Many have compared Meghan Markle’s treatment by the Royal Family and the British press to Princess Diana. 

Prince Harry himself told Oprah Winfrey that his ‘biggest concern was history repeating itself’.

And while there are stark similarities between the two women’s situations, there are still some important differences. 

Diana was only 20 when she got married

Diana was barely an adult when she married Charles, 32, in 1981 and her life changed drastically.

She went from being a part-time nursery school teacher to being one of the most famous women in the world. 

In her young age, she had never been to university or experienced a serious relationship before marrying into the country’s most-watched family.  

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Meghan, on the other hand, was 36 when she married Harry in 2018, who was 33 at the time. 

She had been married once before, had a degree, and had a successful career as an American actress with some experience in dealing with fame.

Most significantly for a family so attached to hierarchy, Meghan married someone who is fifth in line to the throne and will likely never become king. 

Diana, however, married the future king of the United Kingdom and was treated as the woman who would one day become the Queen. 

Complicated relationship with the press

There are obvious comparisons to be drawn between how the tabloids imposed on Diana before her death, and how they are seemingly obsessed with Meghan today. 

Both women quickly became household names, with reporters following them at every opportunity. 

Stories about Diana were often doting and admiring but they often became invasive, while Meghan sued a newspaper for publishing personal letters she sent to her estranged father. 

Royal journalist James Brookes told the BBC that Diana sometimes ‘had a very good relationship with the press and they were on her side. 

‘At other times she complained about the media for being intrusive. It was a mixed relationship.’

Just as Diana welcomed a tell-all BBC panorama interview in 1995, so Meghan has embraced the opportunity to tell her side with Oprah Winfrey tonight.  

Although media coverage has highlighted how modern and unconventional both women are, reporting on Meghan has often been accused of being racist.

In Meghan and Harry’s biography, Finding Freedom, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand wrote: ‘Racism takes a different form in the UK from in America, but there is no mistaking its existence and how ingrained it is. 

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‘A major theme of racism in the UK centres on the question of who is authentically “British”.’ 

But many argued that criticism of the Duchess of Sussex was simply a part of being in the public eye and had ‘nothing to do with her race’, as The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton previously told ITV.

While Diana never had to go through what many believe is racial discrimination, she did endure publicity in a time when there were very few laws about privacy.

After her death, tabloid sales tanked and public opinion turned on the paparazzi, with new laws including the Protection from Harassment Act (PHA) coming into effect. 

Within the journalism industry, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) changed its Editor’s Code of Practice to enforce what it called the ‘toughest set of press regulations anywhere in Europe’. 

After 1998, photographers were not allowed to use long-lens cameras to capture people in private places and people were expected to be left alone if they were anywhere that provided a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’. 

Although Meghan has fought her own battle with the media, there are certainly more laws to protect her from what Diana went through. 

And indeed, she has taken advantage of these protections with several lawsuits against different outlets.

Meghan has had her husband by her side

Perhaps the most symbolic difference between the two women is that Meghan has left the Royal Family in her own family unit, with her husband, son and baby to be born.

After 15 years of a tumultuous marriage, Diana and Charles got divorced in 1996. It was reported that Charles insisted on removing her royal title and she was left alone. 

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But Meghan has moved to her home country and is living in a mansion in Los Angeles with a husband who seems ultimately committed to her. 

Prince Harry recognised this difference when he told Oprah: ‘I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her (Diana), going through this process by herself, all those years ago. 

‘Because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we had each other.’

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