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Why Everyone's Freaking Out Over the Way Meghan Cradles Her Baby Bump

Plus: a doctor weighs in on how the duchess could defuse the haters.

When Meghan Markle made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards earlier this week to present top honors to Givenchy designer Clare Waight-Keller, the duchess set off a fresh controversy about her scene-stealing behavior.

The pregnant duchess, in a bespoke one shoulder black gown by Waight-Keller (who also designed her iconic wedding dress), stood on stage cradling her baby bump while listening to the Womenswear Designer of the Year talk about what an honor it was to work with her. The Internet went wild when, in full view of the cameras, Meghan moved her hands over her stomach and closed her eyes as she appeared to be feeling the baby kick.

The Daily Mail's online article about the action logged more than one thousand comments—most of them negative.

"She acts like acts like she is the only one to have a baby … how truly annoying," sniped one commenter. Another remarked, "Fondle the 'bump,' make sure everyone sees the ring, fix the hair, fondle the 'bump' some more while closing eyes—yep, she got her lines right!"

Meghan's pregnancy touched off a controversy from the very start when reports first circulated that some members of the royal family—notably Prince Andrew and his former wife, Sarah Ferguson—were upset that Meghan and Prince Harry chose to announce the impending arrival of Baby Sussex at their daughter Princess Eugenie's wedding to Jack Brooksbank. "Noses were definitely out of joint because it was considered bad form by several family members," a palace source told me. "This seems to be a pattern of behavior and it appears to be getting worse, not better."

Some critics also noted that Meghan's decision to wear an oversized navy coat (also designed by Waight-Keller) to the wedding (no one else wore outerwear) that was allegedly supposed to hide the pregnancy only served to ramp up speculation about it. "She was barely showing, so it seemed strange," said my source.

Now it seems the duchess' constant cradling of her baby bump is adding fuel to the fire that she is growing addicted to the limelight and acting decidedly un-royal.

"I'm not sure she's aware of the impact of her behavior," says psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. "The problem is in the court of public opinion. There's a lot of aggression out there towards pregnancy and pregnant women because it means a lot of different things to different people. Today, people don't hold back."

So what does the doctor make of Meghan's constant bump cradling? "It's an affectation. It can come off as smugness. There is somewhat of an intellectual erudite air about her. She may not feel that way, but it comes off as attention-seeking behavior and a bit 'actress-y,'" he says.

"It would be wise for someone to explain to her that her presentation style is not serving her well," says Ludwig. "If she were my patient, I would tell her to take a beat and be less visible for a period of time. If she's not careful, she could become a person people love to hate." And for more juicy royals gossip, This High-Ranking Royal Is Meghan's Secret Ally in the Palace.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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