By: Anna Torok
The British monarchy, headed by Queen Elizabeth II, is the oldest and most iconic institution of the United Kingdom. The pristine royal family serves as the face of the nation. On Sunday March 7th, over 17 million people tuned in to Oprah Winfrey’s exclusive interview of the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, to discover why they left the royal family. Their interview exposed clear cracks in the institution, as this assumed citadel is not as sanctified as the world once thought.
Americans have long held a fascination with the royals. James Caldwell High School senior Molly Appio watched the interview because, “the dynamics of the royals is so foreign to me – we have nothing like it in America that I had to see if they would expose any drama in the family.”
Appio’s views were shared by millions. Society’s allure to the family is epitomized by the hit show The Crown on Netflix. The intimate details of the pressure the family consistently endures is proof that expectations of the monarchy are far from reality. 2020 was the year of social reckoning and revolution, so it is important to check up on the perennial institutions with deeply rooted problems.
The interview began with Meghan alone. She confessed that she had suicidal thoughts while living and working as a member of the royal family. The standards of the family were crippling and the British media was painfully invasive. Meghan met with a senior royal to seek inpatient care but was told that she could not get it because it would taint the image of the family. Despite struggling and asking for help, Meghan received no support from the family–Harry was her sole confidant and partner.
As a biracial woman, Meghan faced more scrutiny than the average royal. The tabloids attacked her, constantly perpetuating negative rhetoric even if she was acting similarly to her white duchess counterpart, Kate Middleton. The royal family did nothing to silence or correct any of these narratives. A rumor spiraled that Meghan made Kate cry when in reality Kate had made Meghan cry over a small wedding detail. Meghan called this a “character assasination” that would never stop if the family was not willing to rectify even inconsequential stories. The racism continued when the royals would not grant her son Archie a title and security protection. The part of the interview that gained the most attention is also arguably the most shocking piece of the story. A superior in the royal family expressed concerns to Harry about Archie’s skin color before he was even born. Harry’s father Charles stopped taking Harry’s calls and asked to have his plans of leaving his role as a senior royal in writing. Harry expressed feeling disappointed by his father, hoping he would understand, as he had similar experiences with Princess Diana. Additionally, after Meghan and Harry moved to the United States, they were cut off financially. Harry said they were only able to live freely in the States because of the inheritance his mother left him.
One positive element Meghan and Harry divulged about the royals was Meghan’s relationship with the Queen. Meghan said the Queen was always gracious and kind with her. Unfortunately, it seems like the monarchy needs to focus more on the actual people that make up the family. While it is a job and a business, one’s mental health is always paramount, especially when the Royals are in such a public position. Racism also appears ingrained in a handful of senior royal figures. Hopefully, Meghan and Harry’s exposure can shed light on the necessity to find solutions to these institutional issues.