Experts question Meghan Markle passport claim, while UK abuzz over presidential rumors

Markle told Oprah Winfrey that she surrendered her American passport to palace officials while living in Britain. 

Updated: March 18, 2021 - 9:41am

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While politicians in London speculate whether Meghan Markle aspires to be president of the United States, experts on both sides of the Atlantic are questioning Markle's recent claims that British footmen in 2018 took her American passport.

In a March 7 interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Markle said that when she married Britain's Prince Harry and thereby joined the country's House of Windsor, she surrendered her U.S. passport to palace officials. 

"You couldn’t just go," Markle told Winfrey. "You couldn’t. I mean, you have to understand, as well, when I joined that family, that was the last time, until we came here, that I saw my passport, my driver’s license, my keys. All that gets turned over. I didn’t see any of that anymore."

The comments were among many from the Winfrey interview that shocked a worldwide audience. But, experts say, the scenario of a passport-seizing palace is particularly incendiary. 

"This is a very serious charge to make against an important long standing ally," said former U.S. State Department official Dale McElhattan, who investigated passport and visa fraud for the Diplomatic Security Service. "It's a big deal to hold someone's passport. It's an even bigger deal if a government does it."

As an American citizen, Markle could have reported to the U.S. Embassy in London that the British government had seized her passport. 

The embassy did not respond to questions about whether Markle filed such a report; and the State Department in Washington, D.C. offered no insights.

"Due to privacy considerations, we have no comment," a State Department spokesperson told Just the News.

In the interview, Markle said she didn't get her passport and drivers license back until she and her husband stepped down from royal duties, and moved to the United States.

A British based newspaper, The U.S. Sun, reported that Markle left the U.K. multiple times while consorting with the royals, and that she would have showed her American passport while entering 12 countries. Among those are Australia, South Africa, and Markle's home country, the United States, where, presumably, she could have notified officials that she was under duress. 

The palace might have kept Markle's passport under lock and key as a precaution against loss or theft, one royals observer told the outlet.

"Of course the Royal Family would want to keep Meghan’s passport safe," author Margaret Holder said. "But it’s unthinkable she didn’t carry it for personal and private trips such as her New York baby shower, traveling to see friends in Canada, partying in Amsterdam and going to Lake Como with George Clooney."

The former passport fraud specialist, McElhattan, agreed.

"They could have held her passport for safekeeping for security reasons," McElhattan said. "And she could retrieve it any time she wanted. You can't put this on the U.K. for holding her passport for nefarious purpose. That doesn't pass the smell test."

Markle also claimed in the interview that she was required to curtsy when she met Queen Elizabeth, adding that she only learned how to perform the gesture when Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson taught her at the last minute. In the Winfrey interview, Markle presented the story as an example of her ordeals when encountering the British royal family. But that, too, is unlikely in terms of an obligation to curtsy, observers noted.

"If she curtsied, it's not because she had to. It's because she wanted to," said one current State Department official. "She's an American citizen. Americans don't curtsy or bow to foreign monarchs."

The issue has little consequence for a private American citizen, but could turn complicated if Markle pursues the U.S. presidency.

"If an American curtsies to a monarch, it's a faux pas," the State Department official said. "If the president curtsies, there's a whole other set of problems to untangle."

According to the British press, rumors are rampant in London political circles that Markle plans to launch her bid to succeed President Joe Biden in 2024. 

"The Blairite, internationalist and Democratic Party networks are buzzing with talk about Meghan’s political ambitions and potential backers," a political source reportedly told the Mail on Sunday.

Markle did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News.