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Meghan Markle has told of a childhood of toil to match Cinderella

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a world of fairy tales. She grew up by the sea, surrounded by people who made stories for a living. She went to an expensive private school and wanted for nothing.

She became an actress and began to earn a lot of money, though in her own mind she was no better off than the downtrodden heroines of the tales she had loved when she was little.

All her life she dreamed of becoming a princess. But the years went by and Prince Charming never appeared.

Then, as if by magic, everything changed. Like Cinderella, the girl met a handsome prince, who whisked her off her feet and took her to his palace. They got married before cheering crowds and seemed set for a golden future.

For those of us who have long suspected that the Duchess of Sussex lives in a world of fairy tales, the forthcoming Netflix series seems certain to offer definitive proof

Like Cinderella, Meghan Markle met a handsome prince, who whisked her off her feet and took her to his palace. They wed before cheering crowds and seemed set for a golden future

Like Cinderella, Meghan Markle met a handsome prince, who whisked her off her feet and took her to his palace. They wed before cheering crowds and seemed set for a golden future 

But then came another twist — and this time, a horrid one. As soon as the wedding was over, the princess realised that her new family were thoroughly wicked, from the monstrous old stepmother to her cruel new sister-in-law. They locked her in a tower, like Rapunzel, and refused to let her leave.

So now the princess faced the greatest challenge of her life. Could she escape with her prince and find her way home? Could she make a multi-million-dollar Netflix series about her terrible experiences? Could she build a podcasting empire? And above all, would people believe every word she said?

The girl’s name, I need hardly point out, was Meghan.

For those of us who have long suspected that the Duchess of Sussex lives in a world of fairy tales, the forthcoming Netflix series seems certain to offer definitive proof.

The trailers trade in such risible caricatures it’s hard to watch without laughing, from the first trailer’s deliberately unflattering images of the Princess of Wales — cast as the cliched evil sister — to the second trailer’s stock footage of Diana, which presents the House of Windsor as an institutional wife‑murdering Bluebeard, voraciously devouring one woman after another.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, though, that Meghan finds it hard to distinguish between fantasy and reality. She grew up in Los Angeles, home of the world’s greatest dream factory, where her father Thomas worked as a lighting director on everything from daytime soaps to the Oscars and the Olympics.

Even so, it’s remarkable how many fairytale characters, themes and devices recur in Meghan’s accounts of her early life, her romance with Prince Harry and, more recently, her troubled relationship with the House of Windsor.

The trailers trade in such risible caricatures it¿s hard to watch without laughing, from the first trailer¿s deliberately unflattering images of the Princess of Wales (this image shows her at a Commonwealth Day service) that cast as the cliched evil sister

The trailers trade in such risible caricatures it’s hard to watch without laughing, from the first trailer’s deliberately unflattering images of the Princess of Wales (this image shows her at a Commonwealth Day service) that cast as the cliched evil sister

The second trailer¿s stock footage of Diana, which presents the House of Windsor as an institutional wife¿murdering Bluebeard, shows how the Sussexes are voraciously devouring one woman after another

The second trailer’s stock footage of Diana, which presents the House of Windsor as an institutional wife‑murdering Bluebeard, shows how the Sussexes are voraciously devouring one woman after another 

A photo of Diana being followed by photographers that featured in the second trailer - released at around midday

A photo of Diana being followed by photographers that featured in the second trailer – released at around midday 

Indeed, I can’t help wondering whether Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm might be tempted to sue for copyright infringement, if they were still alive.

Meghan’s fairy tale began in California, the home of Hollywood. Here, as the Duchess claimed in a public letter to the U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year, she was brought up in terrible poverty, so destitute that she ‘grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler’.

‘I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this,’ she wrote, ‘because even at five bucks, eating out was something special.’ Life was ‘about making ends meet’, and as a teenager she ‘waited tables, babysat and piecemealed jobs together’, just to survive.

What a heart-rending opening, reminiscent of poor Cinderella sweeping the kitchen.

Or it would be, were it not for the fact that Meghan’s father Thomas was an award-winning lighting director, paid some $200,000 a year. Enough money, in fact, to send his little girl to a private kindergarten formerly attended by Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland, and later to the $12,000-a-year Immaculate Heart Catholic School, one of the best in the city.

Of course many fairytale heroines are lonely and mistreated children. Cinderella, for example, was an only child until her widowed father married again, when she acquired two wicked stepsisters.

By her own account Meghan, too, ‘grew up as an only child’. You might think this a bare-faced lie, since she had a half-sister, Samantha. But as her lawyers have explained, this was simply a question of her ‘personal and subjective feeling’. For when it comes to fairy tales, you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

But Meghan wasn’t just Cinderella; she was also the Ugly Duckling. As a girl, she explained in one of her recent Archetype podcasts, she was a ‘nerd . . . the smart one and not the pretty one’.

The thinly veiled implication, of course, is that she has now grown into a gorgeous swan. Smart and pretty at the same time! What luck! What humility!

That Meghan was long-fixated on becoming a fairytale princess is not in doubt.

As recently as this summer she told The Cut magazine that, ‘there are little girls that I meet and they’re just like, “Oh my God, it’s a real-life princess”.’

But, Meghan told the interviewer, she thinks of these girls: ‘You have the power within you to create a life greater than any fairy tale you’ve ever read . . . You can find love. You can find happiness’ — sentiments that surely would make even the corniest Disney scriptwriter reach for the sick bucket.

Her childhood friends have testified to her obsession, too. A school friend’s mother told the Mail that Meghan endlessly rewatched tapes of Princess Diana’s wedding.

Another classmate recalled that when they visited London in 1996, Meghan had her picture taken outside Buckingham Palace, because she was ‘fascinated by the Royal Family’ and was desperate to be ‘Diana 2.0’.

Indeed, Meghan effectively admitted as much on her now-deleted blog The Tig after the wedding of her future in-laws, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, in 2011. ‘Little girls dream of being princesses,’ she wrote. ‘And grown women seem to retain this childhood fantasy.’

Back then, 11 years ago, few people could have imagined that she, too, would enjoy a royal wedding of her own. But then Meghan met Harry, and we all know the rest.

When you listen to the couple’s own accounts of their meeting and subsequent relationship, you can practically hear the choirs singing in the background. Harry, for whom reading fairy tales might represent something of an intellectual challenge, told Oprah Winfrey in the couple’s bombshell interview last year that Meghan ‘saved’ him — though from what is not clear. A life of dressing up as a Nazi, perhaps.

So now the princess faced the greatest challenge of her life. Could she escape with her prince and find her way home? Could she make a multi-million-dollar Netflix series about her terrible experiences? Could she build a podcasting empire? And above all, would people believe every word she said?

So now the princess faced the greatest challenge of her life. Could she escape with her prince and find her way home? Could she make a multi-million-dollar Netflix series about her terrible experiences? Could she build a podcasting empire? And above all, would people believe every word she said? 

The princess who saves the prince is, of course, a classic fairytale theme: think of the Frog Prince, transformed from amphibian into human after being kissed by his princess; or even the Beast, restored to his true form by his adoring Beauty.

It’s worth remembering, by the way, that Meghan was far from a child. She had been married once before and was 36 when she said ‘I do’ to Harry.

But this time everything had to be perfect, which could explain the tantrums that allegedly preceded their wedding in May 2018.

Indeed, while most fairytale princesses only get one wedding, Meghan thought her own love story so cosmically important that she needed two. That might explain her bizarre — and false — claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury secretly married the couple during the rehearsal beforehand.

To me it seems clear that she expected the rest of her life to follow a fairytale course, with armies of willing courtiers bowing and scraping before her every whim.

But when reality intruded, in the shape of her husband’s family, she reached for yet another explanation from the world of Disney.

In all these stories, there is always a clear divide between good and evil. There is the heroine — kind, beautiful and selfless, always thinking about diversity and inclusion. And against her are pitted the villainous relatives — cold, distant and ugly, forever on the brink of another racist remark.

Go through Meghan’s version of her time as a supposed prisoner of the Windsors, as well as the accounts of cronies like the risible Sussex-mouthpiece Omid Scobie — the Dopey to her Snow White — and the fairytale cliches pile up. It seems she viewed herself as a real-life version of the heroine in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess And The Pea, who arrives at her prince’s castle shivering and bedraggled, and struggles to convince her hosts that she really is of royal lineage.

In the story, the princess prevails only after being discomfited by a pea hidden beneath 20 mattresses, since no commoner would even notice such a thing. But as Meghan tells it, she could have detected a pea beneath 200 mattresses and it still wouldn’t have been good enough for her horrid in-laws.

The chief villain, naturally, is Cinderella’s wicked sister — Kate — depicted in last week’s first Netflix trailer as the hatchet-faced embodiment of evil. For who can forget Meghan’s heart-breaking recollection, in that interview with fairy godmother Oprah, that Kate so cruelly made her cry?

In the Sussexes’ account, King Charles comes across as a typically discombobulated fairytale father, perhaps outwitted and manipulated by those around him. And then there’s the Queen Consort, presumably seen as a wicked stepmother straight from the pages of the Brothers Grimm.

Kensington Palace, of course, was the modern-day Bluebeard’s Castle — in which, so the tale goes, the nobleman stored the corpses of his murdered wives. But Meghan’s fate wasn’t death. Instead she was kept prisoner, like Rapunzel in her tower — or Sleeping Beauty in her induced sleep.

But Meghan wasn¿t just Cinderella; she was also the Ugly Duckling. As a girl, she explained in one of her recent Archetype podcasts, she was a ¿nerd . . . the smart one and not the pretty one¿. She and Harry are pictured in the Netflix trailer

But Meghan wasn’t just Cinderella; she was also the Ugly Duckling. As a girl, she explained in one of her recent Archetype podcasts, she was a ‘nerd . . . the smart one and not the pretty one’. She and Harry are pictured in the Netflix trailer

Kensington Palace, of course, was the modern-day Bluebeard¿s Castle ¿ in which, so the tale goes, the nobleman stored the corpses of his murdered wives. But Meghan¿s fate wasn¿t death. Instead she was kept prisoner, like Rapunzel in her tower ¿ or Sleeping Beauty in her induced sleep

Kensington Palace, of course, was the modern-day Bluebeard’s Castle — in which, so the tale goes, the nobleman stored the corpses of his murdered wives. But Meghan’s fate wasn’t death. Instead she was kept prisoner, like Rapunzel in her tower — or Sleeping Beauty in her induced sleep

The only remaining question, then: will the princess and her beau live happily ever after? You can probably guess my answer.

The only remaining question, then: will the princess and her beau live happily ever after? You can probably guess my answer.

For as she told Oprah last year, her new family confiscated ‘my passport, my driver’s licence, my keys’ after her wedding, leaving her so ‘trapped’ that she left the house only twice in four months.

Alas, this all turned out to be complete hogwash, since after her wedding she actually went on four holidays in six months and performed some 73 public engagements before flouncing back to California.

It’s remarkably lucky, then, Meghan has come up with an alternative version, in which she lost not her freedom but her voice.

‘I was sitting in Nottingham Cottage and The Little Mermaid came on,’ she also told Winfrey. ‘And I went, “Oh my God, she falls in love with the prince and because of that she loses her voice. But in the end she gets her voice back.” ’

‘And this is what happens here,’ whispered the awestruck Winfrey. ‘You feel like you got your voice back.’

(In case you don’t trust Meghan’s account, this is indeed what happens: after falling in love with a prince, the mermaid Ariel surrenders her voice to the Sea Witch Kate — sorry, I mean Ursula — before winning it back at the end of the film.)

Now we approach the climax. The cinema score swells, yet things look grim for our heroine.

But wait! Who’s this at the door — but Prince Charming, the knight in shining armour, carrying a skeleton key and a ticket to Los Angeles International Airport!

That’s how Meghan tells it, anyway. ‘He saved all of us,’ she told Winfrey. ‘He ultimately called it and was like, “We’ve got to find a way for us, for Archie.” ’ Then she remembered to give herself some credit, too: ‘But, you know, you need to want to be saved.’

Like all fairy tales, Meghan’s story ended on a note of salvation. She now lives in the house of her dreams, a sprawling £11 million mansion in Montecito, California, funded by her hard work smearing her husband’s family — sorry, I mean telling ‘her truth’.

‘One of the first things my husband saw when we walked around the house was those two palm trees,’ she told The Cut magazine this summer, in what any fair-minded reader would surely consider a deeply sincere and moving interview. ‘See how they’re connected at the bottom? He goes, “My love, it’s us.” ’

For an ending worthy of Walt Disney, though, I can’t improve on Meghan’s closing exchange with Oprah back in March last year.

‘So,’ said the fairy godmother, ‘your story with the prince does have a happy ending?’

Yes, Meghan agreed. ‘Greater than any fairy tale you’ve ever read.’

The only remaining question, then: will the princess and her beau live happily ever after?

You can probably guess my answer.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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