Meghan Markle clearly wants paid family leave to be federal law in America, but it remains to be seen whether she is doing her worthy cause any favors by recently invoking her British royal title during cold-call lobbying efforts with two U.S. senators.
As House Democrats on Wednesday moved to add paid family leave back into the $1.75 trillion social spending and climate policy bill, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, received a call on her private line when she was at the gym, Politico reported Wednesday.
Collins thought it was West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who doesn’t support including family leave in the spending bill. Instead, the voice on the other end of the line was Meghan, an American former TV actress who joined the British royal family when she married Prince Harry a little over three years ago. Megan was presumably calling from California to pitch paid family leave.
“Much to my surprise, she called me on my private line and she introduced herself as the duchess of Sussex, which is kind of ironic,” Collins said, Politico reported.
“I was happy to talk with her, but I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it,” Collins added.
Politico reported that Meghan was making calls to senators from both parties, but ABC said she homed in on Republicans, including Collin’s West Virginia colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. Like Collins, Capito thought it was Manchin calling when her phone suddenly lit up this week, Politico reported.
“I’m in my car. I’m driving. It says ‘caller ID blocked’,” Capito recounted, according to her spokesperson.” I thought it was Senator Manchin. His calls come in blocked. And she goes, ‘Senator Capito?’ I said, ‘Yes?’ She said, ‘This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.’”
Politico reported that Meghan was directed to call these senators by Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand (D-N.Y.), who is pushing her party to include paid leave in its social spending bill. Gilibrand also told Politico Wednesday that she gave the senators’ private numbers to the duchess.
“I talked to each of the women senators and let them know that she’s going to reach out,” said Gilibrand, though she suggested that Meghan had, as of Wednesday, just made the two calls. Gilibrand said Meghan planned to call some other senators, “so I let them know in advance.”
Gilibrand also revealed that Meghan wants to be part of “a working group” to work on paid leave in the long term. “Whether this comes to fruition now or later, she’ll be part of a group of women that hopefully will work on paid leave together,” Gillibrand said.
Meghan’s desire to be part of a working group on a political issue adds fuel to the speculation that she wants to run day for office in the United States. That option has become open to her since she and Harry moved away from the U.K. and stepped down from being working members of the royal family.
Given that Meghan and Harry have tried to distance themselves from royal responsibilities, the couple’s critics have found it strange and pretentious the way she has been eager to invoke her royal title every chance she gets. Certainly, she can say that her official name became “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex” instead of Meghan Markle, when she married Harry, but, to her critics, it’s as if she’s eager to wrap herself up in the prestige of being associated with a 1,000-year-old monarchy, even as she’s criticized the institution for being racist and dysfunctional.
If she runs for a U.S. political office, will she run as “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex?” How would that name look on a ballot?
Questions about Meghan’s use of her title in her political lobbying first arose last month when she posted an open letter to congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, advocating for paid family leave. The letter was posted on “From the Office of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” letterhead and signed, “Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.”
“I’m not an elected official, and I’m not a politician,” wrote Meghan, the mother of two young children. “I am, like many, an engaged citizen and a parent. And because you and your congressional colleagues have a role in shaping family outcomes for generations to come, that’s why I’m writing to you at this deeply important time—as a mom—to advocate for paid leave.”
Even many who agree with Meghan’s sentiments about paid family leave said they found it off-putting or historically tone-deaf for the California resident to use her recently acquired connection to British royalty to weigh in on an American social and political issue. As some pointed out, Americans fought in a revolution in 1776 to be free of interference from British royalty.