Meghan Markle returns to Instagram with new business venture

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, walks onstage during the Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen panel during the 2024 SXSW Conference and Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 8, 2024, in Austin, Texas. (Photo

Meghan Markle returned to Instagram this week with the launch of a new business venture called American Riviera Orchard. 

The Duchess of Sussex on Thursday launched a new website and Instagram account for the brand, in what records show could feature jams, household items, cookbooks and cutlery and is a nod to the family’s California residence.

The bio for the Instagram page reads, "By Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Established 2024." 

The brand name American Riviera Orchard is likely a reference to Santa Barbara, the city where Meghan lives with Prince Harry and their two children. Santa Barbara has been known as the "American Riviera" for more than a century "because of its temperate climate and lush landscapes, as well as its robust food and wine culture," according to Travel & Leisure.

American Riviera Orchard’s logo also includes Montecito, the name of the neighborhood where they reside that’s also home to numerous other celebrities. The website also prompts fans to join a waitlist to learn more details.

What is American Riviera Orchard? 

Documents filed in February with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registered the American Riviera Orchard name and sought trademark protection for a variety of goods and services. 

Those include textiles, cutlery, "jellies, jams; marmalades" and assorted food spreads.

It also said the brand might feature "coffee services in the nature of tableware; tea services in the nature of tableware; servingware for serving food and drinks; decanters" and other beverage wear.

The filing also said cookbooks and a retail space should be covered by the application.

The trademark was filed under a company called Mama Knows Best, which Delaware records show was registered in January.

During a panel at the South by Southwest festival last week, Meghan spoke at a panel alongside Katie Couric and Brooke Shields and talked about the negative impact social media had on young mothers, including herself. She said she experienced online "bullying and abuse" when pregnant with her two children, as well as after they were born.

"I keep my distance from it right now just for my own well-being," she said. "You really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty. It’s cruel."

Meghan’s brand launch comes amid Royal family’s media backlash

The American Riviera Orchard brand launch came amid media backlash on the Royal family across the pond

The scandal over Kate, Princess of Wales’ family photo, has dominated news headlines in recent days – and established a new chapter for the relationship between the media and Britain’s royal family.

It also served as a sign of how hard it is for the monarchy to control its own narrative in the social-media era.

The palace issued the image of Kate and her children — Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis — on Sunday to mark Mother’s Day in Britain. A family snapshot taken, the palace said, by Prince William, was intended to calm speculation about Kate’s health, almost two months after she had abdominal surgery for an unspecified condition.

But within hours, The Associated Press withdrew the photo over concerns it had been digitally manipulated in a way that did not meet AP’s photo standards. For instance, it contained an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand with the sleeve of her sweater. Other major agencies including Getty, Reuters, AFP and Britain’s PA also retracted it.

Kate said sorry on Monday, saying that "like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing." In a statement on social media, she expressed "apologies for any confusion the family photograph" had caused.

The royal family is under particular scrutiny because King Charles III has also had to cancel public duties while he undergoes treatment for an unspecified form of cancer. Charles’ relative openness about his diagnosis was a departure for the generally secretive royal family.

The royals have long had an awkward relationship with the media in Britain, where they are an uneasy hybrid of celebrities and taxpayer-funded public property. At times, the relationship has been openly hostile. 

Prince William and Harry have accused the media of hounding their mother, Princess Diana, and have blamed paparazzi for her death. Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while she was being pursued by photographers.

Harry, who famously left official royal duties and moved to California with Meghan in 2020, has made taming Britain’s tabloid press a personal mission. He has launched lawsuits against several newspaper publishers over alleged phone hacking and other unlawful intrusion.

Harry has attacked the media directly in television interviews, a Netflix documentary series, and in his memoir, "Spare," accusing the press of racist attitudes towards Meghan, who is biracial. He said he feared Meghan would suffer the same "feeding frenzy" as Diana had faced.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Cincinnati.