Meghan Markle's Podcast Doubles Down on Story Disputed by Biographer

Meghan Markle's long-awaited new podcast appears to answer one particularly vociferous critic whose royal biography has dominated headlines in summer 2022.

The Duchess of Sussex's weekly show Archetypes dropped on Spotify on August 23 to a media fanfare, with headlines focusing on the hair-raising story of son Archie narrowly avoiding becoming caught up in a fire during a royal tour of South Africa when he was not yet five months old.

However, without fanfare or direct reference, Meghan's opening show had the effect of clapping back at a biographer whose broad-ranging accusations filled news sites in July.

Tom Bower's book Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors disputed a famous story about a feminist campaign Meghan purportedly launched aged 11, described her as ambitious and suggested she had pretended to be friends with tennis star Serena Williams.

Archetypes had answers for all three of those points as Meghan interviewed Williams about the negative tropes that hold women back.

Meghan at Invictus, With Serena
Meghan Markle, seen during the 2022 Invictus Games, in The Hague, Netherlands, on April 16, 2022, described her friendship with Serena Williams (inset, together at their first meeting in 2014) in her "Archetypes" podcast. Their conversation contrasts with the account by Tom Bower (inset, right) of their relationship in his book Revenge. Karwai Tang/WireImage/Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for DirecTV/Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Meghan's Ivory Clear Dish Soap Campaign

Meghan starts her podcast by retelling a famous story disputed in Bower's book about letters she sent calling on Procter & Gamble to change a dish soap advert.

The anecdote was one of the stories to emerge about the duchess in the early phase of her relationship with Prince Harry, before they married.

An advert for Ivory Clear dish soap had said "women are fighting
greasy pots and pans," leading boys in her school to suggest "that's where women belong. In the kitchen," the duchess said.

Meghan says she wrote to the company, as well as Hilary Clinton and others, calling for a change to the sexist wording.

Bower suggested Meghan had piggybacked on a much wider campaign, adding: "There was no evidence that her letter was even read."

He wrote: "Thomas Markle knew that thousands of American women were similarly annoyed. Many had sent protests to Procter & Gamble.

"With her father's encouragement, Meghan joined the bandwagon. She wrote to Procter & Gamble's chairman and also to Hillary Clinton, the First Lady. Like other protestors, she urged that the slogan should be changed to 'People all over America'.

"After she received no reply, Thomas wrote follow-up letters demanding that the corporation and Clinton acknowledge his daughter.

"Nothing happened. Using his contacts, Thomas arranged for Linda Ellerbee, a host on Nickelodeon, a children's TV channel run by Lucky Duck productions, to report Meghan's protest at her school.

"Seeing herself interviewed on the broadcast TV film report, accompanied by a re-enactment clip of her 'writing' to Clinton, naturally boosted Meghan's self-confidence.

"Some weeks later, Procter & Gamble bowed to the thousands of protests and changed the advertisement's strapline."

Archetypes doubled down on Meghan's account of making a difference with her letter-writing campaign and included clips from the Nick News segment, allowing viewers to hear the coverage for themselves.

Eleven-year-old Meghan can be heard saying: "So I was wondering if you would be able to change your commercial to 'people all over America.' Thank you, Meghan Markle."

The duchess added: "And would you believe it? Three months later, a new version of the ad appeared on TVs all around the country. They changed the language in the ad—from 'women' to 'people.'

"Now, I could paint this as a moment of triumph. And don't get me wrong: it was. Because I learned that my one small action could have a ripple effect far beyond me.

"But this experience was also something bigger: an awakening. To the millions of ways—big and small—that our society tries to box women in, to hold women back, to tell women who and what they should and can be."

Tom Bower Describes Meghan as Ambitious

Ambition is the main theme of Archetypes episode one, while the series as a whole is about the negative labels placed on women.

Bower has—both in his book and in interviews—characterized Meghan as ambitious.

He quotes her father Thomas Markle stating that during her acting career on Suits she began talking down to him.

Bower added: "The previously compassionate creature was becoming a woman of strong opinions and bigger ambitions. Flush with money, her sense of duty and obligation began to slip. She finally had status. She was being taken seriously."

In a July interview on Good Morning Britain promoting the book, he said: "Overall I came across with the impression of a woman who is very intelligent, very determined, very ambitious but also ruthless."

Meghan told her Archetypes podcast: "So, I don't remember ever personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ambitious until I started dating my now husband. And um, apparently ambition is, uh… a terrible, terrible thing, for a woman that is—according to some.

"So, since I've felt the negativity behind it, it's really hard to un-feel it. I can't unsee it, either, in the millions of girls and women who make themselves smaller—so much smaller—on a regular basis."

Meghan's Early Friendship With Serena Williams

Bower also suggested in the book that Meghan exaggerated her friendship with Williams when working on a cover interview for Vanity Fair with journalist Sam Kashner.

He wrote: "Over the next few days he called those who Meghan had recommended as her friends. Serena Williams denied she was Meghan's friend but just an acquaintance.

"She gave him an enigmatic quote: 'You've got to be who you are, Meghan. You can't hide.'"

On Archetypes, during an unrelated discussion, Williams said: "We've been friends for so long. I'm super loyal, to a fault, you know that."

Meghan replied: "Oh, I know. But do you remember when we met for the first time? I was thinking about that. Do you remember?"

The duchess then recounted a February, 2014 meeting—more than three years before the Vanity Fair cover story—in New York ahead of the Super Bowl the following day.

She said: "And I remember going, Oh, my gosh, who's Serena Williams going to talk to, you? And I look behind me, and when I turned around, you were there in front of me. We became such fast friends."

"I mean, the things people think and the things that people don't…" she continued, without direct reference to Bower. "But in our friendship when you have to see things that are mischaracterizing of me, but you experience behind closed doors the pain that I'm going through and vice versa."

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