Shappi Khorsandi, The Independent
If you think talking about what’s going on with Meghan Markle and the royal family is merely gossip and therefore beneath you, then, frankly, you are missing an exciting cultural shift, which has been brewing in the monarchy for years.
Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday has so rattled Buckingham Palace, they are investigating bullying claims against her that were made two years ago. Because, of course, before Meghan’s arrival on the scene, the royal family were only ever known for their utter respect for ordinary people. Just ask Princess “get back to the colonies” Michael of Kent.
Like many second-born children, Prince Harry doesn’t have the same responsibility first-born children do. This pattern is clear, even in my distinctly not-royal family. My brother, the first-born, is the most dutiful. He checks in on my parents more regularly and is first on the scene when either of them is poorly, or needs a plumber. He got the grown-up job, whereas I, the merry second-born, was free to run away with the circus.
I wonder sometimes if William and Catherine, with their fixed smiles, look at Harry and Meghan in America, having a laugh, hanging out with Oprah and think, “you jammy bastards”. There was no way the heir to the throne could possibly have done what Harry has done, which is fall in love and marry a woman who is AN AMERICAN, self-made, mixed race, and seems to have zero interest in being in the public eye on anything other than her own terms. There is nothing wrong with any of these things.
Yet she is being relentlessly, mercilessly vilified by the British press, including Piers Morgan, who seems to have a bizarre fixation with the fact that she didn’t stay in touch after her star rose higher than his. Dude, do you even showbiz?!
The racism towards her online was blatant and intense. In the media, however, the racism is insidiously dismissed as paranoia. “It’s NOT because she’s black. We simply want to paint her as evil for mysterious reasons that none of us can quite explain. It’s definitely NOT racism, though, because none of us are actually duffing her up behind the bins or posting dog poo through her letterbox. That’s the only kind of racism that counts, and any other kind of racism is made up by killjoy lefties who won’t let us hammer this women into the ground.”
Swathes of black voices call it out, only to be told they are imagining it, are “too sensitive” by not-black broadcasters and journalists who don’t consider that black people calling it racism do so because they have experienced exactly what Meghan has experienced, only not quite so publicly.
A black woman with her own ideas, her own strong personality, one that was never going to say, “and how would you like me to be?”, was never going to be the darling of our press.On Sunday, we will watch her big interview with Oprah Winfrey. “Why does she declare she wants privacy and yet does such a high profile interview?” is the prattle from the “Meghan is ruining all of our lives” brigade. I’m not sure if it’s total privacy she’s been asking for, rather a desire not to be dehumanised and hounded.
She’s doing the interview because she wants to be a public figure. She wants to have her say in things that matter to her and, let’s face it, possibly enjoys being famous and powerful and wants to build on that. So do plenty of people.
All the royals needed to do for Meghan was stand up for her. They thought having a non-white member of the royal family was “modernising”. What would actually have dragged The Firm into this century is if they had stuck up for her, publicly, when she was being battered by the press and when the internet was awash with vile racial abuse. There was no dignity or decorum in their silence.
Meghan wasn’t quiet. She is an American. She hasn’t been raised with the reverence towards the royal family us Brits have. She couldn’t possibly have understood any of the unbending ritual and pomp that goes with it or its emotional constipation and damn it, maybe that’s one of the reasons Harry was so attracted to her. Maybe he was never going to marry a woman who could “toe the line”. Maybe he can’t ever let go of how his mum was treated. Maybe he needed to escape.
When I look at Prince Harry, I still see that grief-stricken 11-year-old boy, walking behind his mother’s coffin, with the world watching his grief. He has grown up knowing how his mother was hounded, that her painful feelings were dismissed by his immediate family, all of them trained to deride public displays of emotion and bury them instead.
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