Queen’s heartless reaction to Meghan news
Buckingham Palace has a ghost problem.
Ever since the latest season of The Crown was released earlier this month, the spectral force of Diana, Princess of Wales and all of her misery and suffering has been haunting the royal family and the Queen.
So, there is a certain horrible symmetry that more than 20 years after Diana's passing and at a time when her shadow looms large over the monarchy, the house of Windsor is once again failing spectacularly when it comes to a royal wife, loss and an outpouring of public emotion.
A brief refresher: In the hours and days after Diana's death, the Queen stayed resolutely at her Scottish holiday home, Balmoral, and did not return to London. Likewise, she refused to have the flag at Buckingham Palace flown at half mast. The protocol at the time was the flag was only flown there when the Queen was in residence, so as she was in Scotland, there was no flag. Ultimately, she relented and now the Union Flag (as opposed to the Royal Standard) is regularly spotted at the Palace, even when the Queen isn't there.
But it was the Queen's myopic adherence to protocol at the time that was wildly out of step with public feeling, and tens of millions of Brits were appalled by her seemingly unfeeling response to the tragedy.
As the nation mourned en masse, with an exhibition of nationwide grief the likes of which had never been seen before, the Queen stuck obstinately to precedent and faced serious consequences. Her appalling misreading of the mood and prioritising custom over comforting her people put the monarchy in the greatest jeopardy in a century.
Today, this sad chapter in royal history is repeating itself in the wake of Meghan Duchess of Sussex's revelation that she had experienced a miscarriage earlier this year. Writing in The New York Times, the royal revealed the loss of her baby, saying: "I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.
"Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband's hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we'd heal."
It is a powerful, eloquent and raw piece that marks a stark departure from the royal status quo.
While news of Meghan and Harry's bereavement has been kept under wraps since it happened in July, the royal family was reportedly told about the Sussexes' miscarriage at the time it happened, and a palace source has told People, "There is a lot of sadness around the family."
So, what of the Palace? How have they reacted publicly? What outward support have they shown for Harry and Meghan at this painful time?
Nada, none, niente.
All they have offered up via their official communications channels is cold, hard, horrible silence on this subject.
At the time of writing, and in the 15 hours since Meghan's story went online, the Queen's account, @RoyalFamily has marked the International Day to End Violence against Women with multiple posts; Prince Charles and wife Camilla Duchess of Cornwall's @ClarenceHouse has shared a video of the Duchess in her capacity as patron of domestic abuse charity Safe Lives, and @KensingtonRoyal, William and Kate Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Twitter and Instagram presences, has not shared a thing.
To totally and utterly fail to acknowledge in any external way the sorrow that Meghan has just shared with the world is simply bewildering.
The Daily Beast's incredibly well-connected Tom Bower has reported: "The office of Queen Elizabeth said she would be making no comment on the 'deeply personal' issue. Prince Charles' spokesperson said he would not be commenting on the 'private' issue. Prince William's office said they would not comment."
Bower also reports that Meghan discussed the piece with the Queen and Prince Charles before penning the deeply moving personal essay, therefore, it is hardly as if Buckingham Palace and Clarence House were caught on the hop and are currently trying to figure out how best to respond.
Which is to say, what excuse can they have for staying so resolutely mute in the face of an outpouring of public sentiment?
In private, Her Majesty might have written Meghan a deeply touching card, arranged for her to be bombarded with her favourite flowers and sent her an edible arrangement that spelled out 'I'm so sorry' in organic guava, but that does not for a moment make up for the silence from her official channels.
Now, 23 years after Diana's death, the Queen and the Palace seem to have not learnt a jot about handling personal royal tragedies and are instead grimly clinging onto the centuries-old rule book, metaphorically speaking.
The danger here for the monarchy is that their abhorrent handling of this situation only serves to underline their worst qualities and just reinforces the image of them as a bunch of unfeeling, emotionally stunted toffs who are profoundly disconnected from our shared reality.
It took the royal family years to recover from the Diana debacle and yet here they are repeating exactly the same mistakes. Deja vu anyone?
Compounding this awful state of affairs is the social media reaction. While much of Twitter and Instagram, even those accounts which are traditionally firmly anti-Meghan, have unleashed a tidal wave of support and heart emojis, there are still many people who have reacted to the Duchess' revelations with scepticism, abhorrent conspiracy theories and even speculation that the 39-year-old only revealed her miscarriage to drum up PR.
That even at a time of such vulnerability and hurt the actress-turned-royal is facing such hate is both horrendous and also deeply predictable.
So far, various accounts which traffic in a constant drumbeat of deeply critical Sussex posts have suggested: Meghan published the story to compete with William and Kate's recent announcement of the death of their dog Lupo; that the Sussexes' son Archie was born via a surrogate therefore it was the surrogate who miscarried; that Meghan had made up the story to generate sympathy and, prepare yourself, that the story was entirely fictional and in fact partially based on the plot of Steel Magnolias.
It might all be bonkers but surely that doesn't take away how cruel and hurtful this reaction is.
Meghan would surely have known in publishing this piece that one consequence would be to trigger exactly this sort of virulent, noisy, hateful anti-Sussex nonsense, and yet she did it anyway.
Beyond that, it also serves to prove, once again, that when it comes to the Duchess of Sussex, the woman is doomed to never, ever win.
Say what you will about Meghan but she has guts. Serious guts.
Right now, I'm not sure the same thing can be said for the Queen.
Under normal circumstances, Her Majesty might be nearly universally adored - the Commonwealth's gnome-like, lime green-loving grandmotherly head of state - but in moments like this when more is expected of her she puts her legacy in peril.
The Meghan situation raises the question: Do we still want to hang onto an institution so devoid of feeling and so disconnected from community sentiment? Which prioritises custom over displaying even the most basic levels of empathy and humanity?
Courtiers are said to be worried that when the 94-year-old sovereign passes away and Charles ascends to the throne it will set off a wave of republican sentiment across the Commonwealth that will see country after country decide to cut ties with the monarchy. After this week, I'd say they have every right to be worried.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.
Originally published as Queen's heartless reaction to Meghan news