Meghan's Guest-Editorship of Vogue Exasperated Editorial Staff, Says Book

Meghan Markle's guest-editorship of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue left the editorial staff in "silent exasperation" after finding the duchess' contributions "superficial," according to a new biography.

Meghan became British Vogue's first ever guest-editor for the magazine's prestigious September issue in 2019 just months before she, alongside husband Prince Harry, stepped down from their roles as a full-time working royals and moved to the United States.

The issue became the title's best-selling edition in its 105-year history though Meghan was criticized by some who said it was unbecoming for a member of the royal family to guest-edit a fashion magazine.

Meghan Markle British "Vogue" September 2019
Staff working on Meghan's September 2019 "Vogue" issue found her contributions "superficial" and "lacking rhyme or reason" a new book has claimed. Photographed June 14, 2018. (Inset) September 2019. Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Peter Lindbergh/Kensington Palace via Getty Images

In an extract, published by The Times of London, of his new book Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors, biographer Tom Bower says that Meghan's demands for the collaborative project created friction with the Vogue team.

Bower writes that who initially came up with the idea for Meghan to guest-edit is "inevitably disputed" with the duchess' version seeing her reach out to the newly installed editor Edward Enninful.

"According to the editor's staff," the extract reads, "Enninful, rather than Meghan, they insist, decided that the duchess would be the perfect money-making vehicle for the magazine."

The account then goes on to detail the undercover nature of the issue's compilation with a decoy edition being put together at Vogue's headquarters in addition to Meghan's version—to prevent leaks to the media. Central to the magazine's theme was to be 15 women who Meghan admired as "forces for change."

It was the queen's omission from this list of 15 women that included Jane Fonda, Greta Thunberg and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that caused some of the criticism of the royal in Britain.

British "Vogue" Editor Edward Enninful
Meghan Markle worked closely with British "Vogue" editor, Edward Enninful, on the September 2019 issue of the magazine (L). Enninful (R) photographed February 16, 2020. Peter Lindbergh/Kensington Palace via Getty Images/Darren Gerrish/WireImage

Bower writes that the issue was part of a wider PR exercise to boost Meghan's profile in America—though her collaboration was with British Vogue—and came as she planned to launch her children's book The Bench, as well as renewing the trademark for her lifestyle blog The Tig.

In one telephone conference Bower claims that Meghan announced to the gathered editorial staff "I want to break the internet."

"Listening to the duchess," the extract read, "the editorial team's expressions showed silent exasperation."

It continued: "They believed most of her contributions were superficial, lacking rhyme or reason. To avoid confrontation she was never asked to explain. Meghan's description of those conversations was 'philosophising with Ed over a steaming cup of mint tea.'"

Bower writes that the real breakdown in relations between Meghan and Vogue came after the issue had been announced to a worldwide frenzy of media interest.

The author says that the duchess instructed her head of communications, Sara Latham, to request that British Vogue delay the date of publication "by one day to let publication in the U.S. release take the lead."

When Latham put this request through to the magazine, owned by media conglomerate Condé Nast, a favorable response was not forthcoming.

"Meghan's order revealed that she was relying on her American advisors and hoped that a palace request to Enninful would be obeyed," Bower assessed, "Once Latham's demand was rejected, the relationship between Meghan and Vogue's staff deteriorated. Their conflict was about control."

Despite these claims by Bower, Enninful himself has spoken positively of the experience since the issue's publication. "We were not trying to create an issue that was shocking—we were shining a light on incredible women, some who are not famous at all," he told The Guardian.

The editor then went on to defend Meghan against the critical response she received from some members of the press and public, suggesting that race and personal bias fed into a proportion of this.

"Was the criticism racist? Some of it, yeah," he said. "Actually it was more than racism. I thought it was personal—attacking someone you don't know, attacking her."

Prince Harry Meghan Markle Commonwealth Day 2020
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped down as full-time working royals in 2020 after moving to the United States. Photographed March 9, 2020. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

It was just weeks after the release of the Vogue issue that Meghan gave her now infamous interview during a royal tour of South Africa in which she gave the public a raw view of how some of the negativity leveled against her was affecting her. When asked by interviewer Tom Bradby if she was OK, she responded:

"Thank you for asking. Not many people have asked if I'm okay."

Soon after the Sussexes returned home from their South African tour they traveled to Canada for a family holiday. During this time Meghan and Harry set in motion plans that would lead to their ultimately stepping down as working royals and moving to the United States.

Newsweek approached representatives for Harry and Meghan as well as British Vogue for comment.

Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors by Tom Bower is due out in Britain on Thursday, July 21.

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