Obsession is an understatement when it comes to the British tabloids’ constant reporting of Meghan Markle’s daily endeavors. Sometimes when I check Snapchat in the morning, I find myself staring at a clickbait thumbnail from Daily Mail or The Sun ridiculing Markle for what seem to be the most insignificant issues. I remember being dumbfounded after seeing an article criticizing Meghan for having closed her own car door, which had apparently broken the royal protocol.
What is behind the intense media and public interest in Meghan Markle? Meghan’s intersectional identities are certainly at play. Is it because she is an American? A divorcee? An actress? A woman of mixed Black and white background? Is it because she is three years older than Harry?
Anybody who is familiar with royal history will tell you that Meghan and Harry’s relationship resembled that of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII. Wallis, like Meghan, is an older American socialite, who also happened to be a divorcee. Long story short, their affair ended in Prince Edward abdicating the throne and passing it to Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI. Perhaps the monarchist British public are scared that Meghan and Harry will repeat history and weaken the monarchy like their predecessors. But how does that explain the countless parallels between how the media portrayed Meghan and Kate Middleton?
In a November 2020 article in Cosmopolitan, author Paulina Jayne Issac speculates that Kate Middleton attended University of St. Andrews instead of the much more premier University of Edinburgh with the intention of meeting Prince William. The author contends she even went so far as to switch her class to Art History because she knew William was going to be there, yet Kate Middleton and Prince William’s history is still dubbed as fate. Good for Kate, yet why was Meghan dubbed a manipulative opportunist for marrying a prince? A few years down the line, while the two duchesses were pregnant and each were seen in public holding their baby bumps, the Daily Mail described Middleton saying she “tenderly cradles her baby bump while wrapping up her royal duties ahead of maternity leave.” On the other hand, the same outlet questioned why Meghan couldn’t keep her hand off her bump: “is it pride, vanity, acting – or a new age bonding technique?” The Daily Mail even invited experts to weigh in on the issue. Does cradling one’s baby bump deserve that much public concern?
The vicious, exaggerated tabloid reports began even before the Sussex married in May of 2018. When the pair first started the relationship, the Daily Mail was even more inflammatory, referencing Meghan’s family to Compton, Calif., in an article exploring her background, even though she is actually from Crenshaw, Calif. Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, lives in Compton. The article describes Crenshaw as “plagued by crime and riddled with street gangs,'' which “couldn’t be more different to London’s leafy Kensington,” where Harry was raised. To me, the underlying message behind the article is clear: A woman from Crenshaw is not worthy of the prestigious and elevated prince. The city where her mother resides is portrayed as a troubled area, without a single mention of its humility. The article further discusses Meghan’s ex-husband and how his affluent Long Island, N.Y., neighborhood upbringing similarly differs from the Long Beach, Calif., area, insinuating that Meghan is a “gold digger” who seeks relationships with wealthy, powerful men.
Personally, it seems there are racial undertones beneath the media firestorm that is ridiculing Meghan’s every move, but Meghan’s interactions with the monarchy itself was full of conflicts as well. It was revealed by Meghan during the highly anticipated March 7 interview with Oprah Winfrey that an unnamed member of the royal family was concerned about the skin color of Meghan and Prince Harry’s baby Archie. This comes as no surprise when you realize that the royal family is elitist and exclusionary. We are talking about the family who, until Prince Charles’ generation, has intermarried amongst their extended relatives, to restrict the elite power within their royal families. We are also talking about the family who has led and enabled the exploitation and colonization of the Global South for centuries. We are speaking of a family whose members' wealth and privileges are a birthright. Because of these historical events and the power structure that is the royal family, the public accustomed to the monarchy and the monarchy themselves would be unaccepting of Meghan Markle. Meghan is, after all, one of the first non-aristocratic women and the first Black woman in this lineage of monarchs.
The Oprah interview centering the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, aired for the world to see and sparked controversy. Oprah spoke with Meghan exclusively at first, addressing the media’s unfair treatment of her and her family. Prince Harry was then invited to the set, echoing the Duchess’ claims.
It is disheartening to hear the Sussexes talk about the intense scrutiny they were constantly under, especially after their departure from the institution, stepping away as senior royals. I was deeply sympathetic and enraged when Meghan disclosed the countless unjust treatments she has endured from the media and the institution itself, such as the aforementioned tabloid frenzy. How dare the media and the institution judge her when Prince Charles and Camila were adulterers who plunged Princess Diana’s mental health into an abyss? How dare the media and the institution mistreat her as such when Prince Andrew was photographed with a minor in affiliation with Jeffrey Epstein? There are many royal scandals and injustices actually deserving of the media’s critique and bombardment. Instead, their wrongdoings and crimes have received far less attention and concern compared to Meghan’s mere existence.
I, like many, am angered at the injustice Meghan had to endure at the hands of both the institution and the media. However, I also believe we should not whole-heartedly defend a public figure, such as Meghan, as we would a family member, seeing as we don’t know them and should also evaluate their privilege. It is important that everybody who tuned into the interview is aware that the Sussexes were living on tax money, 2.4 million pounds of which they spent to refurbish Frogmore Cottage, one of the many royal estates. The Sussexes currently reside in a $14.65 million Santa Barbara Montecito mansion. They had taken out a $9.5-million mortgage, and the rest was paid for partially with contracts with Netflix for their upcoming documentary. It is also noteworthy that the couple was not working before this purchase.
Clearly, Meghan and Harry both live in insurmountable financial privilege. It also goes without saying that Oprah, the interviewer, is also a billionaire. Therefore, to me, the integrity of the interview is deserving of reasonable suspicion. Can we really trust everything these people say? Are the questions rehearsed? We can only speculate. While we offer our unwavering support and compassion towards Meghan, it is important we recognize their privilege, the racist and elitist nature of the monarchy, as well as the money at the foot of the interview.
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