A while ago, Samantha Markle declared that her forthcoming book would be about ‘the beautiful nuances of our lives’. Was it
a misprint for beautiful nuisances? Or did she have a change of heart? Either way, there isn’t a beautiful nuance in sight. Instead, it is like a blunt object found at the scene of a crime. As royal memoirs go, it is by far the most macabre, and perhaps even loopier than the Duchess of York’s Finding Sarah: A Duchess’s Journey to Find Herself.
By the third page Samantha already has her knives out. The first person to get it in the back is her mother, a forgotten figure who met Thomas Markle on a blind date. ‘Roslyn was 5ft 9in, had red hair, was not shy and was quite “available”,’ writes Samantha, who employs inverted commas like rubber gloves, to insulate herself from what she is saying. ‘Although she was not his first preference, she would suffice for him, as he wasa typically hormonally charged male.’
A few pages later, Samantha writes that when Thomas was away, Roslyn would have ‘private time with one of her male “acquaintances’’’. She is apparently still alive, though Samantha isn’t speaking to her: ‘She and I never got along, and she was incredibly bitter that I favoured my father.’
Nor does Samantha have much time for her mother’s mother, whose apt surname was Loveless. Her father’s father also gets a seeing-to. As a child, Samantha — or Yvonne, as she was then — just happened to be rootling around in her grandparents’ bedroom when she found a trunkful of Playboymagazines by the bed. ‘The discovery…made me resent my grandfather.’ But, ever the saint: ‘I didn’t want to cause problems between them, so I just said nothing, until I could discuss it with her privately someday.’ Or indeed publicly, in a book.
Samantha’s parents split up and her father married Doria, 15 years his junior. ‘She had a great smile,’ recalls Samantha, ‘but I had heard somewhere that “if a person smiles all of the time, be wary”.’ Lucky, then, that Samantha has yet to meet Her Majesty, who is nothing if not smiley. Her complaints about her stepmother are niggly, but no less forceful for that: ‘I was uncomfortable seeing her smoking, and wearing a bathrobe in the front yard.’
When Samantha is 16, Doria ‘with an interesting “Cheshire Cat grin” on her face, and a triumphant tone in her voice’, tells her that she is expecting a baby. Samantha’s reaction is unusual: ‘I wondered if at any moment, like in the movie Aliens, something would pop out of her stomach.’
From this point on she focuses on Meghan. Throughout, Samantha portrays herself as the big-hearted older sister, always being let down by the wilful little brat. But she has unwittingly written something quite different — a dark portrait of sibling hatred, red in tooth and claw, the perfect companion piece to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Resentment oozes from every line. Just before her first birthday, Meghan throws blueberries around the kitchen as her father laughs in delight. ‘We didn’t laugh about cleaning up the mess though,’ adds Samantha. Towards the end of the book, she brings up the blueberry-throwing incident again:
I don’t recall ever hearing Dad say ‘no’ to Meg, about anything, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he did say ‘no’. I couldn’t help but think that allowing kids to throw blueberries all over the kitchen wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Not for the first time, this passage found me wondering if Samantha is off her rocker. After 38 years, who would still harbour a grudge against a baby for behaving just like a baby?
Events — or non-events — fuel Samantha’s burgeoning dislike of Doria. But when it comes to hard evidence, she remains cagey. On page 73, she is rootling around again, this time in her stepmother’s bedroom: ‘I came across something in the back corner of one of the drawers that shocked me into nausea. I picked up a small stack of photographs and I couldn’t believe my eyes!’ What did these photos show? Samantha won’t say.
Playing the game of Twister with the brother of a friend, Samantha performs one twist too many and ends up pregnant. At first the baby’s father wants nothing to do with it, but then they get married, and have another child, before divorcing. The two little children are packed off to live with the father’s parents in Virginia while Samantha pursues her dreams of going to modelling classes, then to broadcasting school.
She keeps switching careers — model, actress, radio news presenter — but nothing lasts long. She quits her job as a news announcer because she can’t go along with the station’s attitude to the O.J. Simpson case: ‘I was talking about it so many times throughout the week that it seemed depressing, and I didn’t think he was guilty, so I was feeling an ethical conflict.’
Meanwhile, Meghan blossoms. Envying her stepsister’s luscious long hair and olive skin, Samantha shells out on hair extensions and tanning beds, but it all goes pear-shaped. The extensions start to fall out and she is left with ‘several thinning areas’.
While Meghan is flourishing at her posh high school, Samantha, now in her thirties, arrives back home. Coo-eee! On the first evening Meghan reminds her to put the top back on the toothpaste. Samantha is so affronted that she is still going on about it 20 years later. ‘I thought, “Well, the Princess of Vista Del Mar has spoken”. Whatever happened to respecting elders?’
Samantha says she always wanted Meghan ‘to know that I was there’. But Meghan proved unresponsive. ‘I couldn’t pinpoint it, but something about my sister’s tone of voice conveyed “resentment”.’ In fact all the resentment seems to flow the other way. While Meghan is bright and pretty and sparkling her way through an expensive college, Samantha is undergoing a ‘horrible’ divorce from another unsuitable husband, and is trapped in a series of dead-end jobs: ‘I didn’t think Meg really knew how great and blessed her life was, but I hoped that she would someday.’
In 2006, Meghan lands a job as a TV dolly bird, opening and shutting briefcases on the American version of Deal or No Deal. Unsurprisingly, Samantha is in two minds about it: ‘I thought Meg looked fantastic, but the first thing I thought was “They must’ve stuffed her bra”. I knew there was tape up under there, or something, because she was not that busty.’
Meghan then gets her big break on Suits. Samantha immediately suggests that as she is doing so well she should pay their father back some of the money he spent on her education. Meghan says it’s none of her business. ‘I didn’t know why that would upset her so much. I thought she would say, “Yeah that’s the least I can do”.’
Around this time, one of Samantha’s daughters gets involved with ‘an inappropriately older man’. From this point on, the book reads more and more like Notes on a Scandal, its sour narrator perilously out of kilter with the events she is describing. ‘I said “Let’s talk about this”. She went into her bedroom and slammed the door, and the next day I was given a restraining order, alleging that I was abusive.’
Like so many people in Samantha’s life, her daughter is no longer speaking to her. Of course, none of it is ever Samantha’s fault: ‘I could only hope that, moving forward, my daughter would apologise someday, and find peace and happiness.’
The evidence indicates that Samantha last saw Meghan in 2008. Neither she nor her brother (who — quelle surprise! — she isn’t talking to) received an invitation to the royal wedding, which was, she says, ‘an incredible insult to our family’. But who in their right mind would send a wedding invitation to an embittered relation they hadn’t seen for a decade? Samantha doesn’t view it that way. She warns Harry, via Twitter: ‘If she will treat our family this way, she’ll treat your family this way.’
She welcomes a German company into her home to film her watching the big day on TV, because ‘I assumed that the world wanted to know how I felt about the wedding’. Sad to say, she does not like what she sees: ‘When my sister and Harry looked at each other, it seemed like an oddly lacklustre moment. I kept looking at my sister’s eyes, and then Harry’s, and I didn’t see that joy and excitement.’ When there are no fresh slights on offer, she invents new ones:‘I couldn’t believe, after everything my father had given her, that she would deprive him of a traditional coat of arms.’ All in all, she finds the Royal wedding ‘rotten to its core’.
Samantha ends up calling Meghan a ‘monster’ and ‘cold-hearted and controlling’. In a final show of strength, she sends her an email: ‘It must make you writhe in your own envious swill to know that all of your money and all of your manipulation did not win Dad all to yourself.’
What next for Samantha Markle? If ever they remake the film Misery, she must surely be a shoo-in for the crazed Kathy Bates character, swinging her sledgehammer hither and thither, hell-bent on paralysing the object of her obsession.
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