Editor’s Note: Rob Crilly is a British journalist living in New York. He was The Telegraph’s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent and was previously the East Africa correspondent for The Times of London. The opinions in this article are those of the author.
Dear Mr. Markle,
We have never met. And although I’m sure another journalist is the last thing you need in your life, I hope that as you reflect on the wedding you are missing, you will take some time to read these words.
For I might not know you or your daughter, but I do know a thing or two about tabloid journalism, about English weddings and about the nature of families.
You might be missing the ceremony, but you have the rest of your life to put this right.
First things first: You screwed up. Royally, as we say in Britain.
I’m guessing the photo shoot with a paparazzo wasn’t your idea. It probably seemed a harmless wheeze to burnish your public image when it was put to you by (I presume) an Englishman with a camera and a plausible manner.
These are tough times – and when you have to fly half way around the world to give your daughter away in front of a global audience, there are going to be expenses.
I know you say you’ve not taken any money for the stunt. But even if it turned out that you had, people will forgive you, in time.
As father of the bride, you would want to pay your own way – not take handouts from the in-laws.
But when the scheme was splashed over the newspapers last weekend, you risked making the biggest mistake possible ahead of Saturday’s ceremony: embarrassing the bride.
Your daughter is marrying into Britain’s royal family. And while the Queen is famously parsimonious (reportedly keeping her breakfast cereal in Tupperware boxes), you made them look cheap. That’s something different.
It was all ammunition for the haters, whose attacks on your family as carpetbaggers or colonial plunderers mask a racist undercurrent that portrays your daughter as some kind of interloper.
Not good. You are right to feel ashamed. But it is also not the end of the world.
For what it’s worth, I think you dodged a bullet. Weddings bring out the worst in the English. There are too many speeches, too much alcohol and not enough joy. That’s even before you add in footmen and butlers, ladies-in-waiting and the media.
On the other hand, you can’t hide away forever with the press camped at the gates to your Mexican home. Feeding stories to a celebrity website isn’t helping. It only makes the others hungrier for a headline.
If you want to work on your relationship with your daughter, then you are going to have to meet the in-laws sooner rather than later.
It might not be as difficult as you think.
We in Britain know only too well the price of our irreverent, excitable, rapacious press. You aren’t the first to get burned by having embarrassing secrets revealed by one newspaper just to spite another.
At the wedding will be people who have been headline fodder for years.
There is a darker side, too. Prince Harry knows this better than anyone. His mother was hounded to her death by paparazzi in that Paris underpass.
The royals themselves, I suspect, are on your side. So too are the British public.
We are rooting for Harry despite his own very public humiliations – whether playing strip billiards in Las Vegas or dressing as a Nazi for a fancy dress party.
He has lived with the media intrusion all his public life. You screwed up on your first day. You’ll get the hang of it.
So don’t worry about meeting the royals. It will give you something to bond over. Remember how Prince Charles was once caught on mic saying “bloody people” about reporters at a photo shoot?
Breaching protocol – as you most assuredly did with those photos – is one thing. But if there is a quality we Brits love, it is admitting your naïveté, making good and moving on in the face of adversity.
So get well soon. Then pick yourself up and dust yourself down. You can’t hide away forever.
And remember, if the royal family lost a member for every gaffe or scandal, we would have become a republic long before the United States of America.