Prince Harry Told a Naïve Meghan Markle to Stop Smiling at the Paparazzi in Early Days of Their Relationship

“You can’t talk to them,” Harry told his then girlfriend in 2016.

Meghan Markle
(Image credit: Getty)

We’ve all been there—the early days of a budding romance, where we just can’t help but smile all the time.

The difference between our collective blossoming relationships and that of Meghan Markle’s with Prince Harry in 2016? We aren’t being trailed by the paparazzi, desperate to get a photo of us as the new girlfriend of one of the most eligible bachelors in the world.

Even though she was an actress on a hit television show, Suits, Meghan Markle in 2016 had a lot to learn about being famous, as being stalked by the paparazzi was not in her day-to-day M.O. One of Harry’s tips, revealed on Thursday in volume one of the couple’s Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan? Don’t smile at the paparazzi. It’s a detail that emerged in episode two of the series, when Meghan reflected on how her life changed after it was finally confirmed she was dating Harry in the latter part of 2016—and how the media attention became frightening as she was living and working in Toronto.

“I remember going to get flowers, coming out of the flower shop, and there must have been nine or 10 paps standing in the street,” she said. “They were all sort of blocking the cars and saying ‘Hey, how are you doing, Meghan?’ and I was like ‘Oh, thanks, stay warm, guys!’”

The next day, Harry—long an expert with this type of media attention, thanks to the relentless pursuit of his mother, Princess Diana, during her lifetime—told Meghan “‘You can’t talk to them,’” Meghan remembered. “And I was like ‘I’m just trying to be pleasant. I don’t know what to do, I’ve never dealt with this before. And he’s like, ‘Right, but the U.K. media are saying you love it. You’re smiling, you love it’” as the camera panned to an old headline from The Sun that said Meghan “couldn’t stop smiling” while out and about buying flowers, wearing a necklace with her and Harry’s initials on it, People reports.

Friend Lucy Fraser recalled it was a shock for Meghan to accept her new fame. Meghan said it felt like the entirety of the U.K. press “descended upon Toronto” in those days. Her home there was “surrounded,” she said, and photographers lurked, “waiting for me to do anything.”

“I was hearing all of this from thousands of miles away,” Harry said. “And trying to do something about it but being completely helpless.” (Excess media attention also surrounded the two serious girlfriends Harry had before Meghan, Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas.)

Meghan said her Toronto neighbors told her paparazzi would knock on their doors looking for her, and some of her neighbors were even paid to install a livestream camera in her backyard.

“Suddenly, it was like everything about my life got so much more insular,” she said. “All the curtains were pulled, all the blinds were pulled. It was scary.”

As Harry and Meghan’s burgeoning relationship dominated headlines, “there were things said and things written that I had to go to her to ask,” Harry said. “And that was the hardest piece.”

“It really accelerates the learning curve in a relationship,” Meghan agreed.

The first three parts of Harry & Meghan took viewers from their initial meeting up to the leadup to their royal wedding in May 2018. The final three parts will debut on Netflix this upcoming Thursday. 

Rachel Burchfield
Contributing Royal Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the royal editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.