was hurt.’
Australia’s own Chrissie Swan also voiced disapproval of the future royal in a Facebook post, which left many stunned.
‘For some reason, I still haven’t warmed to her,’ she wrote. ‘It’s her manner. She looks like she’s performing. She looks like she’s portraying a concocted humility. Acting.’
Those close to Meghan say the comments have hit hard.
‘Meghan’s very excited about visiting Australia, and knowing she has an outspoken critic there is hard to hear,’ says the source.
‘She spent a day in tears after reading her best friend’s betrayal – she’s never felt such pain.
‘In the end, it was Kate who got Meghan back on the straight and narrow. She’s determined to not let her ex-friend Camilla, or anyone, get to her. Kate’s really helped her see that she’s marrying Harry because she loves him and she just has to let all the negativity wash past her.’
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