Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are the most talked about royals on TikTok “but the conversation tends quite negative” while “the overall consensus is that they seem to favor Kate” over Meghan, research conducted on behalf of Newsweek shows.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have consistently targeted younger audiences, including via a recent project on AI and technology, so some might assume they are more popular in the places Gen Z spends its time.
However that’s not the case where TikTok is concerned, as anti-fan communities use the platform to mock and criticize the couple.
At the same time, Prince William and Kate Middleton fans fill the social network with clips of heartwarming moments of the kind sure to melt a palace press officer’s heart.
Newsweek has tracked the rise in negative commentary about Harry and Meghan on the platform before but what has become notable as the months have passed is the dearth of positive fan-generated videos.
The Big Picture
Newsweek asked social media intelligence platform Hootsuite to conduct research into audience attitudes to the two couples on TikTok.
Eileen Kwok, social marketing specialist at Hootsuite, told Newsweek: “Meghan and Harry are the most talked about couple on TikTok—but the conversation tends quite negative with most people being highly critical about their relationship.
“While #HarryAndMeghan has 5 million views under its hashtag, #WilliamAndKate has only 715K views.
“TikTokers are also comparing the couple, but have taken an even closer look at Meghan and Kate specifically—and they’re taking ‘sides.’
“The comment section for videos revolving around the royal family are heated with advocates and critics of their every move—from their behavior and fashion sense, to their looks and interactions.”
Over a 30-day period examined by Hootsuite, the number of posts were fairly equivalent for each royal standing at 6k for William, Harry and Meghan but 5k for Kate.
Kate had the most views at 397k over this period, however, when overall data is taken into account Harry had the most posts (140k) and the most views (13 billion) followed by Meghan (115k and 11 billion). Kate had 65k and 10 billion overall while William had 79k and 11 billion overall.
For all four royals, more than half the audience were 18 to 24 year olds, the age group known as Gen Z, and this figure was highest for William at 66 percent.
Hootsuite found that TikTok’s search bar associated Kate Middleton with the keywords: “tennis,” “rude,” “paparazzi,” and “coronation.”
Kwok said: “There are a lot of comments on TikTok about her beauty and her timelessness. It took us several scrolls to find a negative video compared to Meghan where the first video that popped up did a deep dive into her scandals.
“The crowd on TikTok loves to compare the two but the overall consensus is that they seem to favor Kate.”
Newsweek has also done some analysis of the most liked videos, though we have omitted ones that are predominantly about Princess Diana, even if they feature Harry and William as children, since the royal brothers are judged currently based on their work and lives as adults.
The top videos about Prince William and Kate Middleton over the month leading up to August 8 based on number of likes have been universally positive.
The most liked for the search term “Kate Middleton” was a video from The Independent showing her attending Wimbledon. It was liked 620k times, though it is not a fan video.
Similarly, the second top was posted by the Wimbledon tennis championship account (418k) but the top fan-generated post was needless to say positive about Kate.
A montage of clips captioned “she slayed” was posted against audio footage describing how the princess was asked whether she was lucky to get Prince William, while she replied that he was lucky to get her. It was liked almost 250k times.
A fourth video praised Kate’s understanding of royal protocol in a video that showed her allowing Princess Anne to walk in front of her (123k) while another was about Tom Cruise being “smitten” with Kate (118k).
TikTok associated Prince William with the keywords “young, and Kate.” Kwok said he was captured “in a positive light on social media, with a lot of the videos calling out his dedication as a dad, his kindness towards strangers, his ‘old money’ style, and overall admiration for his relationship with Kate (a lot of fan videos about the couple are being made).”
The most liked video for the search term “Prince William” showed the Prince of Wales and his family arriving for the Royal International Air Tattoo on July 14. It was liked almost 200k times.
Others showed William serving burgers made and cooked using technological solutions from his Earthshot Prize initiative (171k likes), an archive clip of the couple captioned “together” (138k), tennis star Carlos Alcaraz expressing his excitement at playing in front of royalty (126k) and the clip of Kate with Tom Cruise also made an appearance in his list in fifth place.
The Waleses have an active TikTok fanbase that consistently creates a steady stream of new videos showing the couple in a positive light.
TikTok’s search bar associated Prince Harry with the keywords: “Meghan,” “divorce,” “court case” and “audiobook.” The reference to divorce appears to relate to unfounded rumors the couple’s marriage has broken down which a Newsweek fact check assessed as “false.”
Kwok said: “Top videos show clips of him and Queen Elizabeth, speculations of divorce with Meghan / various conspiracy theories about their relationship, and clips of him and Princess Diana.”
The two most liked videos for the search term “Prince Harry” over the month leading up to August 8 were both old footage appearing to show actor Cillian Murphy, star of Oppenheimer, shoot the prince a dirty look during an event in 2017. One got almost 300k likes while the other got nearly 225k.
In third place, was a positive video about Harry believing Meghan has his “mother’s heart” (205k) while the fourth was titled “How to Lose a Prince in 5 Years” and chronicled Meghan’s various alleged failings (122k).
The fifth sounded a more positive note, however, as it showed a sweet moment in which Harry tried to show Archie a hummingbird and found his son a little distracted (87.2k).
For Meghan, top keywords in the TikTok search bar were “divorce,” “prince harry,” “being rude,” “narcissistic,” and “awkward.”
Kwok said: “From this data, it looks like the crowd on TikTok is searching for negative behavior.
“The first video that popped up were clips ‘exposing’ Meghan of bad behavior. Other videos pointed to commenting on her looks (surgery speculations), her ‘dark secrets,’ before/after images, and her style (which is something the crowd on TikTok loves).”
Newsweek‘s research showed Meghan’s two most-liked videos were positive but neither were fan videos. Both were posted by Ellen DeGeneres and were a throwback to a stunt they did together when the duchess was on her show back in 2021 (325k and 182k).
The following three, however, all compared her to Kate and were fan-generated. Two were definitively negative toward Meghan while the third was at best ambiguous, though it was posted by an account set up in tribute to Princess Charlotte, Kate’s daughter.
The first compared Meghan’s famous mock curtsy during her Netflix show to Kate’s real-life royal curtsies (114k), the second was titled “royalty vs D list” where Kate was the royalty and Meghan was the “D list” (95.7k).
The third showed Meghan and Kate interacting warmly on Christmas Day at Sandringham in 2018 before cutting to Kate and Meghan seeming to glare at each other at Windsor in 2022 (88.8k).
There are also regular commentators on TikTok queuing up to post critical videos about Meghan and Harry, from established celebrities to have-a-go influencers, compared with only a handful of supportive voices, such as the Matta_of_Fact account.
Explanations for the Shift
Amanda Matta, 28, who created the Matta_of_Fact account, posts plenty of videos about William, Kate and the working royals but tends to defend Meghan and Harry from criticism, regularly earning like counts in the 30k bracket for those posts.
Matta, a social media manager in Pennsylvania, told Newsweek she had noticed less fan content but felt it was due to the conversation around the Sussexes shifting toward cultural criticism.
“I wouldn’t say [fan content] has gone away,” she said. “There are definitely still people who love Harry and Meghan as people and love to just kind of clap for them as icons, but you do also have people who are having conversations about them and what they’ve gone through.
“Whereas with the royal family, their supporters are doing news updates and they’re doing the fan content. They’re not really doing any cultural analysis. I’ve seen a lot more people willing to be nuanced and critical,” Matta continued. “Not in the negative sense but critical, just like critical thinking-wise about the Sussexes.
“Just because we’ve brought in so many conversations about, like, bullying and harassment and mental health, so I think that’s definitely a piece of it. And specifically on TikTok I think that’s a great place for those conversations to flourish,” Matta said.
It is not that Harry and Meghan have no support on TikTok, as shown by the hundreds of thousands who liked DeGeneres’ videos, for example. But they appear to inspire far less fan-generated positive content.
That gives William and Kate a major advantage in terms of how narratives about royalty are generated and circulate in a community that is far more popular among young people than the newspapers Harry has spent significant time and money suing.
The Daily Mail, for example, has an average reader age of 56. On TikTok, only 22 percent of Prince Harry’s audience were over 35.
The high volume of Meghan and Harry trolls on X, formerly known as Twitter, has been a subject debated at length, including in the Netflix show Harry & Meghan.
However, there the couple are also regularly defended by an active social media fanbase known as the Sussex Squad.
On TikTok, they would perhaps benefit if they were able to inspire more of the simple, positive, fan-generated clips that define the discussions around William and Kate.
Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.