This is a tale about a white girl from Berkshire with a great blow-dry and a history of art degree from St. Andrews university, and a divorced mixed race, ex-actress from LA, who both married British princes.
Kate Middleton and Prince William dated privately at university until their relationship became ‘official to the public’ when they were photographed together on a ski trip. The public finds out that Prince Harry is ‘officially’ dating Meghan Markle through a statement issued by Kensington Palace calling for an end to sexist and racist harassment of Markle, his girlfriend on social media.
A comparable start.
We took 334 separate online publications – every source of news you can imagine – tabloids, broadsheets, regional news, celebrity mags, fashion titles, the list goes on. We then compared every piece of coverage in the last three months about Kate to every piece about Meghan…
Ignoring the obvious
The purpose of Relative’s insights are not to try and confirm what we already know – this article in Buzzfeed highlights tabloid headlines comparing Kate and Meghan’s perceived behaviour, the difference is shocking, and we get it, but we want to understand a bit more about what all these articles really mean.
What’s prevalent in all the articles, in all the publications we looked at, is a seemingly-innocent commentary of the ‘public’ criticism Meghan receives, so rather than actively criticising her themselves, each article talks about how everyone else is.
And they’re all at it. It’s almost the oldest, slyest bullying trick in the book “everyone else is being horrible about you, not me – but I just thought you should know what they’re saying.”
Meghan is a woman in her own right
This sounds like it should be a good thing – an independent woman doing their own thing is something that is usually applauded, but unfortunately not when it comes to the Duchess of Sussex.
We know that Kate Middleton has her own engagements, she regularly attends events on her own, and she regularly represents The Cambridges in her own right, but our insights show that articles talking about Meghan are almost six times more likely to talk about her as a separate entity, someone that goes off selfishly and does her own thing, rather than someone who does independent royal duty.
That she is talked about as solo infers that she isn’t really part of something, in this case – the Royal family, and whilst Meghan is usually referred to as a single person, she’s often still referred to as the ‘ex-actress’. Not very royal that, is it?
Meghan is a lone wolf, Kate is part of the pack
Kate Middleton may not have shed her civilian surname, but she’s got blue blood and she cares about us.
Commentary on the Duchess of Cambridge is interesting because she’s absolutely ‘one of us’, the language used is inclusive, her actions are selfless and her actions are carried out on behalf of us, her subjects.
But it isn’t all hard work
Kate knows how to have fun, and the language used to talk about her is easy and breezy. She has ‘fun moments’ which she shares with people, Meghan does not have those because she ‘doesn’t share things’.
The words and phrases used to compare the two women are actually a lot more subtle than we initially would have expected, we couldn’t find explicit criticism, just a lot of insidious asides.
These insidious asides illustrate the destructive capacity of language. Our approach to text analysis is rooted in the idea that what you say doesn’t really matter – it’s the differences in relation to a relevant baseline that are most interesting. In this case, those two things are living breathing women.