Things as I see them
I see a lot of people repeating the phrase, ‘Meghan just didn’t know what she was getting herself into’.
But personally I don’t buy into the image of Meghan Markle as a naive victim that was scooped up and spat out by the Royal crushing machine. Instead, I think the whole situation that’s unfolded in the last year is more about the personal vision that Meghan had of How Things Would Go, and the fallout when that scenario failed to eventuate. Let me take an O.J. Simpson, ‘If I Did It’ approach and see how the glove fits.
Meghan had been in the show biz, self-promotion and charitable causes game for a long time before she came into Harry’s orbit. She knew how that world worked, and had positioned herself well within it.
After she and Harry connected, enticing possibilities loomed: Meghan — publicly known, well-branded, a thoroughly modern and independent woman — would make a perfect addition to The Firm. It read like a modern fairy-tale, the Prince and the Philanthropist, bonding over shared causes. Meghan states she knew nothing about Harry and his family before meeting him, her refusal to see him as anything other than her boyfriend, Harry, all part of her charm.
Never-the-less, Meghan delighted in the prospect of taking credit for shaking up the fusty Royal family with her dynamic, go-getting energy, re-invigorating its brand with a much-needed injection of modernity. Her and Harry’s Sussex romance would become a love-story-for-the-ages (not to mention spawn a bona fide international power couple) and she would step elegantly into Diana’s humanitarian and fashionista shoes, in time loved and legendary — an international icon.
And then that didn’t happen. She discovered there were Royal protocols, ways of operating that had stood for centuries, firstly because of the sets of arcane rules about how the royals must operate within the law and government, but also because being royal isn’t about busting boundaries or cutting your own swath. It’s about your duties, your service to the Crown. You are a cog in the royal machine.
One doesn’t just scoop that tiara out of the vault with a quick ‘MM, will bring it back this arvo’ jotted in the ledger, ignoring the previous 700 years worth of entries and arrangements. ‘But what’s the problem?’ Meghan wonders, ‘you’re the Royals — protocol’s there to serve you, surely, not the other way round?’ How fuddy-duddy of the Palace to not see this.
Perhaps that’s when Meghan began to have an inkling that she’d had The Wrong Idea about what being a royal entailed.
The notorious British gutter press also got in there and stirred the pot, as did the online freaks who like to spew racist invective, because that’s always a guarantee of swift attention. Then unfair and unfavorable comparisons were made between ‘Waity Katie’, otherwise known as the Duchess of Cambridge (and the Queen-to-be) and Meghan because, well, that kind of thing sells the daily rags.
I must be getting old, because my immediately thought was, ‘why on Earth didn’t anyone given Meghan Fergie’s number?’ Not the former Black-Eyed Pea — Prince Andrew’s ex.
Although initially cast as allies on her entry into The Firm, it didn’t take Sarah Ferguson long to fall victim to rumors of rivalry and unflattering comparisons to Diana in every new article. The worst picture of any set — one of Fergie braying, tripping or violating protocol — was slapped next to one of Diana, invariably looking elegant, demure and gorgeous, paired under some humiliating headline. The press cruelly dubbed her ‘The Duchess of Pork’.
It’s a classic setup, totally unoriginal, and unfortunately in this case, Meghan became the Fergie. Not right and totally toxic, but still the way the press works in England today.
As an actress, I would’ve thought Meghan would know better than to read her own reviews and choose instead to focus on thoughts of gratitude for her privileged life of beauty, wealth and position, but evidently it was not enough to salvage the situation. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be, how she was supposed to be seen, fêted, adored. Meghan had Lost Control of the Narrative.
And that, I think, is at the crux of everything that has happened in the last year — Meghan’s upset at losing control of the way people perceive her, the sloppy dismantling of her meticulously-constructed brand and iconography by the British press. She thought she had an ‘in’ on a life of enormous privilege and perceived power, but it ended up being a gilded cage in which her lip was expected to be kept dutifully stiff and her cheek turned stoically to any criticism and baiting, no matter how cruel.
But that wasn’t her style. Irresistible force Meghan met the immovable object of The Firm, and she realized that things weren’t going to go as she had envisioned, and that she was no longer in control of her personal brand as long as she stayed within the confines of the British Royal Family. Something had to be done.
So Meghan and Harry flew the coop, and I think their actions since then have confirmed what this is really all about. After fleeing from the relentless hounding of Fleet Street, you’d think they’d be relieved to have a modicum of privacy to get on with what’s really important to them: raising their young family, promoting public awareness of worthy causes close to their heart, and becoming advocates for those less fortunate.
But hang on — here they are on Oprah, ready to give Their Side of The Story. Instead of getting on with things in the privacy that they’d craved, they’re still talking about the toxic press and its effects (comments we’d all agreed with previously) but also unloading what amounts to tales of family squabbles and run-ins with gauche relatives, in an attack against the Royal Family. And in the process, inadvertently revealing their blindness to their own privilege.
Let’s run through the list of revelations and complaints:
The British press is racist. Firstly, I’m in full agreement that the British press is toxic and many changes need to be made in the way they treat those that they write about. And, yes, undoubtedly there will be members of the press who harbor racist views. But whatever the case, the papers make their bread and butter promoting feuds (real or imagined) between members of royalty, film casts, corporations, reality show contestants — you name it, there’s a scandal to manufacture. Even better if you can dish some dirt between a member of the Royal Family and their commoner relatives. But not all of the brainless stirring comes from a racist perspective, it’s just what the papers do.
Then there was the press’s coverage of a pre-wedding spat over bridesmaid’s tights that made one or both of the participants cry, which was then nicely resolved. The press, knowingly or unknowingly, got the details wrong and made a big deal of it. This was, again, put down to racism.
Perhaps the Royals didn’t prepare Meghan well enough for the media onslaught. But she initially did an excellent job of engaging with the press on her tour of the Antipodes, where it was all oohs and ahs about her clothes, the snuggling of babies and comments about what a lovely newlywed couple they were. I think Meghan likes the press when it works for her, which is only natural. But if you know that the press are spouting nonsense, perhaps it might pay to take a leaf out of your royal in-laws’ book, give it the attention it deserves, and ignore it.
A member of Harry’s family apparently made some very outdated, gauche remarks about the potential color of their unborn child’s skin. Not a great look to be sure, but most of us have been at a family occasions where granny or that weird uncle say something that makes everyone’s eyes roll. We politely sip our soup and get on with it. Or we can read them to filth, if we think they are the type that will humbly take it on board and make the changes needed, and all members of the family will still be talking to each other at the end of it. I find it interesting that Meghan was willing to reference the incident, but not name names, and also that she appears to have sprung that nugget on Harry on the day of the interview.
Another revelation was that Meghan and Harry have now been forced to live off their own fortunes since asking to be released from their Royal Duties, and Harry’s dad has stopped giving them a five million pounds a year stipend, as part of Charles’s effort to streamline the monarchy, i.e. deflect criticism of the Royals greedily sucking at the tax-payers’ teat. This was described as being ‘cut off’. But Harry inherited approximately 20 million pounds from his mother Diana’s estate, and Meghan’s personal fortune is said to be around $60 million. So I can’t say that they’ve been left destitute, and both seem clever enough to parlay their assets into something that will support their lifestyle, as we’ve already seen with the various media deals they’ve quickly brokered.
Meghan revealed that at a time when she needed support for her mental health, she approached Palace HR with a request that they pay for her therapy. They apologized, told her they couldn’t pay for it because she was not an employee, and told her she’d have to pay for any therapy herself. Maybe Meghan was looking for a show of solidarity here, a token to show they understood that she was having a rough time settling in, but of course labrum superius rigida is practically an unofficial motto of the Royal family, as is playing it by the book, and this request may not have been something that the more senior royals were even apprised of at the time the refusal was made.
The things that Meghan and Harry discuss, apart from dealing with the press, are all things that most ordinary, more-or-less-dysfunctional families deal with in the course of normal family life. Growing pains settling into the a new family dynamic, getting used to ‘the way things are done’, rivalry between relatives, awkward incidents with racist or otherwise ‘off’ relatives, money squabbles. It’s relatively par for the course. Why drag out the rather drudgey family laundry for all to see?
Perhaps because you can’t just come out and say you left because you’re upset that your expectations of how things would go, the way that you would be treated, fêted, celebrated and deferred to, weren’t met. Or you can’t talk about how you didn’t handle it head on, within the family, because you’d expected that in that family, everything would be perfect, you’d be above criticism, and life would be easy and you didn’t handle the frustration well. So there have to be Other Reasons.
I think Meghan envisioned herself as a princess long before she became a member of The Firm and Harry was too in love to see any long-term consequences of ill-met expectations. Inklings of their ‘having it our way’ attitude have been on the horizon for a while now, but I was still surprised to see just how the Oprah interview laid bare Meghan and Harry’s entitlement for all to see. With it, they shot themselves in the foot and extinguished much of the good-will they still retained, should they have kept quiet. But they had to have their say.
When the fairy-tale didn’t unfold as Meghan had envisioned it would, with all the privilege, deference and adulation she expected, she fled from the castle and made Harry’s family the dragon. They could have gone to L.A. and quietly got on with things, happy to be out of the circus, but that wasn’t what it was all about, really. But now that they’ve lobbed their parting shot, we’ll see them ‘bravely’ build their Brand-new life, in spite of Everything They Have Been Through.
And that’s why I dislike Meghan and Harry, not because of racism or jealousy, but because they’ve behaved like entitled, tone-deaf brats who’ve turned family squabbles and disappointed expectations into a narrative of personal victimization.