Prince Harry_Meghan_markle_Kate_middleton_Duchess_Cambridge_rivals

The world of royal watchers is being riven by a zero-sum rivalry: Meghan Markle or Kate Middleton? That I even have to write such a story less than a week after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement is more than a little depressing. But such is life in 2017.

The media weights in

Anita Singh, arts and entertainment editor at London’s Daily Telegraph, tweeted prophetically on Monday, the day of Harry and Meghan’s announcement, “Wonder if it’ll be weeks, days or hours before we see the first made-up ‘Kate is jealous of Meghan’ story.”

Sure enough, that same day the Daily Mirror ran a story, “People have already decided who they ‘like more’ out of Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton.” Counting tweets after Harry and Meghan’s interview, the tabloid decided, “Inevitably, after 26 minutes of hearing Meghan speak, people have decided who they like more. And it’s not good news for Kate.”

Things escalated on Saturday, Dec. 2, the Ottawa Citizen published a story from the Telegraph news service that speculated whether Meghan and Kate were “besties or rivals,” and whether “it be a forced friendship or a beautiful bond?”

The article clearly felt the former would be more likely, bringing up, then knocking down, any sign of a “beautiful bond,” including pointing out that that once-tight friendship of Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah Ferguson devolved into jealousy and rivalry.

“Kate has risen to the challenge of her position with a learned formality,” the article stated, in contrast to the “dazzlingly relaxed” actress. “It’s easy to imagine that, with less royal pressure on her (after Kate gives birth, Harry will become sixth in line and very unlikely ever to rule), Meghan will be free to wear more daringly fashionable outfits, have more fun, and enjoy marriage to the seemingly more relaxed, younger brother, while William and Kate deal with the traditional stuff.”

Stephanie Carvin spoke for many when she tweeted her reaction, “No. Let’s not. What is this stupid sexist garbage?” That a former national security analyst (and professor at Carleton University in Ottawa) felt the need to speak out about the Ottawa Citizen story says a lot about the level of discourse on social media these days. The article even prompted Kim Campbell, the first female prime minister of Canada, to respond to Carvin, “They look more like sisters to me! :)”

The article dismissed the former PM’s notion of sisterly affection, describing Meghan and Kate’s comments towards each other—Kate has been “wonderful” while, in return, the duchess is “absolutely thrilled” for the couple—as little more than “careful praise.” Such analysis, based on, at most, less than 20 words uttered in public, were, sadly, expected.

Then the royal blogging world entered the fray

It isn’t just the media, looking for viewers, who are separating Kate and Meghan into rival camps. Some royal followers are doing the same. One, @PrincessPleats, stated emphatically: “I know the press likes to pretend their equals but that just isn’t the cast. Catherine is married to the second in line to The the thown [sic]. She is the future Princess of Wales and Queen. Catherine and Meghan are light years apart.” Declaring that she’s “disappointed to see long time Catherine fans jump ship fans for Sparkle Markle,” the social media account, which has 4,500 followers, declared it would stop following any Kate accounts that crossed into Meghan territory.

Meghan Markle Kate Middleton @PrincessPleats TWitter

Why do we have to choose?

Left unconsidered by those wanting the world to pick either Meghan or Kate is the reality that many sisters-in-law aren’t mortal enemies or the most intimate of friends. “It’s perfectly okay — and possible — to be neither,” snapped the Fug Girls, in reaction to the Citizen story. “Like, they can get along well and enjoy each other without having to be OMGBFFs”

Lest anyone think the zero-sum rule is the domain of faux royal feuds, that view can be corrected with a quick dip into social media. As Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., said on Twitter: “Somebody has to cut off the cycle of hate. If we diminish people because they diminish people, then we are contributing to a dangerous spiral. And insults don’t solve any issues or change any unjust systems. What is our ultimate goal?”

For Meghan Markle and the former Kate Middleton, the answer would be fewer snap judgments.