Intense U.K. media scrutiny of Meghan Markle baffles Canadians watching it unfold

  • May. 17, 2018 5:00 p.m.

LONDON — Intense media scrutiny of Meghan Markle’s extended family has left a sour taste for many Canadian tourists and expats observing wall-to-wall coverage of the impending royal wedding.

The voracious appetite for tidbits on the upcoming nuptials came as a shock to British Columbia tourists Karen and Bill Chandler, who say they were blindsided by reporters during a tour of Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

Rather than recounting the grand splendour of the historic home to more than 900 years of royals, the couple’s biggest memory was of journalists and camera crews preparing to cover Saturday’s nuptials.

“It’s crazy up there, it’s just crazy,” Bill Chandler exclaimed Thursday after visiting the historic town where Prince Harry will wed Markle, about an hour and a half from London by car.

“They’re right in your face.”

The retirees didn’t expect their weeklong whirlwind through London to include a glimpse into the media circus surrounding the much-hyped union of Prince Harry and his California fiancee, but it’s a unique memory they will take back with them to Victoria on Sunday.

It’s certainly given Karen Chandler a much more sombre view of what could be in store for Markle once she officially joins the royal family.

“Just wandering through the castle I was thinking about how the press had affected Diana’s life — they ruined it,” she says.

“Just the hounding. (But) I believe she probably is better equipped than Diana was, much better equipped.”

A palpable backlash against unflattering stories about Markle’s family history — and in particular her 73-year-old father Thomas Markle — appeared to take root Thursday as the bride announced he will not walk her down the aisle as planned.

“I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health,” Markle said in a statement released by Kensington Palace.

The elder Markle is said to be recovering from an operation to clear blocked arteries after suffering a heart attack last week.

It was the latest turn in a gossip-fuelled saga that turned sadly dark in recent days. Of late, Thomas Markle has been mired in scandal over photographs of wedding preparations that were reportedly staged.

At least one outlet appeared to step back from mining estranged family members for dirt Thursday, with “Good Morning Britain” reportedly dropping Markle’s sister-in-law Tracy Dooley from their wedding coverage.

The morning TV show was widely reported to have hired Dooley and her kids as TV correspondents for its rolling coverage of the ceremony, despite the fact they were not invited and were believed to have had little contact, if at all, with Markle.

And on Tuesday, the same TV show featured a blistering attack on half-sister Samantha Markle, when Piers Morgan accused Markle’s half-sister of being a media “vulture.”

History student Clarissa Fehr of Leamington, Ont., says she’s been turned off by relentless gossip coverage of the “Suits” actress — a successful biracial, divorced American who is challenging royal traditions on many levels.

“A lot of it just terrorizes her character,” the 22-year-old exchange student says of the coverage she’s observed.

“It’s all about her history and what she did to be successful, but then in reality it’s kind of what everyone has to do to be successful.”“

Fellow exchange student Lauren Johnston agreed, also invoking the tragic death of the late Princess of Wales, who died in a Paris car crash in August 1997.

“I feel like the Meghan situation can turn into a Diana situation,” says the 19-year-old Johnston, studying media and communications on an exchange with her school in Abbotsford, B.C.

“We saw what Princess Diana had to go through back when she got married and all the health problems that she had, which is unfortunate.”

Canadian-born academic Susan Rudy points to a seeming preoccupation with socio-economic class in the British media, detecting an underlying narrative in which Markle is cast as a woman escaping a dark history.

“It’s a sad story and she’s ‘escaped’ that, that’s part of the class story — that if you escape that, that’s to be applauded, instead of: What would you lose if you lose contact with a particular group like a class-based group?” says the London, Ont.-born Rudy, who moved to London in 2011.

However, not all British media is like that, she’s quick to add.

“The thing I like about Britain is that there’s an educated press here — the Guardian, particularly, a person can count on for actual information and facts,” says Rudy, a senior research fellow in the English department at Queen Mary University of London

Still, there appears to be ravenous demand for salacious stories, notes Johnston, an aspiring journalist.

“I’ve looked online at job opportunities here versus Vancouver … and print journalism and newspapers here are really prominent, which I think differs from Canada, as well,” she says.

“They’re printing newspapers every day so they just need content constantly.”

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