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Has Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's "Summer of Controversy" Damaged the Monarchy?

"Prince Harry and the Duchess have angered a lot of people," according to an insider.

It's been a summer full of scandal for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and their latest eyebrow-raising moves are considered to be a clear signal they have no intention of buckling under the torrent of criticism they have received from certain factions of the British press. Harry and Meghan set off the latest controversy by declining Queen Elizabeth's invitation to Balmoral, Her Majesty's beloved retreat in the Scottish highlands. While the rest of the royals—including Prince William and Kate Middleton along with their children—made the annual pilgrimage to Balmoral, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their son, Archie Mountbatten Windsor, were no-shows, initially for unspecified reasons.

Now, some Palace insiders fear that Harry and Meghan, who were initially heralded as a modernizing force for the monarchy, have become "more of a liability than an asset," according to my royal source.

"They actually seem more determined than ever to flout convention and act like royals only when it suits them," fumed the insider. "In Britain, the royals are not 'celebrities' and the public has certain expectations about their roles in society that the Queen and the rest of the family have always understood. They are funded by the British taxpayer. Prince Harry and the Duchess have angered a lot of people with their perceived embrace of a celebrity lifestyle that seems wildly inappropriate and inconsistent."

When news broke that the couple would not head to Balmoral, The Daily Mail's Jan Moir took the couple to task. "It might seem extraordinary that Harry would not want to visit his 93-year-old grandmother with his new baby, a Balmoral rite of passage that is a staunch tradition within the family," she wrote. Moir added that it was "widely expected" that Meghan and Baby Archie would go to Balmoral this year particularly because she didn't make the trip last year while in the early stages of pregnancy.

One royal source told People magazine that the couple passed on visiting the Queen because they see her on a regular basis since they live in close proximity to her on the grounds of Windsor Castle in their renovated home at Frogmore Cottage. Sources have also said they have been kept busy planning their upcoming tour to Africa. Meghan also has plans to unveil the capsule fashion collection she created with close friend and designer Misha Nonoo next week to benefit Smart Works, a charity that provides clothing and counseling to disadvantaged women to prepare them to re-enter the workforce. (Meghan is the royal patron of the London-based organization.)

All of this would make sense, but then it was revealed that Meghan has found the time to jet across the Atlantic (on a commercial flight) to make a surprise trip to New York where she is planning to watch her friend Serena Williams play Bianca Andreescu at the U.S. Open on Saturday.

"Meghan has made it quite clear that cultivating her relationships with her celebrity friends is more important to her than fulfilling her role as a royal," said my royal source. "Harry has done nothing to stop this from happening and, in fact, seems perfectly fine creating these unnecessary public relations debacles that have been hurtful to the family's image. It's quite confounding to a lot of people here, really."

Harry, who has always been one of the most beloved members of the royal family, has even raised the ire of even some of his staunchest supporters by his perceived indifference to playing by the unwritten rules of royal conduct. Royal expert and Majesty's editor Ingrid Seward wrote in The Sun: "Why does he insist in throwing that love back in our faces?" Seward believes the media has turned on the prince "because of his own attitude." She claims the British public wanted to take kindly to Meghan, "but everything Harry does now seems engineered to push us away."

My source told me things first took a dramatic turn for the worse when the couple insisted on an elaborate "scheme" of secrecy around the birth and christening of Baby Archie. "The elaborate ruse about where and when Meghan would deliver her first child and then the release of those stylized photographs on Instagram seems like something one would expect from Angelina Jolie, not a member of the royal family," sniffed the insider.

Then came the news that Meghan would be guest editing the September issue of British VogueIt was reported that Meghan did not appear on the cover because she felt it would be too "boastful," which was perceived as a slight directed at her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, who appeared on the magazine's cover to mark its centennial in 2016. Meghan's issue of British Vogue included an interview with Harry and famed ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall, in which Harry revealed he and Meghan were planning to have "a maximum" of two children as a matter of social responsibility. The comments were construed as a criticism of William and Kate, whose growing family now includes three children (Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.)

But Harry and Meghan's biggest public relations disaster of the summer occurred in August when it was reported that the avowed environmentalists took four flights on private jets in 11 days on a summer holiday, with baby Archie in tow. When asked about whether his actions contradicted his stance on climate change, Harry defended himself, saying he took the jets as a security measure to protect his family. "No one is perfect," he concluded. "We could all do better." The fact that the prince made those comments at an event in Amsterdam where he was a launching a global project designed to increase sustainability within the British tourism industry caused even more outrage. In The Sun, Seward called the press conference "embarrassing," adding, "A bit of humility in Holland would have gone some way to making him the brave, popular prince he once was."

"They don't help themselves with this kind of 'do as I say, not as I do' type of behavior," my source added. "There was such excitement and hope at the time of their wedding. Now, instead of being one of the Crown's greatest assets, the Duke and Duchess have generated a lot of hard feelings and negativity that reflect badly on the family. This summer of controversy must have the Queen very concerned." And for happier times with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, here are Harry and Meghan's Most Adorable Couple Moments.

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

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