Princess Diana, Prince Andrew, ‘The Firm’; scandals date back years when it comes to the royal family, but this latest one feels different. This time it’s the insiders that are leading the critique of the outdated, monarchical institution that continues to plague our society. This isn’t us vs them; this is former senior royals, Meghan and Harry, leading the revolution, turning on the system that had them trapped.
Something like this has never been seen before – not since Diana – and even then she was always considered an outsider. Sure, we’ve had monarchs abdicate, but to openly critique and call out an institution engrained in British society insinuates thatthis is far more serious than we first realised. We were aware of the treatment Meghan received from the media, but not by the institution. Perhaps we had all become numb to the cancer that is the monarchy and so to see Harry and Meghan leading this critique feels like a step into uncharted territory.
The Oprah interview was enlightening. Some have argued that the Queen came out of that looking better than ever. Harry praised his grandmother, sure, but should we separate the family member from the title of Queen? What use is it to focus on individual people, individual relationships when the bigger picture is Harry’s blatant condemnation of a toxic institution.
Some have also suggested this was a psychological operation orchestrated by the monarchy to divert from the Andrew scandal, in which the Queen’s image was positively represented in the interview. That argument falls short. A comment of respect for his grandmother seems separate to Harry’s forthcoming and warranted attack on The Firm. There is a complex relationship between ‘The Firm’ vs ‘The Family’. And yet, the Queen is head of The Firm, everything goes back to her.
Anything said about the royal family, anything that is done (or isn’t done i.e. with Andrew), comes down to her. She holds the power and the deciding position that the royal family takes. Even if the Queen didn’t make the comment of Archie’s skin colour, the public still takes those comments as a reflection of her, and of the wider royal family’s position on race. Does Harry know this, that his comment of respect would mean very little in the grand scheme of things? What’s the point in wasting energy on focusing on the critique of one individual, when a senior royal can escape a proper examination regarding issues of sex trafficking and paedophilia?
Harry was never going to attack his grandmother personally – familial relationships are a private issue – yet to condemn the institution in such an open manner should be the far bigger takeaway; that’s what we need to be focusing on.
There was never any need for a monarchical plan to divert attention away from the Andrew scandal, as there was never any real threat to the monarchy’s foothold in our society. What was the point in using Megan and Harry as pawns in their game if the monarchy was going to ‘get away’ with the Andrew scandal anyway? With privilege comes power and there is an overwhelming history of misusing that power – that’s what Meghan and Harry were condemning. If anything, Meghan and Harry have cast a greater spotlight on the issues of the monarchy and their ability to coverup shocking and disgusting revelations.
Are they airing their dirty laundry in public, why now? Why involve us?
Because we have a right to know.
It’s an establishment that, by its very existence, encourages inequality. As an institution that is constantly lauded over the masses, we need to hold them accountable. There should be greater outrage if this was to be kept private. When an establishment as historic and as engrained in British society as the monarchy is exhibiting notions of racism, then it’s bigger than a ‘family issue’. It is a public issue.
How does that feel disingenuous or like a continuation of The Crown? This isn’t a tv show, this a real-life problem. This is real life for Meghan and Harry. While the couple have a wealth of privilege and a millionaire status, those things don’t negate Meghan’s experience as a black woman being oppressed by an institution founded on colonialism. They are real people that are trying to escape entrapment, something we should all be trying to do. None of the privilege and power the monarchy has is God-given or a right. They are only in their position because of who their ancestors happen to be. The royal family is outdated and a danger to the progression of our society.
This isn’t clickbait. Nobody wins from this. Some have critiqued that Meghan and Harry should have named names, perhaps if they did there would be greater argument for them ‘airing their dirty laundry’. They are raising awareness of a disease in our society while maintaining the ins and outs of their dealings privately. The issue with consumers of media and celebrities is that everyone thinks they deserve to know everyone’s private life – even when they don’t. Just because someone exist within the public sphere doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to a private life. They don’t put themselves out the expecting to get hate.
People watched a woman admit that she was close to suicide on television and yet continue to berate her. Make it make sense. What good can come of the media divide? Discourse, a public awakening to the uselessness of the monarchy, a revolution – take your pick. It is already having a clear impact. Barbados is already in the process of removing their Queen; as of November, she will be replaced as head of state. Have Meghan and Harry set off a domino effect that’ll gradually diminish commonwealth powers and limit the monarchical influence across the globe, an influence that is colonial in its roots?
Hard to Find Nuance? Why do you need nuance when it’s just a man and a woman speaking about their experience? There’s going to be differing sides, opinions, and memories, but those can exist mutually. Perhaps if you pull apart and nit-pick the details there may be inconsistencies, but surely this is all in line with what we all knew already about the establishment.
What is important is that two formally senior royals are using their platform, their wealth, and their privilege of being former insiders to let the public know what has been going on. This onslaught of tabloid hatred and systemic racism does set a precedent for certain areas of society. People may think they were brought up in a multicultural environment or were educated enough to know better, but for people who have live sheltered lives or lived through a less PC environment, they do still see The Firm as figureheads, as people to look to and to copy. Education is a privilege that not everyone can afford, and so people have to look to those around them for guidance.
That’s why people with platforms do have a responsibility to use their privilege in a positive way – not like the monarchy, but perhaps in the way Meghan and Harry are trying to do. It’s incredibly brave to shine a light on the oldest and darkest corners of institutionalised racism that herald a dangerous amount of influence and power.
“At the end of the day they are millionaires, they will be fine.” Say that to Diana.
But what does this all mean? As mentioned before, the discussion needs to be bigger than focusing on individuals. Why are people wasting time attacking Meghan rather than the establishment? The critique of Meghan, whether she is lying, acting, or telling the truth, is hateful, unnecessary, and of little importance to the real problem that is the monarchy.
By saying you don’t believe Meghan and Harry, you give more power back to the monarchy. If we break the illusion that they are in control and if we stop believing and caring about everything they do, then maybe that sense of importance will disappear. People say it’s only one side of the story; we’ve been hearing one side for years and now we’ve finally heard the other.
Further critique of Meghan and Harry is rooted in their desire for celebrity status, to ‘cement their status as household names’. Nearly two billion people watched their wedding in 2018; they were one of most popular celeb couples in the world. Why would they leave, if they had all that power in the palm of their hands?
They’ve been household names for years. They had more power, wealth, and financial security as part of the royal family than they do now outside of it. Would they give that up for independence, for Spotify and Netflix deals? (Regarding their Spotify and Netflix deals as incentives, they never said it was their plan. They’ve been cut off, therefore they have to make a living somehow.) It’s incredibly cynical to portray Harry and Meghan as borderline manipulative narcissists to assume this was all for an incentive. The argument that this was a money-plot and the motives surrounding this are confusing. The backlash they’ve faced since the interview and the threats they’ve had to face far outweigh any potential motivations.
I don’t think Gen Z has been won over, or that they care about the royal family that much at all. I don’t want to like the monarchs; I don’t think they have any place in our society. While Gen Z may be able to relate to issues of race and mental health, there still remains a cap on our personal connection to Meghan and Harry. Rather than being pro-Meghan and Harry, I think they are anti-monarchical, anti-inequality, and anti-racist. Supporting the couple is just one method of showing this. The monarchy’s existence is a vessel of inequality. Its very existence encourages non-elected power over the masses. It encourages a divide between us and those ‘above us’ for no apparent reason other than history.
The Crown is fiction. Its influence in society is overestimated. People might do some googling to see if there’s any truth to the matter, but they do so without much thought; perhaps that is why it continues to exist. People will be up in arms when a scandal happens and hope for change, but do people care enough to fight for that change? Everyone wants Andrew to be examined properly, but the power of the royal family is one that will be hard to stand against. At the very best, as older generations pass on, the royal family will disappear into the background. Perhaps it’s a waiting game to see if anything does change, at the earliest, when Prince William is crowned.
What does the future hold? Our lives would change on an inter-personal level; any disappearance of the monarchy would be an incredibly progressive move that would reverberate ‘down’ society until there is no up or down, until everyone is on a level playing field (but that’s another conversation altogether in the fight against capitalism).
It would be a loss for those encouraging inequality. The Firm’s very existence supports inequality of those above and below, and to rid society of that, along with the older generations who typically present an obstacle to progression, can only be a positive thing in the lives of the masses. That is a generational divide. Millennials and Gen Z don’t need the monarchy, but there is a connection to the royal family that is so fixated amongst the older generation.
Why keep the royal family? The pro-argument is tourism. But these historic buildings are still pockets of time and history that will continue to exist. They would still bring in money, if not more, for example, if they can offer tours of Buckingham Palace rather than standing outside a gate for a picture. Tourism goes up and British taxpayer expenditure goes down – because why are we paying for them? They do not work for us. They have not been elected. They are out of touch and do not represent the masses. Why are we pouring money into a system of corruption that continues to misuse its power and privilege?
There’s a scandal every decade it seems. This isn’t Harry and Meghan vs The Firm, this isn’t good vs bad – there is only bad, and that is the establishment that continues to plague our society.
Words by Lizzie Shaw.
Illustration by Ursi Tolliday.
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