The main problem with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry has always been one of perception.
Long before she married into the British royal family, Markle positioned herself as an early social media influencer — despite possessing very little in terms of actual position or influence.
As for Harry, the opposite took place. Beloved by the British masses for his ginger locks and cheeky charm, he failed to understand that his only real currency was his family and title.
The couple’s royal obliviousness was on full display this week during their brief, yet drama-ridden visit to New York City.
Markle was in town to collect a “Women of Vision” award from Gloria Steinem, whose own sense of perception is clearly failing despite decades of playing both the identity and media games. The evening was celeb-filled and starry, typical Sussex stuff — until it wasn’t.
On the way home from the event, the couple claimed to have endured a “relentless [paparazzi] pursuit, lasting over two hours” through Manhattan that “resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.”
It reportedly left the duo “shaken” and navel-gazers stirred. Clearly invoking the death of his mother, Princess Diana, under similar circumstances more than 25 years ago, the couple accused the paparazzi of nearly causing multiple accidents with pedestrians, police officers and other drivers.
It’s riveting stuff, only it’s not entirely true. Yes, the couple were hounded by photogs, and yes those photogs — as photogs sometimes do — likely overstepped and behaved annoyingly.
But a police source told The Post that the so-called chase lasted one hour rather than two. The NYPD put out a statement downplaying the Sussexes’ account and noting that the incident resulted in zero reports of crashes or calls to 911.
The chase was “challenging,” but hardly “near-catastrophic,” said NYPD officials; Mayor Adams, while sympathetic to the couple, downplayed the intensity of the entire affair.
Adams’ sentiments were echoed by the cab driver who briefly had the couple in his car — as they confusingly traded the relative safety of their SUV and its tinted windows for a yellow taxi in full view of the cameras. The driver described the scenario as “crazy,” but noted “it wasn’t scary.”
There is nothing new about the Sussexes overstating their importance. But the East Side “car chase” takes their obsession with image inflation to confounding new levels.
Had the duo simply said they were chased by photographers and it made them uncomfortable — instead of being victims of a “near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi” — they wouldn’t have been the talk of social media and morning shows and countless newspaper headlines.
But maybe that’s the point. After all, The Sussexes’ skewed perception problem is as much about how they perceive the world as how they think the world sees them.
By lacing their ordeal with fantastical claims and hyperbolic language, the Sussexes — who say they want privacy yet stage photo ops and public therapy sessions — simply did what they do best: overstate, obfuscate and infuriate.
Harry and Meaghan like nothing more than to provoke. But like their over-the-top Oprah interview and that Netflix series and the Duke’s memoir “Spare,” their Manhattan visit has provoked little more than skepticism when they’re looking for sympathy.
By now they should have known better, but it’s clear why they don’t. With their worldview defined by victimhood, Harry and Meghan are the ultimate targets. And everyone is out to get them: The paparazzi, the press, the British public, and the Royal Family. Nowhere more so when it comes to race.
Like Meghan, I’m half-black and half-white, and the first thing I thought about when learning I would become a father was the color of my future kid’s skin. How could I not? For most mixed-race folks — Markle included — color has been the dominant factor in our lives for as long as we can remember. I’m certain Markle also wondered how her boy might turn out. As, perhaps, her family as well as Harry’s.
But rather than chalk this up to mere curiosity about skin color, the couple framed it as a concern, implying to Oprah that members of Harry’s family were racist. Perhaps a better approach might have been to simply blame it on “unconscious bias,” as the Duke later described the incident in his memoir. While still prickly and jargony, such woke-speak still maintains a semblance of forgiveness and understanding. It’s an approach that might have at least left William and Harry on speaking terms.
But would his memoir have still sold 3.2 million copies in its first week?
Ultimately, as I wrote years back, the biggest problem with Meghan — and Harry, to a lesser extent — is that she wants to be a role model, but simply has no role. Sure, Steinem may deem Markle influential, but ultimately, who really cares?
By now they’re back in their Montecito, California, bubble, hiking and yoga-ing and organic-ing away, blissfully and blithely convinced of their own importance. The Sussexes may perceive themselves as relevant, but true players don’t need car chases to keep their audiences enthralled.
This story originally appeared on NYPost