To understand why supporters are so protective of Harry and Meghan, we have to go back to 2016.
Deesa Roberts, the Atlanta lawyer, knew nothing about Meghan Markle until October 2016. However, she and her two daughters had been royal supporters for decades.
“When Princess Diana died, we bawled our eyes out. We felt so sad for her children, and especially for Prince Harry, who was so young to experience such a loss. I always had a soft spot for him.”
She kept track of Harry as he grew up.
“Then, in October 2016, news broke about his relationship with Meghan Markle and was confirmed in November.”
November 8, to be specific. That day, in a strongly worded statement, Kensington Palace asked British media and “trolls” to stop harassing Harry’s girlfriend.
“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
The “wave of abuse” didn’t stop.
Following the coverage from Atlanta, Deesa was shaken by the anti-Meghan “racism and misogyny” in the UK tabloids.
There are few (known) persons of colour in the British royal family. Though Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, is said to have been part-African, she’s been dead for centuries.
Meghan Markle was an anomaly.
The attacks on Meghan Markle weren’t isolated to Britain. Comment sections of several UK newspapers had as many American anti-Meghan remarks as British.
Deesa, meanwhile, read everything she could about Meghan. “I sensed that she was the one for him. I felt she could handle the pressure. She was older than his previous girlfriends and more mature; she had faced difficult issues and overcome them.
“I decided I had to support her. I was born in Georgia and my grandfather was born in slavery. So I’m thoroughly familiar with racism. I recognized the attacks by some royal reporters early on. I tried to engage them and other royal watchers in respectful conversation, but it didn’t go anywhere. For my efforts, I was dubbed a ‘race warrior’.”
Deesa’s concerns were echoed by others whom I interviewed for this series.
Mimi, also American, admired Princess Diana and felt protective of her sons after Diana’s death.
“Prince Harry was my favorite. I always rooted for him and supported his causes. I became a Meghan fan when she was with Suits. I followed her blog The Tig and admired the speech she made at UN Women. Having loved them both separately, it was a no-brainer that I’d support them as a couple.”
Chris, from the US south, loved Princess Diana. “When she died, my heart ached for Harry. Sometimes the press was so hard on him, but he truly has such a caring and loving heart.
“When I heard he and Meghan were dating, I was thrilled. I truly thought it was a match made in Heaven.
“From their engagement interview, to their wedding, and everything they’ve done so far, they’ve really impacted me. Their passion to help others and change the world is inspirational. I’m old enough to be their Mom (lol) but they’ve really impacted my life.”
From Melbourne, Australia, David says: “I really believe in them as a couple and think they will achieve great things together and individually. They seem to both be driven people and that really resonates with me. Also very impressed with Meghan’s background before meeting Harry.”
Many Sussex supporters around the world felt they had to speak up against the “lies and vitriol” being directed at the couple on social media “and sometimes the press.”
Portia, an education assessment officer in the UK, says: “What was distressing, and still is, is the press giving a platform to trolls by using their quotes and giving press coverage to them. That I find sad. There is a need for a re-balancing of issues in the press.”
On Twitter, Sussex fans fact-checked and rebutted reporters’ stories. Some reporters saw them as trolls who were brutally insulting, a few even “threatening”. (Author Note: I’ve seen no threats myself, but have seen many angry, and some insulting, tweets.)
As the battle waged, Sussex fans became familiar with each other through their tweets and Twitter profiles. After Harry and Meghan married and became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Deesa says, she suggested fans call themselves The Sussex Squad.
As organizers of the global baby shower, Sussex Squad members turned their focus to helping vulnerable people and pets through charities associated with the royal couple.
When people hurl online insults at the Sussexes or the baby shower, most Sussex Squad members try to rise above it, often replying with these slogans:
“Don’t Hate. Donate”.
“Leading with Love”.
It’s a strategy of positivity and kindness.
But they’re also strongly committed to defending the duke and duchess against the media and ‘haters’.
Can the Sussex Squad do both things?