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This is why Meghan Markle gets compared to Princess Diana

By Megan Lawton
Newsbeat reporter

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  • Death of Diana, Princess of Wales
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The news that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping back as "senior" royals has reignited chat about Prince Harry's mum, Princess Diana.

The royal couple have previously criticised the way they've been treated in the media.

In a statement last year, the prince compared the tabloid press's coverage of his wife to the way in which his mother was treated.

Princess Diana was often written about in the newspapers - her charity work and her private life made headlines around the world.

Today, there is some speculation on social media about whether she would be supportive of her son and his wife's actions, or not.

At the time, Prince Harry said the "ruthless campaign" against the Duchess of Sussex is "history repeating itself".

"I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

The claim came after the Mail on Sunday published a handwritten letter from Meghan to her father, Thomas Markle, sent shortly after she and Prince Harry got married in 2018.

So how does Meghan's treatment compare to Princess Diana's?

'The most famous person in the world'

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image captionKatie Nicholl says Princess Diana was "frequently followed" by paparazzi

"Diana became a royal icon unlike any other. She was globally recognised and internationally famous," royal author Katie Nicholl tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

But, Katie adds, the attention she received wasn't always positive.

"Diana was criticised in the press. She was the most famous person in the world and the paparazzi were a constant presence in the lives of Prince William and Harry".

James Brookes, a journalist specialising in the Royal Family, agrees.

"At times she had a very good relationship with the press and they were on her side. At other times she complained about the media for being intrusive. It was a mixed relationship."

In later years the princess gave personal interviews to the press that led some to say she was encouraging the publicity and attention.

Katie says "there were times when Diana courted and played the media. In the end it was a game that became too much on both sides".

Meghan on the other hand has shut down her personal blog since joining the Royal Family and the majority of her interviews are now based on her charity work.

Princess Diana's death and the paparazzi

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image caption"Wherever she went there were huge amounts of journalists and photographers covering her every move"

James believes that Prince Harry's opinion of the media goes back to when Princess Diana died.

"A lot of Harry and William's perspective of the media is tainted by [their mother's death] because in their eyes their mother was hounded by the paparazzi," he says.

Princess Diana died in a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris on 31 August 1997. Prince Harry was 12 at the time.

The driver - Henri Paul - had been drink-driving and the car was being followed by paparazzi on motorbikes when the accident happened.

An inquest later found that she had been unlawfully killed as result of the "gross negligence" of the driver and the paparazzi.

In a 2017 BBC documentary, Prince Harry spoke about his mother's death and the role of the paparazzi.

"I think one of the hardest things to come to terms with, is the fact that, the people that chased her into the tunnel, were the same people taking photographs of her dying on the backseat of the car."

Negative coverage

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image captionPrince Harry says the way Meghan is treatment by tabloid press is 'bullying'

Despite Prince Harry's statement in October 2019, Katie believes "Meghan isn't followed or chased by the paparazzi in the way Diana was".

However she thinks the prince is clearly fed up with the stories which criticise Meghan.

"He's attacking the journalists who he believes are constantly fuelling the negative narrative about his wife".

"There have been numerous negative stories about spending. Including the cost of renovating their house which has been met by taxpayers' money.

"There's also the cost of the Duchess of Sussex's designer outfits, which have gone into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"There were separate stories around the wedding. The rumours of Meghan wanting air fresheners in St George's chapel. The rumoured tiara tantrum. The rumoured upset between Meghan and Kate at a bridesmaid fitting for Princess Charlotte."

'She's used to being in the public spotlight'

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image captionKatie says the prince "is very protective of Meghan"

Some people say Meghan should expect attention because, unlike Princess Diana, she was a celebrity before marrying Harry. That's something Katie disagrees with.

"I think even though she had a celebrity lifestyle before, I don't think it compares to being in the Royal Family.

"Yes she had celebrity status but she wasn't an A-list actress, like Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman. She's said this herself, she's never experienced this level of public scrutiny."

She adds: "I think Meghan has come under just as much scrutiny as any other member of the Royal family. People ‎have short memories, but the Duchess of Cambridge also had a rough time in the tabloids."‎

The difficulty, Katie says, is that there is a clear public interest in the couple but there is a line about what is acceptable.

"It's the job of the press to report on the Royal Family, but it has to be fair and has to be impartial."

A version of this article appeared on 2 October 2019.

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