PAUL BRACCHI: How big a role did Jessica Mulroney have in the crisis shaking the monarchy? 9 min read

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Jessica Mulroney has been called Meghan’s unofficial stylist and confidante. She is much more to the Duchess of Sussex than that, though. Stylist and confidante, yes, but also her best friend and ‘fixer’.

The Canadian socialite and brand consultant is married to television host Ben Mulroney, son of the former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, and the person, aside from Prince Harry, Meghan trusts most and depends on most. It would be hard to think of anyone who has had — and continues to have — more influence over her.

The most obvious illustration of this is the way Meghan looks today. Meghan and Mulroney (or maybe that should that be Mulroney and Meghan) have become practically indistinguishable, with virtually identical hair, make-up and clothes collections.

Jessica Mulroney (pictured with Meghan)  has been called Meghan¿s unofficial stylist and confidante. She is much more to the Duchess of Sussex than that, though

Jessica Mulroney (pictured with Meghan)  has been called Meghan’s unofficial stylist and confidante. She is much more to the Duchess of Sussex than that, though

In plain sight, but still largely anonymous here, Mulroney, 39, has become a constant presence in Meghan’s life.

She had a starring role at her wedding in Windsor Castle in May 2018. Mulroney in a royal blue, cap-sleeve number walked hand-in-hand up the steps of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle with her daughter Ivy who was a bridesmaid. Her mischievous twin sons were page boys.

She subsequently accompanied Meghan and Harry on their tour of Australia. She attended that baby shower in New York before the birth of Archie. She has been a regular visitor to London and was rumoured to have helped look after Archie while Meghan recently briefly returned to the UK from Canada.

Even so, not everyone on this side of the pond will have even heard of Jessica Mulroney, the consigliere in lipstick and Louboutin heels. She is the woman who, behind the scenes, is widely believed to be helping Meghan to achieve a more ‘independent life’ with Harry and, in the process, forge a ‘progressive’ role within the monarchy.

Mulroney’s post on Instagram after news of the Sussex’s ‘Megxit’ plan broke, all but acknowledges this. Sharing a defiant quote attributed to the American filmmaker Gina Carey, it read: ‘A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink.’

In plain sight, but still largely anonymous here, Mulroney, 39, has become a constant presence in Meghan¿s life (pictured together in May 2018)

In plain sight, but still largely anonymous here, Mulroney, 39, has become a constant presence in Meghan’s life (pictured together in May 2018)

Meeting that ‘challenge’ is already well underway, it has now transpired. Meghan and Harry have registered an application to trademark ‘Sussex Royal’ for a range of goods including clothing and stationery.

Miss Mulroney is a fashion branding expert. Need we say more?

How ironic it would be if a woman who has posed on Instagram in racy bikinis (including a G-string swimsuit) turns out to have had more of a bearing on the future of the Royal Family than all the palace advisers and constitutional experts put together.

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Much of what has been said about Meghan’s friendship with Mulroney has come from unnamed ‘sources’ and ‘insiders’ — and only in general terms.

Until last week, when the actualite of their relationship was exposed. Mulroney, it is claimed, put pressure on a former business partner of the Duchess to try to get her to sanitise an interview she had given about her to create a more ‘favourable’ impression.

The business associate in question was Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, founder of a London-based talent management agency, who once represented Meghan. In 2018, she spoke to the Mail on Sunday about the romance between Meghan and Prince Harry. She described Meghan as ‘delightful, warm, and personable — and hugely charismatic’. But she also said she could be ‘difficult’ to work with, ‘picky’ with her colleagues, instantly dismissing those who don’t share her ‘vision’.

Before publication, she was contacted by Mulroney who wrote to her in an attempt to persuade her to ‘withdraw or change [critical] statements’, according to papers filed at the High Court by the Mail on Sunday, which denies breaching Meghan’s privacy by publishing extracts of a letter she sent to her father.

The episode involving Mulroney is a sub-plot in the case, an example, argues the MoS, of how friends have tried to manipulate, on Meghan’s behalf, what has been written about her.

Defence lawyers warned they would seek ‘disclosure’ of all of the ‘communications relating to Ms Mulroney’s intervention’ to establish whether this was just an isolated incident. This means there could be more embarrassing allegations to come for Mulroney.

Pictured: The statements from Buckingham Palace and the Queen announcing that Prince Harry and Meghan would be stepping down as royals

Pictured: The statements from Buckingham Palace and the Queen announcing that Prince Harry and Meghan would be stepping down as royals

Crucially, Jessica Mulroney is the only ‘friend’ who was identified by name in the 44-page document. This should come as no surprise because, as we’ve already mentioned, Mulroney is much more than Meghan’s unofficial stylist.

Nowadays, they might have the same elegant look (tailored-trouser suits, figure-hugging dresses, tucked-in satin blouses) and similar long, straight dark hair. But they come from vastly different backgrounds. Meghan grew up in Los Angeles. Her mother, Doria Ragland, was a social worker and yoga instructor. Her father, Thomas Markle, a TV lighting director. The couple divorced when Meghan was six.

Miss Mulroney is a member of Canada’s Browns Shoes dynasty whose marriage to Ben Mulroney propelled her on to the A-list.

A cover story in Toronto Life magazine a few years ago introduced them thus: ‘They’re Toronto’s most polished power couple, and they’re reinventing the way we think about influence.’

Inside, it tells us that ‘if Norman Rockwell was painting images of idealised domesticity, they would look a lot like the Mulroneys on Instagram: perfect marriage, perfect family, perfect clothing, perfect teeth and perfectly willing to put it all out there.’

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The same could be said, at least to begin with, about her friendship with Meghan, which blossomed when Meghan arrived in Toronto (with a CV that included a stint as a ‘suitcase girl’ in the U.S. version of Deal Or No Deal, a job which required, when called upon, to open the case with the cash in rather revealing outfits) after winning a leading role in U.S. legal drama Suits.

The women, so the story goes, bonded over a deep passion for yoga and Pilates. Soon, Meghan would proudly refer to herself as ‘Auntie Meg’ to Mulroney’s children.

Their relationship was chronicled in narcissistic detail online. Back in August 2016, for example, shortly after Meghan and Harry began dating, Mulroney and the future Duchess jetted off to the Amalfi coast for a whirlwind girls’ trip.

Selfies of the two of them sipping Negronis and white wine poolside, were tagged on Mulroney’s Instagram account ‘#MJ x Italy’ and ‘#fakehoneymoon’ — a reference to just how close they were in case anyone was in doubt.

Miss Mulroney used the platform to promote Meghan’s TV acting career as well as her humanitarian projects and the products Mulroney herself was plugging.

Take this, not long before the Amalfi jaunt: ‘This woman [Meghan] is busy. She juggles more in a day than most do in a week. And yet she finds time to travel to Rwanda and creates global awareness for the water crisis. She is a boss. And I adore her.’

At the same time, Mulroney’s followers on Instagram, an essential marketing tool for her, soared six-fold to more than 360,000, and her Twitter following more than doubled to 13,400 after Meghan and Harry officially became a couple.

So, while no one should question the sincerity of their friendship, it has also been professionally beneficial for Meghan and commercially beneficial, in particular, for Mulroney who promotes her brands assiduously on social media, ranging in the past from lingerie to Pampers.

This is what Toronto Life meant when it said, with a hint of hyperbole, that Mulroney (and her husband) were ‘re-inventing the way we think about influence’.

When Meghan made her debut as Harry’s girlfriend at the polo in Berkshire in 2017, she wore a delicate black bracelet with the word ‘Joy’ in silver. The Canadian bauble had been designed exclusively for a charity Mulroney founded called the Shoebox Project which delivers shoe boxes filled with gifts to women’s shelters.

A coincidence, maybe, but these include the Vancouver women’s shelter that Meghan was photographed visiting the offices of last week.

But if their relationship isn’t exactly collaboration, is it one of mutual benefit?

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‘I always want to be recognised for the work I do, not the company I keep,’ Mulroney said, without a hint of irony, in her first interview since the wedding, with Harper’s Bazaar in March.

She has a short memory.

Last July, Meghan wore a £637 blush pink sleeveless trench dress by Canadian brand House of Nonie to a Nelson Mandela exhibition in London. But it was Mulroney that the label’s founder thanked on Instagram after the event, writing: ‘Thank you Jessica Mulroney.’

In Mulroney’s world, the profile of her in Harper’s Bazaar noted, ‘every bare arm and empty earlobe are opportunities’ — especially if they are attached to the Duchess of Sussex.

That royal blue, cap-sleeve outfit Mulroney herself wore at St George’s Chapel? A pop-up collection by Di Carlo Couture went live on the morning of the royal nuptials with the ‘Jessica Dress’ — a replica of Mulroney’s form-fitting number, available to purchase for £1,100.

Miss Mulroney has prospered in other ways, too.

Last autumn, Netflix announced it was hiring Mulroney to present a new series, ‘I Do, Redo’, on the back of her appearance in the ‘Jessica Dress’ at Meghan’s big day.

The co-production with the Canadian network CTV will give couples the chance to relive their disastrous weddings and turn them into dream ones. ‘I am so blessed that I can show the world a side of myself that truly inspires,’ Mulroney said modestly in an interview.

Little wonder, cynics might mischievously suggest, that she has done everything she can to protect her best friend — and asset.

She has hit out at Meghan’s critics, writing on Instagram (where else): ‘Three years of undeserved hate and abuse. It’s enough . . . when someone faces unfair criticism, you call it out. When that person is your friend and your family, you call those critics what they truly are. Shame on you racist bullies.’ Last night she posted again about ‘all those who carry the weight of bullies’.

There wasn’t a peep out of her, funnily enough, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was accused of racism after photographs emerged of him recently as an elaborately dressed Aladdin, with Afro wig and skin-darkening make-up, for an end-of-year ‘Arabian Nights’ at a smart private school in British Columbia.

Then again, Mulroney and her husband are personal friends of Trudeau (Mulroney has given fashion tips to the PM’s wife Sophie.)

Mulroney has now jetted off to Jamaica where she has started filming ‘I Do, Redo’. ‘Off the plane and right into a rum punch and some reggae,’ she told her thousands of Instagram fans.

There must surely be many back at the palace who hope she stays there.

n Additional reporting: Tim Stewart.