After a "steaming cup" of mint tea with British Vogue’s editor, Edward Enninful, back in January, Meghan Markle must have thought it seemed like such a good idea to guest-edit the all-important September issue of the fashion magazine.
Now, however, as the cover, first articles, and pieces of writing by Meghan are being posted online, the project is starting to look like a damaging own-goal by the duchess.
While the unprecedented marketing blitz has been greeted with rapturous public applause by vested interests in the fashion biz, the magazine was privately described as “cringey,” “embarrassing,” and “ill-considered” in private conversations with fashion insiders.
Meghan’s gratuitous comment that appearing on the cover would have been “boastful” has also gone down badly, being widely perceived as a dig at Kate’s 2016 Vogue cover.
The primary question, however, seems to be, What on earth did Meghan think she was doing?
Harry and Meghan’s new PR supremo Sara Latham clearly approved the concept (she previously worked for Michelle Obama and a Q&A with the former First Lady closes out the magazine), but it’s impossible to imagine that Meghan sought and received wider approval for this project before launching into it.
In fact, her editor’s letter, which has already been published by the magazine as it seeks to drip-feed headlines to the media all week, shows exactly just how impulsive the decision to get involved in the project was on Meghan’s part.
Meghan writes that shortly after meeting Enninful for the first time “on a cold and blustery London day,” for one hour, in which they “teased through how one can shine light in a world filled with seemingly daily darkness,” she texted him to ask if she could guest edit Vogue’s September issue.
Meghan writes that she was “nervous to be boldly asking the editor-in-chief, whom I’d only just met, to take a chance on me” but, as we all know, what Meghan wants, Meghan gets.
Unsurprisingly Enninful swiftly replied in the affirmative.
Meghan then writes: “Sitting on my sofa at home, two dogs nestled across me, I quietly celebrated when the words appeared on my screen.”
Were it not there in Meghan’s own words, most journalists would be prepared to have the palace call this a defamatory allegation: Meghan Markle, HRH and Duchess of Sussex, married to Prince Harry for less than a year, sent a text offering to edit Britain’s most high profile magazine—after consulting with no-one but her dogs.
Meghan’s account of how the deal went down certainly puts meat on the bone of complaints from senior courtiers that she and Harry won’t listen to anyone, won’t consult with older and more experienced heads in the palace, and simply fire away and do whatever they want.
The result is little short of a disaster, from the cheesy front cover onwards, which features a grid of 15 "changemakers" with a 16th place adorned with a mirror.
That's right, it’s you!
Didn’t Meghan ever see The Big Lebowski, where The Dude looks into a mirror bordered with Time Magazine’s "Man of the Year" livery to emphasize his startling lack of achievement?
In the editor’s letter, Meghan appears to compare herself to a mermaid, saying, “I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
Meghan even manages to make the Q&A with Michelle Obama all about her.
Nestled in some toe-crawlingly, faux-naïve paragraphs that precede the Q&A comes this classic piece of name-dropping: “Over a casual lunch of chicken tacos and my ever-burgeoning bump, I asked Michelle if she would help me with this secret project.”
Yes, that's just a casual bite with the former First Lady.
The magazine has ignited a predictable firestorm of criticism in the U.K. media.
Melanie Philips in The Times says that “the duchess risks becoming a figure of derision… Meghan’s virtue-signaling is all about boasting. It flaunts the signaler’s credentials as a morally virtuous person. It screams ‘Me! Me! Me!’”
Sarah Vine in The Daily Mail (admittedly no great fan of Meghan) accuses Meghan of “taking the chair at Vogue magazine in order to show the world exactly how serious you are about showing the world how serious you are.”
The online vitriol pouring Meghan’s way is less restrained.
So back to the original question: why on earth did Meghan do this?
Next time, perhaps, she should take some advice from beyond her rescue dogs.