‘It’s not catty, it’s cruel’: Meghan Markle says she was cyber-bullied while pregnant with Archie and Lilibet as she takes center stage at star-studded International Women’s Day panel – while Prince Harry watches on from the front row

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Written By Maya Cantina

Meghan Markle has opened up about the ‘hateful’ cyber-bullying she received while pregnant with Archie and Lilibet during SXSW festival. 

The Duchess of Sussex arrived in Texas today to discuss ‘breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes’ at an event at the festival alongside Brooke Shields and Katie Couric. 

Meghan, 42, talked about social media use and claimed most of the online hate she experienced happened while she was pregnant with her two young children. 

‘I keep my distance from it right now for my wellbeing but the bulk of the bullying and abuse I was experiencing in social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili, and with a newborn, with each of them,’ she said. 

‘You just think about that and to wrap your head about why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty it’s cruel. Why you would do that when you’re pregnant or as a mom it’s such a tender and sacred time.’ 

She added: ‘You could succumb to it, or nearly succumb to how painful that is. Or maybe because I was pregnant that mammalian instinct just kicks in to do everything you can to protect your child and as a result protect yourself too.’ 

Meanwhile, Prince Harry was seen clapping in the front row to support his wife Meghan – next to her old friend and confidante Markus Anderson. 

Dubbed ‘Mr Soho House’, Markus is often referred to as the ‘second most important man’ in Meghan’s life – and was instrumental in getting Harry and Meghan together. 

Meghan Markle has opened up about the ‘hateful’ messages she received while pregnant with Archie and Lilibet during SXSW festival today

The Duchess of Sussex arrived in Texas today to discuss 'breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes'

The Duchess of Sussex arrived in Texas today to discuss ‘breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes’

Prince Harry is seen in the audience as she supports his wife Meghan while she speaks in the panel

Prince Harry is seen in the audience as she supports his wife Meghan while she speaks in the panel 

Harry was seen in the front row to support Meghan - next to her old friend and confidante Markus Anderson

Harry was seen in the front row to support Meghan – next to her old friend and confidante Markus Anderson

Prince Harry sat in the front row to support his wife Meghan as she spoke on the panel

Prince Harry sat in the front row to support his wife Meghan as she spoke on the panel 

Meghan said: 'The bulk of the bullying and abuse I was experiencing in social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili'

Meghan said: ‘The bulk of the bullying and abuse I was experiencing in social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili’ 

Meghan and US journalist Katie Couric attended a panel of the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival

Meghan and US journalist Katie Couric attended a panel of the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival 

The session focused on the dangers and mental health issues associated with social media

The session focused on the dangers and mental health issues associated with social media

The panel included huge stars such as Brooke Shields (second to right) and Katie Couric (centre)

The panel included huge stars such as Brooke Shields (second to right) and Katie Couric (centre)

Meghan spoke about issues with social media on the panel next to Katie Couric

Meghan spoke about issues with social media on the panel next to Katie Couric 

Harry sat in the audience cheering on his wife Meghan while she spoke on the panel

Harry sat in the audience cheering on his wife Meghan while she spoke on the panel 

Meghan Markle opens up about ‘hateful’ cyber-bullying

 

At the panel today, Meghan said: ‘I keep my distance from it right now for my wellbeing but the bulk of the bullying and abuse I was experiencing in social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili, and with a newborn, with each of them.

‘You just think about that and to wrap your head about why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty it’s cruel. Why you would do that when you’re pregnant or as a mom at such a tender and sacred time.’ 

She added: ‘You could succumb to it, or nearly succumb to how painful that is. Or maybe because I was pregnant that mammalian instinct just kicks in to do everything you can to protect your child and as a result protect yourself too. 

‘If you look at what’s happening in social media there’s so much to be done in keeping people safe.’ 

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South by Southwest, also referred to as SXSW, is an annual festival that celebrates the convergence of technology, film, music, education and culture, being held from March 8-16. 

Meghan, described as a ‘visionary female leader’ by the organisers, is the headliner of the keynote event on today, which is also International Women’s Day.

According to organisers, the session is presented by Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Foundation and The 19th, a US nonprofit newsroom that reports on gender, politics and policy.

It comes as it was revealed the Duchess has reached out to PR gurus in the UK in a bid to improve her and Archewell’s reputation. 

Announcing its panel of ‘visionary’ women, the festival confirmed the session would focus on the dangers and mental health issues associated with social media users amongst teenage girls.

The session, titled Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen, is being moderated by Errin Haines, host of The Amendment podcast, and also attended by pop culture expert Nancy Wang Yuen.

Alongside the fellow participants, Meghan is also talking about the importance of representation in media and entertainment. 

In a statement, the organisers said: ‘Women’s representation in media and entertainment has come a long way, but there’s still much to be done, especially for women of color and mothers. 

‘Social media’s omnipresence has raised the stakes, creating an often dangerous environment which has led to serious mental health issues for teenage girls in particular. 

‘On International Women’s Day, we’ll hear from visionary female leaders at the forefront of news, media, entertainment and philanthropy who are breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and working toward a healthier society on and off our screens.’

The appearance is the latest of a series of public engagements by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the latest of which saw Meghan appear in London via video for the opening of a new wing of the animal charity Mayhew.

Meghan, described as a 'visionary female leader' by the organisers, is the headliner of the keynote event today

Meghan, described as a ‘visionary female leader’ by the organisers, is the headliner of the keynote event today 

Meghan said most of the hate she received happened while she was pregnant with her two children

Meghan said most of the hate she received happened while she was pregnant with her two children 

Meghan smiled as she spoke on the panel among huge stars such as Brooke Shields

Meghan smiled as she spoke on the panel among huge stars such as Brooke Shields 

Meghan also talked about the importance of representation in media and entertainment

Meghan also talked about the importance of representation in media and entertainment

Meghan is seen standing next to Katie Couric (right) for the panel today

Meghan is seen standing next to Katie Couric (right) for the panel today 

Katie Couric is also sharing a platform with Meghan Markle at the opening day of SXSW

Katie Couric is also sharing a platform with Meghan Markle at the opening day of SXSW

Nancy Wang Yuen (pictured) is an American sociologist who appeared on Meghan Markle's Archetypes podcast in 2022

Nancy Wang Yuen (pictured) is an American sociologist who appeared on Meghan Markle’s Archetypes podcast in 2022 

Brooke Shields, 58, is to appear on the panel alongside Meghan Markle at the festival today

Brooke Shields, 58, is to appear on the panel alongside Meghan Markle at the festival today

The Duchess of Sussex has spoken on a star-studded keynote panel on the opening day of SXSW festival in Texas

The Duchess of Sussex has spoken on a star-studded keynote panel on the opening day of SXSW festival in Texas

The announcement was in honour of her late friend Oli Juste, with the Duchess saying the dog trainer’s sudden death had left her heartbroken. 

A photo shared on Harry and Meghan’s new website, Sussex.com – the subject of controversy because of the prominence of its royal branding – showed a beaming Duchess in a beige coat crouching down and petting a dog. 

Earlier in February, she made dumplings with female Afghan refugees, before a clip of the visit was posted on the Archewell Foundation website last Monday. 

Her video message for the charity came days after Prince Harry reportedly told friends he wanted to step back into royal roles to support his father, King Charles III, during his treatment for cancer.

But royal aides have dismissed the idea, saying there is ‘no way back’ for the prince into the royal fold. 

Elsewhere, the Duchess of Sussex is looking for professional help to gain more positive publicity in Britain for herself and for Archewell, the foundation which she runs with Prince Harry in California.

A star hire will also help her amid persistent rumours her lifestyle blog The Tig could return, especially after her friend Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP brand burst through the $250million value over Christmas.

The search for a UK PR executive is a sign that 2024 is the year the Sussexes intend to relaunch and it appears despite being happy in California, they want to do more in Harry’s home country.

But one senior PR executive told MailOnline yesterday: ‘This is a s**t sandwich that many senior PR people will not be willing to eat. Many will turn it down. 

‘Representing the couple in the UK is a tantalising thought but they don’t have a reputation for listening to advice. What would be the point?’.

The royal family are in the midst of a health crisis since the monarch stepped back from public engagements during treatment, with the Princess of Wales also out of action until at least after Easter as she recovers from abdominal surgery.

To add to the dearth in working royals available for engagements, the Prince of Wales last week pulled out of a memorial service for his godfather King Constantine of Greece with just an hour’s notice due to a ‘personal matter’.

Queen Camilla, 76, is also currently taking a brief respite after stepping up her royal duties in the aftermath of her husband’s diagnosis.

Prince Harry and Meghan are pictured on their trip to Vancouver last month ahead of next year's Invictus Games

Prince Harry and Meghan are pictured on their trip to Vancouver last month ahead of next year’s Invictus Games

Meghan's podcast Archetypes is being relaunched after she signed a new contract with Lemonada Media

Meghan’s podcast Archetypes is being relaunched after she signed a new contract with Lemonada Media

Meanwhile Prince Harry and Meghan have had no royal duties since they moved to America in 2020 and ceased their lives as working royals. 

Harry rushed over to the UK to visit his cancer-stricken father in the days after his diagnosis – but saw him for just 45 minutes before the monarch departed London for Sandringham, leaving the prince to stay overnight in a hotel before his return to the US.

His wife Meghan and the couple’s children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, remained at their California home.

The couple recently returned from a trip to Vancouver, Canada, where Harry spoke with media about the upcoming Invictus Games next year.

Hugh Forrest, SXSW co-president and chief programming officer, said: ‘Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, Katie Couric, Brooke Shields, Nancy Wang Yuen, and Errin Haines are the perfect finishing touch to eight days of remarkable Keynote Speakers.

‘We are so honoured to host this distinguished group on International Women’s Day for a significant discussion on the importance of representation in media and entertainment.’

One of the stars sharing the platform with the Duchess, Nancy Wang Yuen, previously appeared on Meghan’s Spotify podcast Archetypes.

The podcast ran for one season, but has since been renewed for a relaunch after the Duchess split from the streaming platform and signed a new deal with Lemonada Media.

Founded in 1987, South By Southwest is known for its conference and festivals on tech, film and television, music, education, and culture, describing itself as an ‘essential destination for global professionals’.

Previously announced featured speakers and panellists at this year’s festival include Selena Gomez, Kirsten Dunst and Sydney Sweeney.

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