ROSE EVANS discusses the controversial Royal interview, and its implications for the Royal Family...
Whilst the centuries-old British monarchy is beginning to be seen as irrelevant, for some, it offers stability and reassurance for the country. Back in 2017 when Prince Harry started dating Meghan Markle, a mixed-race American actress, it sparked a refreshing, but controversial new generation of Royals. There was optimism for the future of the Royal Family as a woman of colour entered the institution, so surely it would be moment of change and perspective on social issues? Well, opinion has been mixed!
The recent interview Meghan and Harry had with Oprah a year after their last Royal appearance sparked huge controversies over the relevance of the monarchy because of the alleged institutional racism within the Palace, mental health issues, and The Firm’s attitude towards it.
There are polarised opinions about Megxit and the Royal Family, but I think it is also a difference in generational attitudes. Some of the older members in British society have upheld the same traditional, social and political values present when Princess Diana had similarly suffered in the spotlight. But that was still swept under the carpet. In Prince Harry’s own words, he was anxious that the same pain and heartache experienced from the loss of his mother, would not be mirrored in the future with his wife: ‘I was worried that history would repeat itself’.
Mental Health Matters
Young people often appear to be more empathetic to Meghan’s revelation about her deteriorating mental health, particularly throughout her pregnancy, saying: ‘she didn’t want to be alive anymore’. More than anything, her confession shocked the very same people for whom Meghan had been an ambassador.
Her rhetoric resonates with them, because it appeals to what they consider important, whilst some might hold more of a ‘stiff upper lip’ to discussions about mental health, based on what used to be considered socially acceptable to talk about. Without this interview, we may not have identified her struggles and pain as she had put on a performance for the media. Meghan commented on how, during her time with The Firm, she learnt that they are ‘judged on perception, but […] living the reality’. She highlighted that even though they’re in a place of immense privilege, they still have the pain and struggles when the doors are closed: and no one sees that. People just see the glamour of royalty. The reality of being part of the Royal Family is that they're constantly being monitored by the watchful eyes of the global media's camera lens.
Autonomy or Isolation?
Meghan also commented on how she didn’t have any guidance on how to behave when she first entered the family, from curtsying to knowing how to cross your legs. She described her introduction to The Firm as almost archaic and layered with traditions, and with the economic and social privilege of her role, the perception is that they are free. It’s quite the opposite. Meghan’s discourse revealed a sense of entrapment and lack of agency within her role saying: ‘she left the house twice in four months’. We all know what that feels like during lockdown; her sense of personal freedom was stripped away from her. The perceived glamour of The Royal Family is to step well dressed in expensive designers, with a painted smile on your face: a facade of happiness.
Are the Royal Family Actually Racist?
The interview was geared around the racism that Meghan had fallen victim to, through British tabloids. She confessed that she doesn’t read any press or tabloids about herself, arguably for the best. During the period of their engagement and wedding, there wasn’t a newspaper or magazine that didn’t have her name or face scribbled in it. Mostly, tabloid press were making up sensationalist headlines about Meghan, forcing her to hide her face even more. The racism allegations made by Meghan and Harry exposed the archaic ideas upheld by the Institution. The reality of the Royals is completely different to ours, their ideology is different, and their values are different. So how can they remain so relevant in an ever-changing world?
Meghan’s introduction into the family as a mixed-race American woman, whose previous feminist discourse and charitable work has already proved that her humanitarian view established her as a perfect fit for the Royal duties she would perform. As an 11-year-old, young Meghan called out a sexist soap advertisement which assumed the role of women as domestic household cleaners. Meghan’s complaint led to the strapline of the advert to be more gender neutral. It was clear that this institutional racism transcended beyond Meghan to Archie, as she and Prince Harry reveal that one of the family members asked: ‘how dark is his skin going to be?’.
The disclosure of this statement, alongside the revelation of Archie’s title and security being stripped away, could lead the public to assume that these actions were a consequence of Archie’ race, and not because of the convention of King George V, made in 1917.
Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Harry has highlighted how much racism is potentially institutionally embedded in society. Meghan’s independence and courage to use her voice against the silence of her Royal life is a symbol of progression and defiance towards institutional racism, and adds to the activism of the Black Lives Matter movement. Her voice has polarised the British public’s perception of the Monarchy and revealed that history does, in fact, repeat itself as Meghan comments that life in the Royal family was ‘almost unsurvivable’. Will they ever learn?
Things needs to change
Meghan finally voicing her mental health struggles has reinforced the importance of speaking out when you need help. Unfortunately, unable to receive professional help, what else was there to do other than escape that environment? With her allegations currently under scrutiny in the media, it goes to show the potentially destructive effect tabloids have on mental and physical health. The privileged aren’t untouchable; in some ways, they can be the most vulnerable.
Written by Rose Evans