Why Meghan Markle's Secret Royal Nickname Has Taken on New Meaning
Prince Charles couldn't have imagined how the oh-so-fitting moniker foretold the future.
The ink is barely dry on the stunning "Megxit" agreement finalized last week that effectively ends Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's roles as senior "working royals." But already, insiders are opening up about the emotional collateral damage left behind Palace walls as a result of the contentious negotiations. And the family member most upset by the latest crisis to rock the House of Windsor is Prince Charles, the very person who gave Meghan the nickname "Tungsten," after the nearly indestructible metal. According to the Daily Mail, in 2018, the Prince of Wales gave the moniker to the then-newly minted duchess as "a term of endearment" because she was so "strong and unbending" in the face of the fiasco involving her father, Thomas Markle, and the paparazzi in the days leading up to her wedding.
Ironically, it was that same determination that led to Harry and Meghan's shocking decision to step back from royal life. "He feels very let down," one insider said of Charles. "It will take a long time to repair his relationship with the duke and duchess."
"The Prince of Wales did everything he could to make [Harry and Meghan] happy and they paid him back by taking a sledge hammer to the family with little regard to how their actions could affect the monarchy," the source added. "The trust that was once there is gone."
While Charles has always had a somewhat complicated relationship with both Harry and Prince William, he was the first member of the royal family to welcome Meghan into the fold when she began dating his youngest son in 2016. "Charles was Meghan's biggest champion," said the insider. In January of last year, I reported Charles had "great affection" for his daughter-in-law and he quickly came to consider her "the daughter he never had."
His fatherly bond with Meghan was plainly evident at the royal wedding where Charles memorably stepped in at the last moment to escort his new daughter-in-law half-way down the aisle when her own father decided to bow out of the proceedings when it was revealed he'd worked with the paparazzi to stage some embarrassing photographs. Charles proudly displayed a black-and-white photo from the wedding in the public area of his home, Clarence House.
It was Meghan's grace under pressure and ability to keep calm and carry on in the face of such a difficult situation that earned her the nickname "Tungsten" from Charles. Shortly after the wedding, a source told the Daily Mail, "Prince Charles admires Meghan for her strength and the backbone she gives Harry, who needs a tungsten-type figure in his life as he can be a bit of a softy."
Fast forward 20 months and Meghan's royal nickname has taken on a whole new meaning among Palace insiders who were privy to the "Megxit" negotiations. With the benefit of hindsight, one insider said that it was Meghan's "steely determination" to get away from what she described as the "toxic" environment surrounding the royal family and her growing dissatisfaction with the constraints of royal life that resulted in the abrupt end to the Sussexes' royal careers.
"Yes, Prince Harry had spoken about his desire for a different kind of life over the years, but he truly felt that as a couple, he and Meghan could find a way forward to carve out a new royal role for themselves. I don't think he ever envisioned having to walk away from it all once he got married since he and Meghan had been so successful representing the Crown as a team," said my source. "Harry is impulsive, but Meghan is strategic. The team responsible for the new Sussex Royal website were the same creative types who designed Meghan's former website, The Tig. Its tone and content, which stated that the couple would be 'collaborating' with the Queen, clearly came from her. Without her influence, Harry would have never done anything like that."
According to my source, "Meghan told Harry over their Christmas holiday in Canada that 'this isn't working for me.' She was clear that she was unwilling to go back to the way things were, so Harry was forced to choose—and he chose to make his wife happy on her terms. Meghan's strong, unbending will that the Prince of Wales once admired had turned against him."
Earlier this week, before Harry left the U.K. to reunite with Meghan and their eight-month-old son, Archie, after a nearly two-week separation, he gave a deeply personal speech at a private dinner in London for Sentebale, the charity for young people with HIV/AIDS he co-founded in Princess Diana's honor. He shocked attendees into silence when he told them, "It brings me great sadness that it has come to this. The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. And I know I haven't always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option."
"Everyone in the family—including the Duke of Sussex himself—are gutted by how everything turned out," said my source. "The only person that's truly happy is Meghan. She seems thrilled to have returned to her pre-royal life in Canada, but with her husband and son, a much higher profile, and potentially a very lucrative future ahead of her."
The insider added: "While the Queen ultimately prevailed and did not accede to Harry and Meghan's wishes for a 'half-in, half-out royal career,' Meghan managed to achieve something that other women who were unhappy after marrying into the family did not. It was her decision to exit royal life one way or another and she had the full support of her husband. She was not banished like Diana or Sarah Ferguson. Meghan has proven to be a steely, formidable adversary, indeed."
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.