The Disturbing Search Trend That Connects Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton

Thousands of searches for nude photos of Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton are made online every month—dwarfing the number of similar searches about their husbands.

The discrepancy highlights the treatment and perception of women who marry into the royal family, compared to their princes.

Research conducted by Newsweek has found that on average there are 27,000 U.S. Google searches for "Meghan Markle nude" each month, compared to 3,400 for "Prince Harry nude."

The phrase was the third most popular term associated with the Duchess of Sussex after "Meghan Markle" and "Meghan Markle interview."

For her husband, the phrase "Prince Harry nude" was in 22nd place behind searches including "Prince Harry net worth" and "Prince Harry and Meghan."

The disparity comes despite the fact that Harry was famously photographed naked in 2012, during a game of strip billiards in a Las Vegas hotel suite.

The research also found 7,600 searches for "Meghan Markle bikini," 6,400 for "Meghan Markle hot," 4,300 for "Meghan Markle sexy," 3,300 for "Meghan Markle feet," 2,500 for "Meghan Markle naked" and 1,800 for "Meghan Markle topless."

There were 5,800 searches for "Kate Middleton nude." Although there were fewer overall searches for the Duchess of Cambridge than for her sister-in-law, that search phrase was still the third most popular associated with Kate.

By contrast, there are no sexual references in the top 100 searches featuring the name of her husband, "Prince William."

There were also 3,000 searches for "Kate Middleton topless," 1,300 for "Kate Middleton bikini," 1,200 for "Kate Middleton naked," 1,200 for "Kate Middleton hot" and 1,000 for "Kate Middleton legs."

There were also 700 searches for "Kate Middleton weight" and 400 for "how much does Kate Middleton weigh."

Some internet users went even further, with 600 searches for the phrase "Kate Middleton upskirt."

Taking "upskirt" photos without consent is a criminal offence in England and Wales, with offenders facing up to two years in prison, according to the website of the Ministry of Justice.

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer described the practice as "degrading and humiliating" when a new law was passed in 2019 as part of the Voyeurism Act.

Although there is nothing to suggest that the Duchess of Cambridge has been a victim of "upskirting," the existence of those searches reflects the environment that royal women live in.

Laura Clancy, a lecturer in media at Lancaster University in the U.K., told Newsweek: "The sexualization of women's bodies is already a big issue in wider society, as evidenced by the pressure it places on women to fit particular, accepted versions of femininity.

"This is no different for royal women, who are already under pressure to fit accepted standards of royal femininity. It is very disturbing for any woman to be subjected to sexualization online if this is unwanted."

In 2012, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sued the French magazine Closer after it published long-lens images of Kate sunbathing topless in the grounds of a chateau in Provence.

The publication was forced to pay around $226,000, in damages and fines after losing the court case in Paris in 2017.

Royal biographer Penny Junor told Newsweek: "They are under huge pressure to look good and they are criticized mostly, it has to be said, by other women if they are wearing something that makes them look frumpy or is old fashioned. They are under constant scrutiny and the pressure must be unbearable. The minute they put on an ounce of weight their photo is put up for public criticism."

William and Harry's mother, Princess Diana, had similar experiences with photographers and secretly taken pictures, years before the internet age.

In 1993, she filed a lawsuit against the tabloid publisher Mirror Group Newspapers for printing photos of her exercising at a gym in a leotard and cycling shorts, the BBC reported.

She settled with the gym in 1994 and with the newspaper group in 1995, less than a week before the court case was due to begin.

Diana was also secretly photographed wearing a bikini when she was pregnant with Prince William, during a holiday in the Bahamas in 1982.

"I think for anybody to be photographed in secret by spying lenses is despicable whether you're royal or not," Junor told Newsweek. "At that time, women didn't show their bumps as much as they do today and I'm sure that was a real invasion of her privacy.

"It's all an invasion of privacy and it's body shaming. It's everything we call out now as a society, but it is still happening. And it's happening in a quasi acceptable way because they are a member of the royal family, we seem to think it's OK to discuss them openly, how they're looking or what their weight is or what their clothes sense is."

Decades later, when Harry's relationship with actress Meghan Markle was revealed to the British press and public, "Meghan felt as though some of the commentary and tabloid stories were more than a culture clash; they were sexist and prejudiced," according to a biography of the couple, Finding Freedom by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.

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Meghan and Kate

Just months before Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, she and the Duchess of Cambridge attended a Royal Foundation forum in London on February 28, 2018.
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Days after the news broke, Harry's then communications secretary Jason Knauf released a statement denouncing the reaction.

In November 2016, he wrote: "Some of this has been very public—the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."

Clancy told Newsweek: "The British monarchy is a patriarchal institution, built on the subjugation of women's bodies to reproduce heirs and therefore reproduce the bloodline. Their reproductive capacities are judged and watched by the world. So, royal women are already on an unequal playing field.

"Adding the sexualization of their bodies into the mix means their bodies are yet again produced as objects for public consumption, judged and watched by the world again."

This is not a problem experienced only by royal women. For the Duchess of Sussex, it dates back to before she met Harry.

In 2014, Meghan told the One Young World Conference in Dublin how she had to intervene while appearing as Rachel Zane in Suits, so her character was not always in just a towel.

Quoted on Independent.ie, she said at the time: "In the show, for example, this season every script seemed to begin with 'Rachel enters wearing a towel' and I said, 'No, I'm not doing it anymore, I'm not doing it.'

"So, I rang the creator and I was like, 'It's just gratuitous, we get it, we've already seen it once.' So, I think at a certain point you feel empowered enough to just say 'no.'

"I think it's a challenging thing to do if you don't know your worth and your value for wanting to speak up.

"When you're an auditioning actress years ago, so hungry for work, of course you're willing do things like that.

"For me, speaking up and being able to say I'm not going to do that anymore, has been a big shift for me personally."

Seven years later, "Meghan Markle nude" remains the third most popular search term related to her.

Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle
The Duchess of Cambridge at the Wimbledon women's final in London on July 10. The Duchess of Sussex attends the annual Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in London on November 10, 2019. Clive Brunskill and Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images