‘Snitch’: Moment royal tour torpedoed
No one expected Meghan and Harry's African royal tour to dive into the trash can as hard as it did - or that a snitch would kick the tension into overdrive.
There were only a few hours left of the 10-day tour but the Duke couldn't wait any longer. He got filthy and set fire to his own campaign with his take-down of the British press and the subsequent lawsuit - ironically inflaming a toxic media storm the tour was supposed to calm.
Why not wait a day? The visit had been a huge success and everything was right on track. The world was in love with the Sussexes again and positive coverage was pulsing around the globe. But on this final day, everything turned thanks to the rant. In hindsight, his irritation had been growing.
Footage of the prince snapping at a Sky News journalist while on his solo leg of the tour in Malawi soon surfaced - filmed just hours before he released his extraordinary statement.
In a matter of hours, he had torpedoed his own tour. All that meaningful work had been dashed and the toxicity became even more potent.
An hour outside of Johannesburg in the township of Tembisa, one of their final appointments with the Youth Employment Services Hub was overshadowed.
A strangeness settled over the grounds as everyone waited for the couple to arrive. And when they did, Harry didn't try to hide his feelings.
There was a clamp down. The press pack was scared - worried they'd be accused of stepping out of line. And they started turning on each other.
In last week's column which was written on assignment from inside the press pack on the royal tour, I may have given away too many details about the inner-workings.
All hell broke loose. Alliances were formed. Secret WhatsApp groups were started. This series of columns and recaps about the tour was shared around and the revelations spread like wildfire. Someone had snitched.
Jeez, it's like you can't write secrets on the internet anymore without everyone finding out about them. What happened to privacy? Rude.
Tension mounted on that final morning when one UK reporter started quoting directly from a column where I wrote about doing impersonations of the British paps. Oops.
It's an overwhelming feeling to hear your own words yelled back at you across a gravel field in a South African shanty town.
How were the comments received? Look, all those British people would've thought it was hilarious if one of those ladies from Absolutely Fabulous said it.
Everyone was this close to picking up stones out of the gravel and hurling them. The fact coffee had been provided at this early-morning event but no cups to pour it into just skyrocketed the emotions.
I backed up against the wire fence of the media pen.
"What exactly do they know?" I whispered to another reporter.
"Everything," she replied. "They read it all."
"Oh, she knows."
That frazzled palace minder Marnie, who was always blamed for everything and constantly running around putting out fires, had become more than aware of the candid photos and observations I'd published of her in the recaps.
Despite her no-nonsense attitude, a source indicates she secretly adored her portrayal which is terrific because she was shown in exquisite light.
Meghan who? Forget about that Duchess, there's a new dame in town and Australia has developed a lot of affection for her.
On social media, one reader described her as a "female heroine" for the ages while another dubbed her a "true hero". Someone suggested she be cast in the upcoming series of Married At First Sight.
Countless readers publicly demanded she be served a Pimm's ASAP.
Never before has a star risen so quickly.
On the surface, Marnie played it cool and refused to acknowledge her growing star power.
When the event on the outskirts of JoBurg ended, she hopped into one of the royal Range Rovers just as I happened to be walking across the gravel and, I swear to god, they tried to run me down. I think I even heard Marnie yell, "Charge!"
Okay, that last part's a lie. But I did have to dive out of the way and choked on a cloud of dust as they sped off.
With the tour successfully up in flames, Harry and Meghan caught a dingy commercial flight back to London because more accusations about being personally responsible for the hole in the ozone layer was the last thing they needed.
Harry was looking forward to getting back into his usual routine and Meghan couldn't wait to kick back in a turret and bind some books. Oh, didn't you hear? She's a keen book binder. Don't act like that doesn't make sense. During a surprise appearance in JoBurg, she met a local who crafts books and she revealed she used to coach book binding.
I know, I know.
Looking back, this strange admission is probably the first true sign the couple was on the edge of losing it. Book binding? Just wow.
This personal piece of trivia about the Duchess is completely tedious yet wildly compelling. Does she still practice the dark art of book binding? Perhaps she spends her days wandering around the palace, collecting delicate leafs of fancy paper before skipping back to Frogmore to bind them into bespoke booklets. She could sell them on Etsy.
It would be a good use of her time because who knows when they'll brave another world tour. A much-deserved retreat will also allow time for Marnie to break away and explore more opportunities in the public eye. After she enjoys a well-deserved Pimm's.
James Weir was on the royal tour in South Africa. He was a guest of South African Tourism and Cathay Pacific.
Twitter and Facebook: @hellojamesweir