This week, well-briefed royal reporters floated a series of stories that suggested that Kate Middleton had telephoned Meghan Markle to offer her support and encouragement as she battled with a slew of negativity and criticism in the wake of their astonishingly candid ITV documentary.
Speaking to the Daily Express, royal author Phil Dampier said: “Behind the scenes I’m told Kate is doing her best to bring everyone together and help Meghan. None of them want to let the Queen down so Kate is trying to patch things up in private.
“I’m told she has reached out to Meghan and spoken to her on the phone. Kate feels sorry for her and knows that Meghan is struggling.”
That Kate should be willing to help out her fellow princess comes as no surprise.
That Kate should be willing for a veteran royal writer to be tipped off to that fact represents an interesting inflection point in the royal family's communications strategy.
Observant followers of the history of the young royals might recall a time when Kate Middleton and Prince William explicitly shunned the press.
Their paranoia extended to smuggling baby George in and out of royal palaces, hiding away in a remote cottage in Wales for several years, and culminated in the absurdity of keeping the name of their dog a secret.
This turned out, unsurprisingly, to be counterproductive. The royal press pack love nothing more than a challenge, and each time the palace primly declared a birthday party, anniversary or, er, animal’s name, “private” they set about finding out the details with an absurdity that matched the original injunction in its intensity.
Indeed, although it was ultimately a kid they encountered on a school visit who asked Kate, “What’s your dog called?” (to which, suddenly cognizant of the absurdity of her embargo, Kate replied, “Lupo”) rumors persist that the innocent child was put up to it by a mother who was herself in communication with curious members of the press.
And guess what followed this strategy of deliberately denying a few tidbits to a small number of journalists?
Correct: Years of bad press.
The overarching narrative, easily developed (and now being deployed against Harry and Meghan) was that Kate and William were lazy scroungers living high on the hog while refusing to do their proper royal duty.
(It is her experience of this phase of her life that Kate is believed to have shared to help rally Meghan, reportedly telling her that all royals have “bad patches.”)
The reality of course, was that the press were furious they were being denied access, and were taking it out on William and Kate the only way they could.
Enter Harry and Meghan, and at first everything went well. They kindly tipped us off to their first Christmas plans, Harry talked candidly about his feelings, and many welcomed Meghan’s consideration toward the media; she would for example frequently pose for photos, and get out of the car on the photographers’ side.
Even Harry started to snarl a little less at the media pen some of the time.
On the eve of Harry and Meghan’s wedding, even after all the drama with Thomas Markle being exposed by the Mail on Sunday for staging photos, Harry and William took to the streets of Windsor in a surprise walkabout that wasn’t a surprise to the media who had been tipped off in advance.
Sighs of relief were being widely heaved. Seasoned communicator Meghan was here to teach Harry how to interact with the media and the promise of a new accommodation hove into view.
And then, in the name of the privacy of an unborn child, Harry and Meghan collapsed the new arrangement with a confrontational decision to not tell the media where the baby was being born, and a cack-handed execution of the post-birth media which included not giving clear pictures of the baby to the media while releasing an image of his foot on Instagram.
For Kate and William, the rise of Harry and Meghan had provided some interesting tensions. The focus of attention was taken completely off them—but having apparently campaigned for a lower profile for years, it turned out they didn’t much like being also-rans when it actually happened.
William shares with his father a powerful jealous streak and he, in particular, found his new lower profile hard to take. There were persistent rumors that he became angered by diary clashes which pitched him and his wife directly against Harry and Meghan for media attention, because Harry and Meghan, the exciting and glamorous new kids on the block, won the popularity contest every time.
The shunting off of Harry and Meghan to Windsor was, some say, driven as much by William as it was by Harry.
A taste of obscurity seems to have alerted William and Kate to what’s at stake: it was interesting to note that this summer, as Harry and Meghan’s star fell, more than a hint of co-operation with the media began to emerge from the now-solo occupants of Kensington Palace.
While Meghan and Harry were being slammed for flying privately to exotic European locations, Kate, William and their kids were pictured getting off a budget flight on the tarmac of a wind-blown Scottish airport. Fortunately a press photographer was perfectly located to snap the happy picture.
When Meghan and Harry gave their bombshell interviews to ITV in which they implicitly attacked William and Kate and other royals for not supporting them, William and Kate were quick to show they would not take such abuse in silence, briefing back that William was “concerned” for his “fragile” brother in a tit-for-tat that recalled the war waged in the media by their parents.
Kate even showed off her down-to-earth credentials by being spotted shopping for Halloween outfits for her kids in a local supermarket.
And then this week, the flurry of stories about how Meghan had received encouraging phone calls from Kate: Dampier said: “Catherine has told Meghan that every royal—including herself—goes through a bad patch with the press but the important thing is to learn by mistakes, move on and get through it.”
Kensington Palace did not reply to The Daily Beast when we made a request for comment on whether Kate has been in touch with Meghan, but the chances are, this is a narrative they are happy to let run a little while longer.