By Dhiraj Kumar
Two weeks ago, it was a feeling of Déjà vu for the people of the United Kingdom and the rest of the world when the explosive interview of Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and Duke of Sussex Prince Harry aired on CBS for the American television audience. 26 years ago, Harry’s mother Lady Diana Spencer had shaken up everyone with a similar interview. In 1995, Diana gave a stormy interview to journalist Martin Bashir for the BBC’s Panorama program in which she shocked the United Kingdom with secret revelations about her life with the Windsors. She had accused the palace as an “establishment” in which her mental condition had deteriorated after her marriage to Prince Charles.
Fast-forward to the entry of American divorcee and TV actress Meghan Markle into Prince Harry’s life on a blind date in 2016. After months of dating, the palace announced Meghan and Harry’s engagement in November 2017. They got married on 19th May 2018 at the St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle after they were christened as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by Queen Elizabeth. In less than five months after the wedding, the couple announced the expected arrival of their first-born Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor. What seemed to be a fairy tale royal life had cracks right from the start.
Early signs of discord with the family began in October 2019, when Meghan Markle gave an emotional interview to ITV’s Tom Bradby in Africa in which she explained her struggles of coping with the ever-mounting public interest in her life and the early stages of pregnancy and motherhood. The negative press coverage from some parts of British media was a cause of stress for her. Harry too expressed the difficulty he was having to adjust with their new royal titles. He was not happy to be followed by the tabloids like his mother was. Earlier that month, Meghan had sued a British newspaper The Mail for leaking a private letter she had written to her father. Harry issued a statement “I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.” Meghan added that a British friend had warned her that British tabloids will destroy her life when she had just met Harry. Meghan’s admitted to Bradby that she was very “naïve” about the British tabloids and “did not get it”. Speaking during the same tour of Africa, Harry expressed his deep anguish that “every click of the camera got back memories of his mother Diana in the worst reminder rather than the best” alluding to the infamous tabloid culture which had a significant hand in his mother’s death.
Early in January 2020, the rumblings in the palace came louder when in a sudden move Harry and Meghan announced their decision to “step back” from royal duties with a post on Instagram “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as senior members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.” Harry later revealed that they were left with “no other option” as they were not keen to be full-time royals.
Meghan & Harry were unstoppable from here on when they signed deals with Netflix and Spotify to explore their creative side as content producers and podcasters. On Valentine’s Day in 2021, the couple announced the expected arrival of their second child. Four days after this announcement, Buckingham Palace announced that Harry and Meghan would not return as working royals. “While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much-loved members of the family.” The queen also announced that she would take away the “royal patronages she previously granted to the couple and strip Harry of his honorary military titles” hinting at a family divorce with the couple. Harry and Meghan informed through media that they would be shuttling between the United States and the United Kingdom.
In March 2021, the Harry-Meghan interview exploded across the world creating an overnight sensation. As per rumors Harry and Meghan were paid $7 million by CBS to share their side of the story. The Buckingham Palace had always been tight-lipped about controversies surrounding its family members for decades.
Meghan spoke to America’s celebrated television anchor Oprah Winfrey one-on-one, opening her heart out on the issues plaguing her and Harry. Speaking extensively of her life as a royal since their wedding, Meghan threw a bombshell when she said that she “didn’t want to be alive anymore”, due to her isolation and loneliness. Meghan portrayed herself as a causality of the media image obsession of the palace.
Meghan accused the royal establishment of racism and pointed it to be one of the reasons for their move to the US. She said the palace was abuzz and “concerned” with which color of skin tone will her son Archie be born with, alluding to racism inside the corridors of Buckingham Palace. “Rude and racism are not the same”, she said. Rewinding to November 2016, the Kensington Palace had issued a statement of support for Meghan (who was Harry’s girlfriend at the time), to stop sexist and racist harassment of her and her family. Later Prince William, brother to Prince Harry had also stated of his own supporting Harry and Markle, but all that was in the past now.
William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan were once hailed as the “Fab Four”, but the interview gave a glimpse of a relationship in tatters. Meghan disclosed that Kate had made her cry before the wedding. “What was shocking was, what was that six, seven months after our wedding, the reverse of that would be out in the world [the story in the British media suggesting Meghan made Kate cry]. Tough she called Kate a “good person”, the media had always pitted them against each other.
There was a stunned silence from the Buckingham Palace after the telecast of the interview. The palace issued a simple statement that put an end to all speculation. “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan, and Archie will always be much-loved family members” clearly stating that they do not agree to everything that has been alleged by Meghan and Harry in their interview. The Queen is known to be very careful with her words.
The interview opened Pandora’s box of opinions and arguments. While on one side, she was getting the sympathy vote for having faced so much, the critics argued that Meghan knew exactly what she was getting into when she had decided to marry Prince Harry. If she wanted to get an idea about the mysterious ways of palace workings, she could have just watched The Crown on Netflix! Meghan’s admission that she had not googled Harry before their blind date is beyond belief for the public. Harry has been a darling to the English people, but he too has been subjected to criticism, of not being able to iron out the differences despite knowing his family too well. Author and royal biographer Anna Pasternak was scathing in her attack on the couple to the BBC saying “It was a very soft-serving, soapy interview in Meghan’s favor. None of Meghan’s real behavior was questioned. It was an absolute exercise in torching the house of Windsor.” Meghan is seen as an outsider who came into the British royal family but left taking away too much. She has not stopped harming the royal family, even when she broke away to freedom in another country. The already precarious Britain’s royal family is on the edge of the cliff again.
Hilarious memes flooded social media like a storm when netizens took full advantage of their wit and humor to add a dash of comedy to the tragedy. The popularity of Meghan and Harry has crashed since the interview in the United Kingdom.
Prince Harry remains a prince and is sixth in line to the British throne. Perhaps that is the only connection he will have to his past royal life. As for Meghan, the captive bird is out of the cage and how!
(Dhiraj Kumar is an author and writer and he is writing his first book. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @authordhiraj.)