Meghan and husband Prince Harry made Royal Family history as they opted to move away from senior duties in the Firm, leading many observers to reiterate their claims of a rift between the Sussex and Cambridge households. Animosity between Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and her husband Prince William, with Harry and Meghan has been well documented in reports, and a body language expert claimed this tension could be seen during their last appearance together. Most recently, all four were together for a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, in which “no one around Meghan” smiled.
This, Mollie Birney suggested, was in stark contrast to pictures taken of the couples, once dubbed the “Fab Four” in the media, on occasions such as Christmas Day.
It is unclear exactly when the apparent rift began to develop, with historians such as Robert Lacey claiming it could go as far back as when Harry and William were young brothers, learning the ropes of royal life.
The Commonwealth Day service was one of Harry and Meghan’s last appearances as senior Royal Family members, opting to stand down to lead a more “financially independent life” from April this year.
And Ms Birney, who reviewed pictures of the event, said there was a notable strain between the two Duchesses.
Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle’s body language has been analysed
Kate Middleton with Meghan Markle at the Commonwealth Day service
Ms Birney explained that she was “most struck by how Meghan’s smile is absolutely unwavering throughout the procession”, which means it could appear “fairly forced”.
The smile, she said, was “not a relaxed, authentic smile”, but “tense”.
In footage after Meghan took her seat, Kate then entered the fold, “looking past Meghan” as she greeted other guests present at the service.
Ms Birney noted: “Meghan continues to smile, despite being ignored by Kate, who makes absolutely no effort to make eye contact with her despite being well within her eye line.
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“No one else around Meghan is smiling either, so it really does stand out.”
Talking recently to The List, Ms Birney argued that Meghan wasn’t putting a smile on because she was happy – quite the opposite, as she “looks more like someone making a concerted effort to appear unphased by being snubbed”, adding: “Essentially, she’s faking it.”
The language between the two was worlds away from more joyous pictures released after Christmas Day in 2018, the expert observed.
She believed that their exchange on that day was “very different” as Kate and Meghan were seen to “lean subtly in towards one another”, “making repeated eye contact” and appearing to have a “much warmer, kinder” interaction.
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Royal Family: Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle on Christmas Day, 2018
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Ms Birney added: “Although it wasn’t exactly intimate, the body language indicated warmth and even a little playfulness.
“Meghan’s smile is softer, more authentic, and more reflected in her eyes than just her mouth.”
Mr Lacey suggested earlier this month that Harry had become resentful of William after he had been “treated like a court jester” while his brother began to understand his royal future as King.
He cited examples such as the infamous incident where Harry dressed in a Nazi uniform, and the spectacular fallout in the press.
Royal Family tree
He claimed William helped Harry choose the costume for a party but didn’t take any of the heat after images of him in the uniform emerged.
Others have argued that the row, particularly between Harry and William, started in 2016 – when the Duke of Sussex introduced Meghan to his brother, and sister-in-law.
But author Angela Levin wrote in her 2018 book Harry: Conversations with the Prince, that the resentment may have crept in before this, particularly when the pair schooled together at Eton College.
She said: “Harry did complain once or twice that William wasn’t there for him, but he might have been teasing.
“Even if it was true, William at 15 had barely any more experience of life than Harry did, despite spending years trying to be a parent to their mother.
“It was a grown-up’s job and someone should have picked up that he needed professional help.”