They’re two of the most famous figures to ever emerge from the royal family and, although they never had the chance to meet, they share a remarkable amount of similarities for two women from opposite sides of the pond.
When Prince Harry first publicly introduced Meghan Markle as his girlfriend in September 2017 (in Toronto, you may recall), the comparisons between the former Suits star and her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, were already well underway. Perhaps it was inevitable given the general love-fest that surrounds Diana’s memory and royal watchers’ interest in her sons, Harry and Prince William. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, also handled her fair share of scrutiny and comparisons at the outset of her relationship with Will. But it felt different with Meghan.
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Harry, once a notorious playboy bachelor, looked like he was ready to settle down and the media in the UK had a field day, musing over whether or not Diana would have approved of his eventual bride. Our hot take? We think the two would have gotten along perfectly. Both blazed their own trails and defended themselves against tabloid culture, prying eyes and the often difficult-to-navigate royal family.
Here, we consider just how alike Diana and Meghan really are — and why we think they would have been super tight.
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They both stepped away from the royal family
Harry famously said he feared history was “repeating itself” shortly before he and Meghan officially announced they’d step back from their roles as senior royals in January 2020. (Remember when we all thought that would end up being the big royal story of the year?) Eager to protect his family from the vicious and racist tabloid culture in the UK, the couple, with then-baby Archie in tow, beelined for Meghan’s native California, where they have since settled into life as “regular” American citizens. It was a move that, at the time, had been rather dramatically called unprecedented in “modern royal history.”
As the couple explained in a statement: “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.” And so, after years of attacks on her character, her appearance, her race and her intentions, Meghan was stepping back.
Although Diana and Prince Charles were already in the midst of a nasty divorce when she sat down with BBC reporter Martin Bashir for her classic 1995 bombshell interview, she voiced a similar sentiment to what Meghan endured. “The pressure was intolerable then, and my job, my work was being affected. I wanted to give 110 percent to my work and I could only give 50. I was constantly tired, exhausted, because the pressure was just, it was so cruel.”
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They’re both humanitarians and work with unique causes
By nature of their roles as working royals, all members of the House of Windsor are, in theory, humanitarians. But something felt more natural with Diana and Meghan. After all, they didn’t call Diana the People’s Princess for no reason. During her time as a future queen, she was linked to more than 100 charities. Although some were likely inherited due to her role as Princess of Wales, some she tackled out of the kindness of her own heart. Among the most notable? Her work with Centrepoint, a charity that helped young and homeless people off the streets — in addition to the work she did in breaking the stigma surrounding AIDS and leprosy victims.
In 1987, Diana made waves when she shook hands with AIDS patients at a hospital in London. It was still early in the pandemic, and the fact that a royal made physical contact, sans gloves and masks, was revolutionary. And it wasn’t just a one-off gesture either. She continued to turn down gloves and masks when meeting patients, including the AIDS patient pictured above from the Toronto-based Casey House.
Prior to becoming a duchess, Meghan was known for her humanitarian work. Before ever crossing paths with Harry, the former actor was a global ambassador for World Vision, advocate for UN Women and, at the age of 11, “accidentally became a female advocate” when she sparked a marketing movement after she wrote a series of letters to a dish-washing liquid company. The brand’s tagline had been: “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” It generated plenty of headlines and a news crew even stopped by her Los Angeles home to interview her. Young Meghan continued to write letters to the brand until they changed the tagline. We stan a feminist queen.
They’ve both had to deal with negative press
As much as the general population of the globe appeared to love the People’s Princess, Diana still had to face her not-so-fair tabloid scrutiny. Splashed all over the front pages were evidence of Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, not to mention ongoing references to Diana’s battle with bulimia. Likened to the “most hunted person of the modern age” there wasn’t anywhere Diana could go that didn’t involve the prying eyes of paparazzi. In the end, it was while being chased by the paps in her car that ultimately led to her untimely death.
As for Meghan, we’ve seen the incessant vitriol she’s had to face since the moment she met Harry. Sexist, xenophobic and outright racist comments continue to this day, even after Meghan and Harry fled to California. And, if it’s not the tabloid media, it’s the online trolls — something Diana never had to deal with, having passed away in 1997.
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They both did explosive tell-all TV interviews
Back in 1995, Diana, then in the midst of a nasty split from Prince Charles, sat down with the BBC’s Martin Bashir for a bombshell interview that covered everything from her childhood and struggle with bulimia to Charles’ affair with Camilla and what life was truly like inside the palace walls. From her “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” zinger to her comment about her 1981 wedding: “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter… and I knew it,” Diana didn’t hold back and the ensuing fallout left the royal family reeling.
So when Meghan and Harry sat down with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, it was immediately compared to Diana’s BBC confessional. Not only did Meghan reveal she’d been suicidal (“I don’t want to be alive anymore”) to the explosive revelation that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark [my son Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born,” the duchess was letting out years of frustration and trauma endured by the media and public.
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They both asked the Palace for help with their mental health
Not only did Diana struggle with bulimia, she’d also admitted to self-injury and feelings of worthlessness. When she turned to the palace, whether from certain members of the royal family or the institution itself, she was waved off as being dramatic. “Maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful,” she told Bashir in the 1995 interview. “And obviously that was daunting, because if you’ve never seen it before how do you support it?”
As for Meghan, as she told Oprah earlier this year, “I was told that I couldn’t [get help], that it wouldn’t be good for the institution. I went to one of the most senior people to get help. And I share this because, there are so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help, and I know how hard it is to not just voice it but to be told ‘no.'”
When she went to human resources at the Palace, she revealed, “I said: ‘I need help.’ [Human resources] said: ‘My heart goes out to you because I see how bad it is, but there’s nothing we can do to protect you because you’re not a paid employee of the institution.’ This wasn’t a choice, this was emails and begging for help saying very specifically: ‘I am concerned for my mental welfare.'”
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Devoted moms who want to protect their kids from public scrutiny
Although Diana, being at one time a future queen, couldn’t take her kids away from the gilded palace gates, she did what she could to ensure William and Harry had normal, happy lives where they learned to mingle with those outside of the royal family. Having endured so many struggles herself within the family, ultimately set aside some money for each of her sons — something that was only recently revealed when Harry admitted that one of the only reasons he was able to separate financially from the royal family was because of the money his mom left him.
Meghan, no doubt knowing what Diana endured through Harry’s stories, moved to California with then-baby Archie to start a new life outside the palace walls. Since then, Archie’s face has been obscured or hidden in photos the couple have released and the public has yet to see newborn Lilibet at all. There’s no knowing when we will see Archie and Lili, if at all. And, for someone living in the public eye, it’s likely the best way she knows how to protect her kids.
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