COMMENT: Over 846 days, Kensington Palace has been guilty of a major breach of its duty of care for the Duchess of Sussex, writes Daniela Elser of news.com.au.
Do you remember where you were when you found out that Prince Harry, Our Ginger Charmer, was dating actress Meghan Markle? I do, seriously.
The first thing I thought was, huzzah! After dating succession of blonde, bubbly aristocratic gals who looked like they knew how to both gut a pheasant and make a cracking Harvey Wallbanger, it was a joyful shock that Hazza had finally gotten serious with a woman who had a) a paying job, and b) wasn't intimately acquainted with the fascinator section of John Lewis.
The second thing I thought was, who is Meghan Markle? (I had never gotten past the first season of Suits and wouldn't have been able to name the cast on pain of death or being forced to listen to Prince Charles' haikus.)
But all that changed very, very fast. Within minutes of news breaking that Harry had been secretly dating the actress and Tig founder, her name was trending on Google.
Within hours, Meghan's Toronto house was surrounded by press and within days, Kensington Palace had taken the highly unusual step of putting out an extraordinary press release lambasting the "sexist and racist" attacks and "wave of abuse and harassment" that the then 35-year-old was facing. (Such was the scrutiny that Harry paid for a bodyguard for Meghan out of his own pocket. Awww, shucks. Why say it with flowers when you can say it with security?)
Yet here we are, 846 days later and Kensington Palace is only now putting out guidelines about how they plan to try and deal with the tsunami of abuse that Meghan and Kate are facing on Twitter, Instagram et al.
And let's be clear here: While Kate is the subject of some vile abuse, it is Meghan, who identifies as bi-racial, who seems to receive the lion's share of the hate and torment.
Today, the Palace released its "Social Media Community Guidelines," a brief document that basically stipulates users aren't allowed to be racist, sexist idiots (my choice of words clearly) or to "promote discrimination based on … religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age".
(Users must also not post comments that are "off-topic, irrelevant or unintelligible" — beware a stray apostrophe, debating the merits of the new cast of the Great British Bake Off or posting after your sixth sherry then!)
Failure to adhere to these rules will see users' comments deleted, their profiles blocked or even being reported to the police.
Why the hell has it taken the Palace so long?
The royal family boasts a veritable army of press officers, media relations advisers and communications directors — what the dickens have they been doing for the past 846 days? Putting out a press release here and there about Princess Eugenie's wedding to tequila ambassador Jack Brooksbank can only take so many days.
In January it was revealed that both the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex were facing a torrent of abuse from internet trolls and that some poor person in the Palace press office was having to trawl through the online comments and to try and stymie the flow of hate using nothing more powerful than the "Delete" key. (Oh, the poor, poor soul. May their G & Ts always be doubles.)
It was also revealed that the Palace had directly contacted Twitter and Instagram for help countering the online hate.
However, all of this feels like too little, too late. A sternly worded PDF might be a step in the right direction but it feels like trying to hold back the rapacious hordes at a Harvey Nichols sale using nothing more threatening than a sharpened hat pin.
Meghan has been connected to the royal family for more than two and a half years and yet the Palace is only now putting down actual rules for online behaviour? Must do better chaps. You've let the HRHs down with this one.