Harry and Meghan: rules of distraction

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Every fairy-tale has a villain and over the past 18 months the tabloid press have been dedicated to designating this title to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In fact, the British media has focused so much on Meghan Markle over the past 18 months, dubbing ‘Megxit’ the “biggest threat to the monarchy in 85 years”, that you almost forget Prince Andrew’s problematic past. 

Piers Morgan has written 192 articles for MailOnline since January 2019, 32 of which criticising one, or both, of the Sussexes. In comparison, only three of those articles were written about the significantly more serious allegations against Prince Andrew.

The media’s obsession with Meghan Markle is concerning and sometimes deranged. There is a clear double standard for Meghan in comparison to Kate Middleton. Kate was praised for touching her bump, Meghan was called “vain”. Kate eating an avocado is merely a “morning sickness cure”, yet when Meghan ate an avocado she was endorsing “human rights abuses and droughts”. This was a clear attempt by the press to pit the women against each other in a way reminiscent of the Diana era. 

To sue the press over alleged privacy breaches but then to remain in the public eye is hypocritical

Whilst the press has targeted Kate, for years her weight was ruthlessly scrutinised, there are potentially more dimensions to the tabloid’s treatment of Meghan. Racially charged discussions, subconscious or not, have framed Meghan as “demanding” or “aggressive”. There have also been examples of the media being explicitly racist – radio presenter Danny Baker was sacked for comparing Archie to a chimpanzee. 

What was notable for the large part was the Palace’s silence. Even MPs from both parties have addressed the racial abuse Meghan experienced. The Palace was undoubtedly in an awkward position: there were perhaps lines they cannot overstep when it comes to the press and, as the Sussexes pointed out, many members of the press have regularly attended functions hosted by the Palace. However, a more vocal condemnation of the racial abuse Meghan was suffering would have been significant in denying that the Royal Family was outdated and only protect their ‘own’. 

Fully accepting a mixed-raced woman into the Royal Institution was perhaps never going to happen by the press or the Palace. It would require a reckoning with the Royal Family’s past as colonisers and their role in the Slave trade. Prince Philip has a history of casual racism while Princess Michael of Kent was forced to apologise for wearing a racist broach when meeting Meghan. The Sussexes also allege there were conversations within the royal family questioning how dark Archie’s skin would be. 

Fully accepting a mixed-raced woman into the Royal Institution was perhaps never going to happen

What arguably sits uncomfortably with this decision to step down as senior royals and seek privacy is their recent ‘tell all’ Oprah interview, as well as their lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify. To sue the press over alleged privacy breaches but ensure they remain in the public eye is hypocritical; but, again, there are striking comparisons to Princess Diana who at times utilised the press to her own advantage. However, there is a difference. With those projects the Sussexes’ can control which parts of their lives they share and how. They can establish their own boundaries in respect to their position as public figures and their need for privacy. It is about consent. 

However, there is also the glaring hypocrisy of the Palace. It was announced this week, almost in response to the Oprah interview, that the Palace are launching an investigation into allegations against Meghan made in 2018. Why now? And why has the Palace refused to launch an investigation into Andrew allegedly sexually assaulting minors and his concerning connections to Jeffrey Epstein, allegations which are far more serious?

It perhaps should be considered that the obsession and vilification of the Sussexes’ and the Palace’s conduct is intended to distract. The revelations about Prince Andrew’s alleged sexual misconduct and his disastrous TV interview should be much more damaging to the Palace than the Sussexes’ alleged hypocrisy. This vilification is also arguably intended to hide the fact that the monarchy is an outdated institution where racial tensions are all too present.

Image: dackelprincess via Flickr.

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