Slitz magazine was Sweden's number one lad's bible in the FHM and Maximmould. Think a lot of C-listers with DDs coyly tugging on their bikini bottoms.

It might be the most unlikely place to find a member of Sweden's royal family, a person who also just happens to be the one woman who maybe could perhaps have salvaged Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's royal career.

Let me explain.

In 2015, Prince Carl Philip, the only son of King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, tied the knot with Sofia Hellqvist in the sort of wedding ceremony that would make Cinderella green with envy. (The diamonds! The lengthy royal guest list! The ridiculously chiselled good looks of the groom!)


While the bride might have had the photogenic looks requisite for producing adorable royal heirs, she was far – far – from a conventional choice for a royal bride.

Sofia, prior to snagging herself a real life Prince Charming (seriously, all the guy is missing is a dashing stead and some velvet pantaloons) was a "glamour model" who had appeared in the pages of Slitz, even going on to earn the questionable honour of being named Miss Slitz in 2004.

This was followed by the next obvious professional port of call – a scandal-laden stint on reality TV. The then-21-year-old appeared on Paradise Hotel, a series that stuffed singletons into a hotel and waited for shenanigans to ensue. (She allegedly reached the finals after kissing porn star Jenna Jameson.)

Sofia's C-list celebrity later took her to the US where she flirted around the periphery of real fame, heading to New York where she once partied with Mark Wahlberg. (She also studied accounting and trained to be a yoga instructor while in the Big Apple.)

Princess Sofia of Sweden and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden. Photo / Getty Images
Princess Sofia of Sweden and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden. Photo / Getty Images

Then came the serendipitous nightclub meeting that changed everything when she was introduced to Carl Philp in Stockholm in 2010, with the couple moving in together in 2011 and then later saying "I do".

(She holds the distinction of being the only high profile royal bride whose wedding day ensemble showcased her back tattoo.)

Now, I'm telling you this, not just to enjoy a brief moment of salacious Euro royal history but because of all the titled women of Europe, Sofia is probably the person who could have best understood the plight of Meghan.

On paper, Meghan and Sofia have plenty in common. They are both commoners, women who had lives, careers and had achieved some semblance of fame before snagging a dashing Prince. And likewise, both faced a trial-by-media and chuntering public opinion when news of their romances were revealed.


For both Meghan and Sofia, their early days first as a girlfriend and then later the wife of a beloved prince was a fraught experience.

In November 2016, Prince Harry launched a stinging broadside saying that the media had crossed a line and that Meghan "has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment".

That statement was to prove a harbinger of what was to come, with Meghan becoming a very chic lightning rod for criticism over everything from her the cost of her wardrobe to her temerity to clutch her baby bump and her A-list New York baby shower.

(Also, her arrival at the palace was met with a particularly virulent racist response from some quarters of the press and the public.)

When Carl Philip and Sofia's relationship hit the headlines, it reportedly scandalised the Scandinavian country despite its liberal leanings and the royal girlfriend suddenly faced a torrent of negative coverage.

"When my relationship with Carl Philip became public I was greeted by a huge hate storm," Sofia later recounted in a TV interview in 2018. "It was very tough. People had comments on everything possible, on what I do and how I look … It surprised me and knocked me over for a period of time."


Remind you of anyone?

However, here is where Meghan and Sofia's paths diverge dramatically.

This week the Swedish royal appeared in a doco about her charitable work called Princess Sofia: Project Playground and was asked about whether she would ever consider quitting royal life a la Megxit.

She answered: "No. Not really. I think I have found such a fantastic balance, and I really see it as positive that I have made it through these stormy years. It is such a huge advantage, in that we have the opportunity to stand a little in both worlds."

Later she added: "Since I became a princess, I have been through many identity crises."

In short, Sofia toughed it out. Despite those "stormy years" she has come out the other side and embraced the possibilities her platform provided.


Last year, speaking to TV reporter Tom Bradby as part of a TV documentary about the Sussexes' South African tour, Meghan famously opined "not many people have asked if I'm OK" and "it's not enough to just survive something … You've got to thrive, you've got to feel happy."

The 2015 wedding was nothing short of a fairytale. Photo / Getty Images
The 2015 wedding was nothing short of a fairytale. Photo / Getty Images

Barely three months after uttering those words, she and Harry shocked the world by announcing they were quitting as senior members of the British royal family.

But, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Meghan had looked across the Channel and taken something from Sofia's own journey.

Here's the thing: Making the extraordinary transition from normal life to being a member of a royal house is nearly unthinkable given it means that nearly every facet of a person's life will be profoundly changed.

From the outside, it is hard to even fully come to grips with how profound that shift must be, all, of course, undertaken in the glare of public scrutiny and with a rapacious press watching your every move. The very thought is daunting enough to leave even the hardiest of women whimpering quietly under a cashmere throw and wondering how fast she could make it to Heathrow.

Look at the early royal years of not only Sofia but Kate Duchess of Cambridge, Sophie Countess of Wessex and even Princess Mary and they are united in that they all faced rocky, arduous "apprenticeships".


Meghan, sadly, was no exception.

While it runs counter to the fairytale narrative we have been fed since childhood, to join a royal family is to open oneself up to a certain modicum of suffering, like it or not.

However, as Sofia, Kate, Sophie and Mary have all proven, that period of anguish and criticism is only temporary. Today, all four of these royal women are resoundingly adored and celebrated for their charity and humanitarian work.

Now, I would never want to suggest a woman should stay in a destructive and harmful dynamic; that she shouldn't take steps to safeguard her agency and identity. But, I can't help but wonder, what would have happened if Meghan had looked around and seen the women who had come before her and had been able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

In any field or profession, we need people to learn from; experienced hands who know the ropes. Royalty is no exception.

In Finding Freedom, the recently released biography about Meghan and Harry, one of the central gripes that the duchess, according to the authors, had about her royal tenure was the alleged lack of support her sister-in-law Kate offered.


"Flowers for her birthday were nice, but Meghan would far rather have had Kate check in on her during the most difficult times with the press," the authors of Freedom write.

If Meghan found Kate, fairly or not, lacking in terms of offering some of duchess-mentorship, it is such a shame she had to cast her gaze a little bit further afield.

As a woman of colour Meghan faced not only the same volley of brickbats as those slung at other royal brides but had to contend with disgusting racism from some quarters.

Still Sofia, Kate, Sophie and Mary's experiences could have provided her with something of a tentative road map. She could have seen that suffering the slings and arrows of a judgmental press and public was sadly part and parcel of being a new palace recruit. That and that in each of these women's cases, this period of adversity was very much finite. In short, this too shall pass.

Moreover, these women could have shown Meghan that while becoming a princess (or a duchess) necessitates a certain identity crisis (or crises), that after a period of adjustment, each of these women had found a balance between fulfilling their royal roles while staying true to their values and identity.

This time last year, Harry and Meghan were preparing to head to South Africa after the duchess had both guest-edited an issue of British Vogue while on maternity leave and launched a capsule clothing collection for charity. Today, they are living on the other side of the world and basking in the glow of the PR stemming from their rumoured $130 million Netflix deal.


The tragedy of Megxit isn't just that the British monarchy lost their two most charismatic stars but that the duo did not seem to see a way forward living inside the confines of palace (or at least Windsor Great Park's) gates.

Meghan might not have found the sisterhood and support she craved but I wonder if there were other women out there who could relate to her unhappiness and could have made the case that things would inevitably improve.

Sadly, we will never know – not unless Meghan decides to make a Netflix show about it.

• Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australasia's leading media titles.