I had no doubt whatsoever that Harry would fall head-over-heels in love with Meghan the moment she confided in me that they’d become close enough to go on holiday together for the first time. That was 2016 and I myself had fallen under Meghan’s spell, as everyone did. I was drawn to her warm personality, her comforting nature and her ability to make you feel as if you truly were the only person in the world who mattered.
I understood straight away she would mesmerise that broken-hearted young boy we saw following his mother’s coffin, and I was almost as excited as she was about her conquest.
Here were all the ingredients for the romance of the century. For once, the cliches seemed a perfect fit: lovely working-class girl meets the ultimate Prince Charming.
Confidantes: Meghan and Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, in the days when they shared secrets. The business adviser met the Suits star in 2014 when she was introduced by another client and the pair became fast friends
Yet when I heard on Wednesday that she and Harry were planning such a drastic move as stepping back from their duties as senior Royals, I was not completely surprised.
Because I know from first-hand experience that Meghan is a businesswoman first and foremost – and in purely commercial terms this is an excellent time for her to pick up where she left off, building her career as an actress and a public figure. And if that means dragging Harry out of the Royal Family and into her world – the ‘real world’ as she would feel – then so be it. Yes, her decisions to move forward in her life can seem abrupt, even ruthless, to those left behind. It’s happened several times before, including to me. It’s only the speed with which ‘Megxit’ has unfolded that’s taken me aback. I thought she’d stick with it for a few years before she cracked.
I first came across Meghan in 2014 when she was introduced by another of my clients. Back then, she was still acting in the US legal drama Suits and had recently launched her lifestyle website, The Tig. I could immediately tell she was special, that she had star quality.
She described the actress as ‘razor-sharp – creative and meticulous with a good business brain’. The pair shared secrets about their personal lives until Meghan mentioned how she wanted Harry to propose to her. Gina explained how she must cope with the enormous expectations of the British public, the Royal Family and their courtiers but was dismissed
I became her commercial agent, helping her obtain endorsements and sponsorship deals with leading brands. She was razor-sharp – creative and meticulous, with a good business brain and an American entrepreneurial attitude towards life.
She certainly knew her own mind and was not afraid even then to voice her ‘woke’ opinions. I still recall her refusal to stay at a leading London hotel because, she discovered, it kept a parrot in a cage.
Meghan quickly became much more than a client. We fell into an easy friendship after only a few meetings. I had deep affection for her and was under the impression that she felt the same – she said as much. Believing that we could trust one another, we spoke openly to each other about our personal lives and she revealed much about her life and character. She valued my advice in both her professional and personal life and showed that she took real note of it.
I’m afraid, however, that I had real misgivings when I realised she wanted Harry to propose to her. I doubted whether Meghan would be able to sustain the unrelenting pressure of being Harry’s girlfriend, let alone – wonder of wonders – his wife. The moment she told me their relationship was looking serious, my enthusiasm turned to concern. For both of them.
It wasn’t just the media attention. I distinctly remember explaining as we sipped wine in London’s West End that she must cope with the enormous expectations of the British public, the Royal Family and their courtiers. Her reaction was to hold up her hand and silence me.
‘Save it,’ she said, in a steely manner I had not noticed before. ‘I don’t wanna hear it… this is a positive time in my life.’
At that moment I felt uncomfortable in her company for the first time. It wasn’t as if we hadn’t shared secrets before, but this time it was different.
Meghan has ‘a way of closing the door on the past’ when it is time to moving on in her life, according to the business adviser (pictured). She believed the ‘worldly-wise woman’ was on a mission to ‘bag THE Prince’ and found the her Tom Bradby interview, claiming she was ‘naive when friends warned her against the media’, was disingenuous
I didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of the end of our friendship and professional relationship. She is a very ambitious woman and, when it is time to move on in her life, Meghan has a way of closing the door on the past, as she did with her father, her siblings, her first husband and with me.
I believed then, as I do now, that she was no ingenue, but a worldly-wise woman on the mission of her life, the mission to bag not any old prince, but The Prince! That’s why I thought it was disingenuous, to put it mildly, when she told Tom Bradby during their ITV interview that she had been ‘naive when friends warned her against the dangers of the media’. Meghan was a proper, grown-up woman when she met Harry.
She has also said that, being American, she didn’t even know who Harry was.
That made me laugh out loud – I know when nonsense is nonsense, and this was demonstrable rubbish.
‘We’re going to change the world,’ she had gushed in my ear, her eyes sparkling with steely determination. I took her to mean that they were going to RULE the world.
I am certain it has been her influence on Harry that is taking him away from his family. I don’t mean to say he has no willpower of his own, but he put it well himself: ‘What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.’
The pair enjoy some R&R with cocktails on the beach. Meghan ‘never showed any interest in British life and traditions’ during their friendship. In the Wild West of the commercial world, there will be none of the careful protection Prince Harry is used to as a member the Royal household
As Meghan passed by me in their carriage on her wedding day at Windsor Castle, I felt it was the moment she’d been auditioning for her whole life. But I also felt an twinge of concern.
I dislike forecasting doom, but my feeling was that she’d find it impossible to deal with the formality of being a member of the Royal Family. She would find it difficult to conform and her Hollywood worldview would be seriously challenged by the low-key, often repetitively dull work involved.
She wanted all the glamour and glory of being a Windsor, but I don’t think she was ever truly up for taking on the daily grind that came with it.
I don’t think she really understands the Royal world of altruism, history, tradition and low-key patronage for no personal gain. She’ll see Royal life as staid and stuffy. She certainly never showed me any interest in British life and traditions. Even with that said, I don’t think she could have dragged Harry away from his family unless part of him wanted to make some kind of grand gesture. But from what I’ve seen of them together, I’m certain she played a large part in the current crisis.
The Deal or No Deal star (pictured during a photo shoot at The Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, 2016) took her commercial adviser to one side and emphasised that she had ‘legs as long as a mile’, demanding that the agency do their best to secure a substantial offer to showcase this ‘asset’
Reunited: Meghan honoured her bridal gown designer during the The Fashion Awards 2018, while Waight Keller thanked the royal personally in her speech at the star-studded awards ceremony at the historic venue in Kensington, London
Everything she does is carefully curated and forensically planned. Harry has a choice – he can go along with her or she’ll sail on regardless.
In pure business terms, the decision to step down from Royal duties is correct, of course. I have no doubt that Meghan and Harry have the potential to earn money that would dwarf the allowances they received for being Royals. She knows what she is doing.
When we had to notify all of our clients in 2016 that Meghan was no longer able to accept commercial bookings, there was disappointment, especially as her profile was already substantially lifted due to her involvement with Harry. Now there will be unending demand for their time and interest, and the bulk will come from the States, where their contacts in Hollywood and politics – and their huge base of supporters – offer the best commercial potential.
Without a doubt, many of the biggest companies will want both Meghan and Harry as brand ambassadors: this is what Meghan and I worked on before she married Harry, and what Meghan was most keen on.
Before Harry arrived in her life, we worked on endorsement deals with Meghan for a number of big-name brands, including Swiss watches, body care ranges, lingerie, food, beauty products and so on. Meghan endorsed her own range of fashion for a Canadian company. Her ambition was to land a big contract with a cosmetic range, such as L’Oreal.
She took me to one side and emphasised that she had ‘legs as long as a mile’, demanding that our agency do our best to secure her a substantial offer to showcase this ‘asset’. Meghan is still relatively young, she is very beautiful, has a great natural flair and style and she is wise and has a strong character of her own. Her image is perfect for commercial endorsements and high-end fashion and lifestyle brands.
Meghan signing a guestbook at Canada House. The couple both appeared to be refreshed and in high spirits following their break
I doubt there would be a producer or casting director in the world who would not want her for a role in a movie, TV series, commercial or brand campaign.
Now she holds the title HRH The Duchess of Sussex she has a hallmark that no money can buy.
Even today, after three years of not working with her, we are bombarded with offers. She can name her price.
If all this is a dream come true for Meghan, Harry will have to be very careful if it is not to turn out to be a nightmare for him. In the Wild West of the commercial world, there will be none of the careful protection he is used to as a member the Royal household.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released this statement announcing that they will be quitting as senior Royals
Can Harry adapt to this new way of life, stepping away from everything he has known? The grass may seem to be greener on the other side, but that’s not always how it works out – as Meghan herself now knows.
Time is on his side. He will always be Prince Harry.
Meghan will be well aware, in contrast, that female celebrities have a limited shelf life and this might well be part of their decision to make such a seismic change.
The Royal couple hold their baby boy Archie during a photocall in St Georges Hall at Windsor Castle
What sort of money could they earn if they really did decide to exploit their full commercial potential? To put it crudely, they would command top dollar.
I know the market well. My agency, Kruger Cowne, represents clients for public speaking, hosting and publishing, but we also handle branding, television, music and much else. Many of our clients earn six- and seven-figure sums a year.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watched Wheelchair Tennis at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada on 25 September 2017 – in what marked their first public appearance together
But Meghan and Harry could do that in a heartbeat, and go on to rival such internationally known figures as Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Beyoncé and the Obamas.
The saddest thing of all is that there is much to admire in Meghan, but I don’t think she has really paid attention to the human side of the Royal Family.
And the fact that Meghan still thinks she can revolutionise the Monarchy shows how little she understands the British way of life. The Royal Family has its own codes, its own magnificent history, and it’s going to take so much more than an actress from California to change that.
Meghan’s last email to me was to say that her life had changed and she could no longer pursue commercial work. She really wanted to remain friends, she said, adding that it was very important to her.
Alas, that was not to be: I’ve never heard from her directly again.
When, recently, I found myself in the same room as her, she pretended not to notice – stage-managing it so that Harry spoke to me instead.
Meghan has made a habit of ‘moving on’ to better things. And I doubt that will ever change.