Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
If there was one word to describe Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it would be ‘unconventional.’ For better or worse, it’s their unconventionality which has captured public attention and since forced them out of the Royal family. Between her activism, age, nationality, career and skin colour, these are all things which have singled Meghan Markle out as breaking the royal mould.
Harry and Meghan began dating in June 2016, announcing their engagement in November 2017 and getting married in May 2018, with a fanfare of negative press. She was ‘different’, and the age-old institution of the monarchy doesn’t have a good track record for dealing with different. Neither do the British tabloids.
Comparisons between Meghan Markle and Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, were sadly inevitable. William and Kate’s fairytale wedding and conventional family have always played within the rules and never disappointed anyone. But there is notable hypocrisy in the media for their coverage on these two women.
In 2017 while Kate was pregnant with their third child, Express ran an article titled ‘Kate’s morning sickness cure? Prince William gifted with an avocado for pregnant Duchess,’ after Prince William was gifted an avocado by a child whose mother was also suffering with intense morning sickness. However, during Meghan’s pregnancy in 2019, the Daily Mail ran an article titled ‘How Meghan’s favourite avocado snack – beloved of all millennials – is fuelling human rights abuses, drought and murder.’ The specific attack on millennials is also ridiculous considering that Meghan is actually one year older than Kate.
Even more ludicrous are two articles both run by the Daily Mail. Regarding Kate: ‘Pregnant Kate tenderly cradles her baby bump while wrapping up her royal duties ahead of maternity leave…’. Regarding Meghan: ‘Why can’t Meghan Markle keep her hands off her bump? … Is it pride, vanity, acting – or a new age bonding technique?’ Looking at them side by side reveals the blatantly unfair narratives surrounding royal wives.
What really shocked me this year was media treatment of Meghan after the news that she had suffered a miscarriage in July. Meghan published an article in The New York Times to try and raise awareness, but this was slammed as a cry for attention and good press to help her image. The criticism she received over this was abhorrent.
It also brings to mind something said by Lord Spencer during his eulogy to his sister Princess Diana in 1997:
‘She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers. I don’t think she ever understood why her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down.’
The question is, why, 23 years later, have we not learned from Diana’s death? What is it about Meghan that has divided opinion so strongly? Unfortunately, a lot of this we can put down to her skin colour.
Meghan Markle is mixed-race. This was a shock to an institution which has never had much diversity. But her skin colour was just something that people rejected being at the heart of the British Royal family.
But why does it matter? Harry will never be King and nor will his children. But even if Harry or his children were to be King one day, it is baffling why people are so threatened by the idea of a monarch who isn’t 100% white. If anything, a bit of diversity in there might help the monarchy in the 21st century – let’s not forget that monarchies are very much the exception in today’s world.
Other than her ethnicity, Meghan has broken the mould for a lot of other things. Thankfully, we seem to have finally moved on from narratives about American divorcee actresses (unfortunately too late for Wallis Simpson), and while it may have raised some eyebrows, it is refreshing to see someone from the real world. Whilst a lot of noise was made about Kate Middleton being a commoner, she comes from an upper middle-class family with ties to the aristocracy. Meghan Markle is real.
As such, she also has form for being an activist and politically minded. The Royal family has a policy of public neutrality on all political topics. Their impartiality and insistence that they be above such matters is seen as vital, and a break from this represents a constitutional crisis.
The couple came under fire this year when they released a video urging people to vote in the US Presidential election, calling it ‘the most important election in our lifetime.’ Whilst the video itself did not state which way people should vote, it has been suggested that their intent was to back Joe Biden over Donald Trump. Meghan has previously criticised Trump for being ‘misogynistic’ and ‘divisive’, so we know where her allegiances likely lie.
The fact is, they’re gone now. For whatever reasons, they were driven out and we now won’t know what benefits we might have seen from someone so different in this institution. It seems that the case for modernisation and diversity in the crown has been set back again. Let anyone marrying into the Royal Family beware; things haven’t changed at all.