“I WANT to break the internet,” said the star, staring intently at magazine execs in the room.
It wasn’t Gemma Collins or Kim Kardashian or even Victoria Beckham who made this declaration as she prepared to guest edit Vogue magazine but rather the Duchess of Sussex.
After a summer of negative headlines, Meghan had just decided to take back control of her faltering public image.
As I revealed for the first time this week, a series of decisions has seen the full-time royal realign herself closer to Hollywood than many inside the Royal Family believe is appropriate.
In fact, some concerned courtiers are now openly asking: Does Meghan want to be a real royal or a Californian princess?
There were many whispers at Buckingham Palace on Monday as Prince Harry and Meghan’s staff moved into their suite of offices off the lavish master corridor within the Queen’s London residence.
Some pointed out the irony that they appear to be moving further away from the traditions and expectations of being a publicly funded British prince and princess.
But the gossip about the most unconventional of royal couples got worse as the week went on.
Staff were shocked by my story on Tuesday that Meghan had hired controversial US crisis management PR firm Sunshine Sachs, which once represented Harvey Weinstein and Michael Jackson, behind the backs of Palace staff to try to change her image.
Since then, I’ve learned Meghan has shelled out at least £6,000 of her own money for the advice from the company’s chief Shawn Sachs and her friend Keleigh Thomas Morgan, who repped her when she was an actress on TV drama Suits.
On Tuesday, the American firm was put to work publicly for the first time as it managed Prince Harry’s launch for the Sussex Royal Foundation in Amsterdam.
Against the advice of royal advisers, the Duke went ahead with the event to promote an eco-travel online initiative.
The advisers warned he would be asked how to justify his support for the scheme after taking four private jets in just 11 days.
When put on the spot during a Q&A, Harry claimed 99 per cent of his flights are commercial — a figure that raised a few eyebrows.
Yesterday I revealed a trio of Hollywood powerbrokers — attorney Rick Genow, business manager Andrew Meyer and talent agent Nick Collins — are actively involved in Meghan’s future work projects.
And today Meghan is facing fresh criticism for her decision to fly to New York to watch her friend Serena Williams in the US Open final, instead of travelling to Balmoral to be a guest of the Queen.
All the activity has led to a very realistic conversation about whether Harry and Meghan’s future could be in Los Angeles.
According to sources, the couple have discussed a future that could mean spending a significant time in California, where Meghan was born and raised.
But first Meghan has decided to surround herself with a tight-knit group of non-royal advisers she considers “her people”.
A senior royal source said: “Meghan is creating a team that is not bogged down by the traditions and regulations of the Palace to work for her and Harry on passion projects.
“She had been seeking advice from the PR company Sunshine Sachs privately for weeks but decided to officially hire them for the launch of her Vogue Magazine guest edit.
“Even thought it was the UK version of the mag, she wanted maximum coverage in America, which is the country she really cares about in terms of the media.
“She was incredibly hands-on with the strategy and in one meeting told the staff: ‘I want to break the internet.’
“It was an honest thing to say but still quite shocking for a royal to express it that way. It made her sound like a celebrity wanting to publicise a new album or movie.
“I mean, in reality she is a celebrity. She’s very familiar with magazines and social media and PR — she prides herself in the knowledge she has.”
Officially the company will now be working Stateside on the new Sussex Royal charity foundation, which Meghan and Harry formed following their split with Prince William and Kate.
“But it means the couple now have access to American PR and crisis management experts on their payroll whenever they want advice.
That’s even though they already have well-regarded global PR chief Sara Latham — who was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — working for them at Buckingham Palace.
Another royal source added: “This is Meghan’s way of being able to get a Hollywood answer to a question if she’s not hearing what she wants to from the Palace.
“But that’s a dangerous precedent to set because there is a reason why courtiers and advisers treat members of the Royal Family differently — they are not celebrities, they are publicly funded official figures with a formal role.
“And they need to hear the truth, even if it’s not the answer they want. That’s something Harry does not like and Meghan isn’t familiar with from her former career.
“They appear tone-deaf to criticism at times, which was proven this week by Harry in Amsterdam and by Meghan going to New York and not Balmoral.”
But Meghan is said to be concerned the public is turning on her after damaging revelations over her relationship with her estranged father Thomas Markle, stories about her negative relationship with William and Kate, and hypocrisy over taking private jets while claiming she is an eco-warrior.
The clearest suggestion Meghan is choosing to ignore formal advice is shown by the growing influence of her secret team in Hollywood.
Key to the trio is Nick Collins, who is a partner at Meghan’s former talent agents The Gersh Agency.
Gersh is one of the leading agencies in Hollywood, with many Oscar winners and major TV stars in their client roster including Kristen Stewart, Adam Driver, Tobey Maguire and Jamie Foxx.
A separate senior royal insider revealed: “Courtiers at the Palace are aware of these three men working in some capacity for Meghan on the quiet. They have been involved in her finances which is understandable given her former work in America.
“What’s worrying is their role in ongoing projects like her children’s book, which would usually be handled by Palace staff.
“But she’s learning how different life inside the Royal Family is compared to her previous career. There are times she feels frustrated.”
There is a growing feeling within royal circles that Meghan could be preparing to spend at least part of the year back in California in the future.
Prince Harry has already announced his first major TV project will be produced by Oprah Winfrey’s company for US giant Apple’s new streaming service.
But senior Palace staff hope a plan for the couple to spend part of the year living in South Africa will stop them getting restless and unhappy in the UK.
The royal source added: “From just a few months after the royal wedding there has been a growing drumbeat about Harry and Meghan moving to the US eventually.
“That’s one of the reasons they are being encouraged to spend time in South Africa because it’s a Commonwealth country and keeps them part of the fold.”
Some Palace staff wish Meghan had taken an extended maternity leave after Archie’s birth so the goodwill from the public and media initially granted to her returned. But in fairness to Meghan, her allies point out that isn’t her style.
A source close to the Duchess explained: “Meghan is a working woman. She has spent her life using her talent, ambition and desire to create a successful career.
“She loves being busy and her intention was never to disappear because she became a mum.
“She wants to prove herself and doesn’t want to let criticism or tradition change what she sees as her purpose in life.”
You could argue that Meghan has never hidden her ambition.
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During her televised engagement interview, Meghan artfully dodged whether she was quitting showbiz altogether.
“Asked about her career change, she replied: “I do not see it as giving anything up. I see it as a change. It is a new chapter.”
But with the criticism of the couple’s unconventional behaviour growing, it’s as yet unclear if the unlikely love story of the B-list Hollywood actress and beloved English prince has a happy ending.
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