- Kate Middleton and Prince William were recently the subjects of major criticism after writing a simple “happy birthday” Instagram post to Meghan Markle.
- Some fans thought the couple were being disrespectful towards the Duchess of Sussex for not including “HRH” while addressing her in the caption, while others said they should have chosen a photo of Markle alone, as opposed to one of the family.
- The incident was the latest to suggest that the younger generation of royals can do nothing right on social media, as they continue to face negative comments on Instagram and Twitter on a daily basis.
- INSIDER spoke to social media and royal experts who explained why this backlash is a “necessary evil” when it comes to royal life.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
“Happy birthday to the Duchess of Sussex today!” the couple wrote in a Twitter and Instagram post.
While royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told INSIDER the post was “obviously meant to be affectionate” toward the duchess, some fans openly disagreed.
Some thought it was disrespectful that the pair didn’t address Markle as “Your Royal Highness” in the caption, while others even criticized the choice of photo used.
“Why no HRH prefix?” one fan wrote on Twitter. Meanwhile, others trolled the couple for not choosing a photo of Markle alone in the post.
“Why a picture of the whole family?” read one of the comments, which has since appeared to have been removed. “It’s not about Kate or William or Charles! It’s about Meghan! Ridiculous!”
This isn’t an isolated incident. Ever since Prince Harry and Markle officially joined Instagram back in April, both fans and the press have insisted on pitting the couples against each other, looking for hidden clues and subtle jibes in hashtags and emojis.
The interest is certainly there. Harry and Markle broke a world record by gaining 1 million followers less than 6 hours after publishing their first post on @sussexroyal, an account which now has 9.3 million followers.
They created the account to share “the work that drives us, the causes we support, important announcements, and the opportunity to shine a light on key issues,” they wrote in their first post.
The duke and duchess have selected new accounts to follow each month, holding good on their promise to promote different charities.
View this post on Instagram
For the month of August we look to you for help. We want to know who YOUR Force for Change is…. Each month, we change the accounts we follow to highlight various causes, people or organisations doing amazing things for their communities and the world at large. Over the next few days please add your suggestions into the comments section: someone you look up to, the organisation doing amazing work that we should all be following, an account that inspires you to be and do better (or that simply makes you feel good), or the handle that brims with optimism for a brighter tomorrow. We will choose 15 accounts and follow them next Monday, as we spend the month of August acknowledging the Forces for Change in all of our lives.
However, with a trail of some more personal posts trickled in-between – such as the announcement of the birth of their son – the couple have left some fans confused about where they draw the line between private and public. As a result, the pair have been left vulnerable to a barrage of criticism.
INSIDER spoke to royal commentators to find out why the younger generation of royals can seemingly do nothing right on social media.
“The British Royal Family is the longest running reality show of all time”
The young royals are regularly the subjects of hateful comments on Twitter and Instagram.
Markle in particular has been severely criticized for how she uses Instagram, and particularly for the way that she has shown baby Archie on the platform.
The royal has only posted a handful of photos of the newborn. On Mother’s Day, she posted a photo cradling his feet, while on Father’s Day, she shared a picture of Harry holding the newborn.
In the latter, the duke’s hand concealed most of the baby’s face.
The couple sparked a national debate in Britain after it was revealed they spent $3 million of taxpayers’ money on renovating their 10-bedroom manor house, Frogmore Cottage. Many commentators argued that since they are living off public funds, their social media presence should also be more personal – meaning more baby photos.
“It’s the tussle between their desire to control media access to parts of their family life, such as Archie’s christening, and their public roles as part of the taxpayer-funded Royal Family that has fueled some of the criticism against the couple,” Sky News royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills told the Express.
Meanwhile Duncan Lacrombe, former royal editor of The Sun, said the couple’s recent attempts at privacy could be seen as an attempt to “keep away” the public and “spoon feed” the press.
- GOR/ Getty Images.
According to royal commentator Kristen Meinzer, fans bought into the idea that they are entitled to a look into royal life long before the social media age – meaning that while Instagram has certainly heightened the problem, it is not the root of it.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the British Royal Family is the longest running reality show of all time -meaning they’ve been in the press and history books for our consumption (and amusement) for hundreds of years,” Meinzer, host of the podcast “When Meghan Met Harry,” told INSIDER.
“But let’s be real: nothing that’s happening now is particularly scandalous. We have two good-looking couples and their young children. We have whispers of some drama between the two men. We have bored people speculating about the two women.
“We have nothing on the level of the Diana-Charles-Camilla love triangle or the six wives of Henry the VIII. There’s nothing particularly juicy to fixate on.”
Social media is a “necessary evil” for Harry and Meghan
However, royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told INSIDER the backlash the couples’ receive online is a “necessary evil” if they want to continue using the platform in favor of Buckingham Palace press releases.
“Many posts are appalling,” Fitzwilliams, former editor of “The International Who’s Who,” said of the abuse the royals receive on social media.
“There are attempts by staff to curb them on royal websites but the fact is that it is currently impossible to police social media effectively.
- Anwar Hussein/ WireImage/ Getty Images.
“The idea that sending a post to Meghan to wish her happy birthday of a photo which includes the sender and was obviously meant to be affectionate was in some way derogatory is lunacy. However it is also lunacy to look for logic on social media at the moment.”
He went on: “The trouble is that it is a necessary evil. The Cambridges and Sussexes have millions of followers on Instagram and this is a popular way to communicate with them.”
It seems that Harry and Markle recognize this, despite the abuse they have received on the platform. Even Harry himself, the day prior to giving a speech about the negative implications social media can have on your mental health, created an Instagram account with Markle.
“Growing up in today’s world, social media is more addictive than drugs and alcohol,” said the prince.
“Yet it’s more dangerous because it’s normalized and there are no restrictions to it. We are in a mind-altering time.”
The social media platform has become the go-to for the couple when announcing major life updates, such as the gender of their baby boy.
The Queen has even jumped on the Instagram bandwagon, writing her first post earlier this year.
Harry shared a rare personal message to Markle to celebrate her birthday last week. Like William and Kate’s post, Harry’s did not go unnoticed by the critics.
“Happy Birthday to my amazing wife. Thank you for joining me on this adventure,” reads the post on Instagram.
While royal commentators seemed to approve of the post – with Rebecca English praising it as a “sweet birthday message” – others weren’t as convinced.
Some journalists, such as News.com’s Daniella Elser, suggested there was a hidden message in the short note – Elser in particular said the post shows Harry’s “hidden heartache” and former underlying fear of not being able to find a partner willing to endure the pressures of royal life.
“With 14 words, Harry accidentally betrayed the years, if not decades, of pain he has endured, terrified that no woman would be willing to go on ‘this adventure’ with him,” she wrote.
Harry and Markle’s “happy birthday” comment to Prince Louis back in April was also criticized, as some fans thought they broke protocol by referring to their nephew as just “Louis” and not “Prince Louis.”
Fitzwilliams added: “William, in a tough speech last November, condemned the tech companies and social media firms for allowing the spread of ‘hate speech.’
“This whole area badly needs a clean up but the question is, how and how to enforce it?”
“What’s changing is people’s ability to feel comfortable to share how they feel in public”
The public’s negative reactions to Markle and Middleton in particular weren’t sparked by any particular incident or action – other than them having relationships with princes in the first place.
When Harry and Markle first started dating in 2016, the prince was forced to release a statement in response to the “abuse and harassment” Markle faced at the hands of both the press and online trolls after it emerged that the pair were an item.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” said a spokesperson for the prince.
“It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm. He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game.’ He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his.”
Just type Markle’s name into Twitter, and you’ll see that the online perception of the duchess has remained mostly the same since this statement three years ago.
Only now, fans have managed to use her growing social platform to look for new narratives, many of these being an apparent feud between the duchess and her sister-in-law.
“Fans behave like this because of the insider view they experience of their favorite celebrities on social,” said Eric Schiffer, social media consultant and chairman of Reputation Management Consultants.
“This leads fans to feel like they know each celebrity intimately and creates an emotional connection, similar to a good friend or family member.
“So, if there is an affront on your favorite celebrity, it can feel like someone’s attacking a good friend or family member, and people’s natural instinct is to protect and launch a hail of fire,” he said.
- Stephen Pond / Getty
Royal commentator Meinzer added: “Some people have decided to take the lazy, predictable path of pitting two women against each other.
“For reality show lovers, it’s a common trope. But scratch the surface, and you’ll usually find there’s not much there.”
As Schiffer said, it’s not the monarchy that’s changing, but rather “people’s ability to feel comfortable to share how they feel in public and express it in extreme ways.”