Harry and Meghan: too whiny and woke for royalty

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The decision made by the Duchess of Sussex to sue Associated Newspapers over articles which featured parts of a “private and confidential” letter from the Duchess to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, has led to a great deal of controversy within the British public over the relationship between the royal family and the press.

Her good deeds did not wholly distract from the inherent distrust of her ‘otherness.’

The constitutional theorist Walter Bagehot said of the monarchy in the 19th century, “Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic”. Meghan Markle, coming from the world of modern celebrity, wanted her ‘wokeness’ to modernise the traditionally inactive and neutral stance of the royals. She tussled with the mantra that the Queen lives by: “Never complain, never explain”, desiring to open up to the press and push on with her do-good agenda and ideas. She had her own expectations of what royal life would be.

When they open up too much or become too engaged with current affairs it becomes disquieting for the majority of the public.

In reality, one month the Duchess of Sussex was worshipped for the breath of fresh air she offered, the next month one mistake led to relatively unfair commentary, in small instances racist and misogynistic, towards her. The coverage was much more volatile than she expected, and her good deeds did not wholly distract from the inherent distrust of her ‘otherness’: every movement was scrutinised intensely.

The press and the British public do not want the royals to be controversialists; they don’t like to hear them say things that make them feel uncomfortable. The ‘magic’ and allure of the royal family is in their mystery, and when they open up too much or become too engaged with current affairs it becomes disquieting for the majority of the public.

Meghan and Harry appear to be relatively thin-skinned when it comes to criticism.

The royal family seem to have it in their head that the press is constantly out to get them. Perhaps they forget that William and Harry were left mostly alone for their adolescence after the death of their mother and pictures of Kate sunbathing topless published in 2012 by French magazine, Closer, were not published by the mainstream British media. On the whole, the British press are good to the royals, but Meghan and Harry appear to be relatively thin-skinned when it comes to criticism.

They want to have their cake and eat it.

This explains the move to abandon the tolerance towards press intrusion that the institution demands and leave their royal duties behind. The decision to sue Associated Newspapers is emblematic of their desire to move away from the traditionally aloof and unresponsive attitude of the royals into a paradigm of normality, albeit of celebrity. They want to have their cake and eat it, that is, engage with the press and enact their ‘wokeness’ on society, but protest if they feel like their privacy has been breached, or if they just don’t want their photo taken that day.

In the last year, Meghan and Harry have discovered that the more information you give people, the hungrier they will be for more, just at the point where they might want to take a step behind closed doors again. Taking the press to court will undoubtably lead to more criticism, fuelling their conviction that the British media is out to get them.

Yet do they deserve the criticism they will inevitably receive over the court case? The institution damns members of the royal family to press intrusion and then the media demands stifled tolerance in return. Now that they have decisively chosen to leave that institution, can they be blamed for kicking up a fuss at the breach of privacy they have accused Associated Newspapers of? They were naïve if they thought that they could avoid press intrusion and only receive positive coverage while they were active royals. Now they have shifted paradigms, the press needs to change the narrative that controls public opinion; we cannot expect the same from them anymore.

The recent interview with Harry where he discussed his struggles with mental health highlights his desire to stop bottling things up. Yet together Harry and Meghan are reactive and sometimes fractious. They want to open up without being criticised, something which contradicts the very essence of how the royal family functions, and what sustains it: it’s ability to remain neutral and preserve an element of mystery.

Feature image by Sue. Available via Flickr.

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