In December 2018, one Sun columnist observed that media coverage about Meghan Markle had become decidedly negative and urged his audience not to be angry with her. “I can’t understand why this is happening. You don’t know her. I don’t know her,” he wrote. “At this rate, it won’t be long before she is stripped and forced to walk naked through the streets of York while people with skin diseases chant ‘Shame!’ and throw excrement at her.”
That columnist was Jeremy Clarkson, and at the time he could not have known how correct he was. Nearly four years later, he repeated the idea, but this time he was the one “dreaming” of Meghan being paraded “naked through the streets of every town in Britain,” adding that he hated her “on a cellular level.” The December 16 Sun column set into motion a slow-growing storm of controversy that reached a crescendo when Prince Harry called the column “horrific, hurtful, and cruel towards my wife” in an interview with Tom Bradby that aired January 8. Now, sources tell Variety that Amazon’s Prime Video, which airs Clarkson’s shows The Grand Tour and Clarkson’s Farm, plans to cut ties with him after already-commissioned seasons of his shows air. (Prime Video declined to comment to Variety.)
Clarkson, who has long been a household name, is no stranger to his words and actions landing him in hot water. He hosted the BBC classic Top Gear from 1988 to 1998 and then from 2002 to 2015, when he was fired after a verbal and physical altercation with a member of the show’s production team. Almost one year earlier, the BBC reprimanded him when he was heard saying the N-word on camera during show outtakes, but the network declined to dismiss him. He entered into a deal with Amazon in 2015 to start a similar automotive show.
Clarkson’s controversial column ran in the aftermath of the Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, in which the couple took issue with the bizarre, often racist or misogynist responses drawn by Meghan in the British media. It was clear almost immediately that Clarkson had come up with something that would join the pantheon of negative headlines provided by the show as evidence. Even his daughter Emily Clarkson, a podcaster, took part in the condemnation. “I want to make it very clear that I stand against everything that my dad wrote about Meghan Markle and I remain standing in support of those that are targeted with online hatred,” she said in an Instagram story.
Adding to the controversy was the fact that Queen Consort Camilla and Clarkson both attended a luncheon on December 14, along with Dame Judi Dench, Piers Morgan, and Dame Maggie Smith. According to the Daily Mail, the luncheon was hosted by former Fortnum & Mason CEO Ewan Venters, a friend of Camilla’s. Buckingham Palace hasn’t publicly commented on the controversy, but it reportedly thought that it was misleading to tie Camilla to Clarkson’s comments just because they attended the same lunch.
Soon, Clarkson tweeted a vague apology and said he was “horrified to have caused so much hurt.” On December 23, The Sun posted an apology to its website and took the column down at Clarkson’s request. Still, the rancor continued into the new year, and after Harry’s contribution to the discourse, Clarkson posted a lengthier apology to his Instagram account. In his post, Clarkson claimed that he had previously apologized to everyone he worked with and had also sent an apology to Meghan and Harry in an email on Christmas Day.
“On Christmas morning, I e-mailed Harry and Meghan in California to apologise to them too,” he wrote. “I said I was baffled by what they had been saying on TV but that the language I’d used in my column was disgraceful and that I was profoundly sorry.” According to Variety, the post came just hours before Amazon canceled a long-planned promotional event for the show Clarkson’s Farm, which had been set to take place on Tuesday morning.
Later, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan disputed Clarkson’s version of events in a statement to People. “On December 25, 2022, Mr. Clarkson wrote solely to Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex,” and failed to include Meghan, contrary to what Clarkson claimed. “The contents of his correspondence were marked private and confidential.”