How Meghan is frustrating the royals
Typically, when Princes William and Harry embark on a royal world tour, they host drinks nights for the members of the press who accompany them.
In a show of camaraderie, they've invited the press for tea in South Africa and a hotel-bar night in New York City.
But things were different this past October, when Harry and Meghan - the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex - toured Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
"They basically blanked the media on this tour, which is very shortsighted," according to Duncan Larcombe, who covered the royal family for London's The Sun for many years.
Larcombe told the New York Post that this is just another example of how the once-jovial, beloved prince has changed since his marriage to the American actress and how his long-term relationships are suffering as a result.
All of Harry's staff have always thought he was fantastic, but the two of them (together) are high maintenance," said Larcombe of the royal couple, adding that the prince has become "quite grumpy and aloof from his own inner circle of staff. Harry was always very pally with [them], so this is very unlike him.
"What people love about Harry is that he wears his heart on his sleeve," Larcombe added. "He's down to earth, a normal guy trapped in the royal world, and he doesn't take himself very seriously. But now he is."
The difference, sources say, is Meghan - whose American independence is rubbing some royal insiders the wrong way.
They add that it's been tough for the strong-willed duchess, who is expecting a baby in April, to go from controlling her own personal and professional life to not being allowed to make all her own decisions.
As a result, she is allegedly taking her frustrations out on those around her.
"During their tour, just before they were about to go to the Invictus Games, Meghan was bawling at her hairdresser to get her hair right, while at the same time someone was ironing the bottom of the dress she was wearing," said a tour insider.
Larcombe said he is "not in the least surprised there's been teething problems" as the duchess adjusts to her new life and the constraints that come with it.
While her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, briefly held a position as a part-time fashion buyer before marrying Prince William, Meghan is unprecedented in that she previously had a high-profile acting and philanthropic career.
"As an actress, Meghan expects perfection," he said. "But when you're in the royal family, you have to learn that it's not about you, it's about what you represent."
According to a longtime friend of Meghan's, part of the culture clash comes from her eagerness to make her mark.
"Meghan is a great girl - the kind you can go and have a drink with. She's always there for her friends and is extremely loyal," the friend told the New York Post, pointing out how the duchess has had the same close pals for years, including her college BFF Lindsay Roth and stylist Jessica Mulroney.
But, the friend added, "She's ballsy. She's unashamedly ambitious - she has a great work ethic - and I can only imagine how that's gone down inside the palace."
Indeed, Meghan has thrown herself into her work. She's hands-on at the Royal Foundation, the philanthropic organisation she leads with her husband, Prince William and Kate. And Meghan recently aligned herself with three more pet causes: The National Theatre and The Association of Commonwealth Universities, both of which are patronages she took over from Queen Elizabeth, as well as the charities benefiting unemployed women and animal welfare.
"Meghan wanted to get (deeply involved) from the beginning," said a palace insider. "She's very bright and questioned absolutely everything from her first briefing."
It was Meghan's idea to publish a cookbook to aid the survivors of London's Grenfell Tower fire, which caused the deaths of 72 people in June 2017.
The Duchess of Sussex's hard-driving work ethic has even pushed sister-in-law Kate to work harder since her recent return from maternity leave. "Kate has to keep up with Meghan!" said the palace insider.
However, this ambition has also ruffled feathers, with three key members of Meghan and Harry's staff resigning in the past few months.
Among them, the couple's private secretary, who had previously been the Queen's personal secretary and was charged with helping Meghan settle into royal life. The duchess' personal assistant had previously worked for singer Robbie Williams but, the Mirror reported, left the palace because "Meghan put a lot of demands on her and it ended up with her in tears."
Similarly, Harry and Meghan's chief protection officer quit after only six months because of resistance from the duchess.
"Even though (Meghan) was a famous actress, she could still do what she wanted in the way of getting around freely," a source said. "But in her current role she can't go anywhere without her protection team, and that's a massive constraining force on an individual like her."
All of this is stressing out her husband, sources say.
"Harry wants to be protective of Meghan," Larcombe explained. "If she's getting frustrated and stressed, he is the one reading the Riot Act to the staff and doing the demanding on her behalf.
"But you can't blame Meghan, she's gone into her biggest role yet and she's put her heart and soul into it. Yes, she is firing off e-mails to staff at 5am, but she's super-keen and Harry is taking his lead from her. He is under a lot of pressure behind the scenes."
Adding to tensions are Meghan's extended-family members. While her yoga teacher mother, Doria Ragland, remains dignified and quiet at home in Los Angeles, Meghan's father and half-siblings have proven to be a constant embarrassment.
Despite having a reportedly strained relationship with her father, Thomas Markle, Meghan asked him to be a part of her May 2018 wedding to Harry. But days before the ceremony, he was caught staging and selling paparazzi photos - leading to him not attending the wedding. Since then, he has given interview after interview about how he has been unfairly cut out of his daughter's life, how he hung up on Harry during a heated phone conversation, and how Princess Diana - Harry's revered late mother - never would have allowed this treatment of him to happen.
He has even publicly begged the Queen to intervene.
Meanwhile, Meghan's half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr., and half-sister, Samantha Grant - to whom, friends say, she has never been close - have also been mouthing off to the press and stirring up chaos. Grant, who threatened to crash the wedding after she wasn't invited, has criticised Meghan for wearing a $75,000 dress for her engagement photo but not sending their father any money. She has called Harry a "wuss" for not standing up to her half-sister, whom she has variously referred to as "the Duchess of Nonsense," "Cruella deVille" and "Witchy Poo."
As a result, the Sunday Times reported in December, Grant has been placed on Scotland Yard's Fixated Persons watchlist - meaning police and royal security will keep an eye out for Grant should she turn up at Kensington Palace uninvited (which she has already done) and could be detained.
The palace has taken the approach of ignoring the familial issues. A royal source told the New York Post there are no plans to "give into" the Markles' antics, and no plans to contact the father at all.
As if that's not enough, some of the British newspapers have claimed there's a rivalry between Meghan and sister-in-law Kate. Camilla Tominey of The Daily Telegraph - who first broke the news of Harry and Meghan's romance - reported that Meghan had made Kate cry during a fitting for Princess Charlotte's bridesmaid dress. Tellingly, it was not denied by the palace.
But a prominent London high-society source told The Post, "I don't think it's true that Meghan and Catherine don't get on - they are just very different people. Catherine is so incredibly lovely, and Meghan is clearly very determined and ambitious and is applying the same principles to this job as to any other [acting] role."
The high-society source added that Meghan has a reputation as a social-climber: "In the early days, Harry's closest friends tried to help Meghan out when she was the new girl on the block, but she didn't really need them after she got the ring on her finger."
Next up, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will soon relocate to their new home at Frogmore Cottage - which has undergone a $US5 million renovation - within the grounds of Windsor Castle. News of the move caused a storm in the UK, where there was speculation the couple were trying to distance themselves from Kensington Palace neighbours William and Kate, and reports that the brothers had fallen out over Harry and Meghan.
But Larcombe disputes this, saying, "They're so, so close. I think that William was just concerned that (Harry and Meghan) were getting off on the right foot."
Besides, he added, "Kensington Palace is like a posh prison! You're surrounded by a public park and one half is a museum. The only place Harry would be able to play outside with the baby is a little courtyard."
In fact, that child may be what eases tensions for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
"I think the baby is the biggest light at the end of the tunnel," said the palace source. "It will give Meghan a chance to restock and to stay out of the limelight for six months so she can reflect on the way forward."
This article originally appeared in the New York Post and is republished here with permission