Harry and Meghan Can’t Escape the Kate Middleton Photo Drama

These days, pretty much everything Prince Harry and Meghan Markle do — from going on work trips to saying nice things about King Charles — generates controversy. So it’s no surprise that the pair have been dragged into the Kate Middleton photo drama, though they are not working royals, live in California, and are reportedly not on speaking terms with Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales. Now, people in Harry and Meghan’s camp have come forward to say they would like to be excluded from this narrative.

The Sussexes entered the Kate Middleton photo discourse on Monday evening, the same day Catherine took the blame for a ridiculously Photoshopped Mother’s Day photo posted to her Instagram, when this bitchy anonymous quote was published by “Page Six”:

But sources close to [Kate’s] brother-in-law, Harry, and his wife told Page Six, “If Harry and Meghan had ever encountered the same issue they would have been annihilated.”

“The same rules do not apply to both couples.”

“This isn’t a mistake that Meghan would ever make … she has a keen eye and freakish attention to detail.”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson from the Sussexes’ Archewell Foundation disavowed the quote, telling Newsweek: “With respect to Page Six, that did not come from us.”

But by then the comments from the mysterious Post source had already sparked criticism of Meghan and Harry. The couple were accused of using an altered image to announce they were expecting their second child on Valentine’s Day 2021, making them “hypocrites” for jabbing Kate.

The Sun quoted Angela Levin, who has written a biography of Harry, as saying: “The Sussexes’ camp are huge hypocrites … A tree was doctored in their photograph to create a special backdrop so how dare their camp say anything about Catherine’s?”

And the Daily Mail ran a story with this headline

The Daily Mail reported that “the picture-perfect photo” was “doctored to add a willow tree in the background,” claiming that photographer Misan Harriman admitted to this in a podcast:

In a resurfaced recording of Mr Harriman on the Private Passions podcast, the photographer said: ‘My most well-known virtual shoot is the portrait I took of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announcing their pregnancy.’

He revealed that he took the photo remotely, as he was in a different location to the royal couple during the pandemic, and used technology that allowed him to communicate with the Sussexes, telling them how to pose, while remotely ‘pressing the shutter’ from a completely different place.

The podcast host added: ‘They weren’t actually under a willow tree, were they? They were lying outside in a meadow, weren’t they?’

Mr Harriman replied: ‘Yeah they were lost in their love, at home, in their garden, comfortable, celebrating new joy.’

But in a video posted to Instagram, Harriman said this is untrue. He played a snippet from the podcast and explained he was trying to change the subject when the interviewer suggested the tree was added to the photo, not confirming the Photoshop allegation. He said he took the photo remotely using an iPad due to COVID restrictions at the time, and the only thing he changed before its release was adding a black-and-white color grade.

“Unfortunately, there’s been an article on the Daily Mail, saying that I have admitted to doctoring the pregnancy announcement portrait I took of Harry and Meghan,” Harriman said. “Apparently, I was switching out trees and meadows … this is crazy.

Harriman also shared the original full-color image to prove he hadn’t made any tweaks aside from switching to black and white.

After Harriman called for an apology and a retraction, the Daily Mail piece was rewritten to focus on his denial; Levin’s “hypocrites” quote was omitted and a correction was added to the bottom.

The original article in The Sun still says the pregnancy-announcement photo was “heavily doctored” and “A different backdrop including a giant willow tree was added in 2021 by their photographer friend Misan Harriman.” The Sun repeated this allegation, which the photographer denied, in a second piece published on Wednesday.

Many have argued that the Sussexes were, in a way, involved in the Kate Middleton photo debacle from the start. As Charlie Warzel put it in The Atlantic: “In part due to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s departure from royal life, there is a newfound sense of the royals as conniving and manipulative, and the press plays into this.” But the official stance from their camp is that they want nothing to do with the Kate photo saga and are going about their business.

They did that, quite literally, on Thursday: Markle just launched a website and Instagram account for something called “American Riviera Orchard.” It’s unclear what this new venture is, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website shows the name is trademarked for cookbooks, housewares, and food items. Though, judging from The Sun’s lead story on Thursday afternoon, Meghan is always up to something, even when she’s just “flogging” jam

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