On March 7, 2021, an interview aired on CBS between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It garnered worldwide attention for several bombshells dropped by the former members of the royal family during the interview.
In addition to the multitude of memes spawned by the interview, discussion has been inspired by a few key points in the conversation, primarily one in which Markle reveals to Oprah that a member of the royal family had discussions with Prince Harry during Markle’s first pregnancy about “concerns over how dark” the baby’s skin color would be. Markle is the first person of color to marry into the royal family, having a black mother and a white father.
“I think it is wrong for the royal family to have made Meghan Markle feel that way,” said first-year student Drew Rachunek, “having a conversation about the baby’s skin as if it would have mattered in any real sense.”
The British press has been widely criticized for their treatment of Markle from the beginning of her relationship with Prince Harry, particularly The Daily Mail, which has published many articles about both Markle and Kate Middleton, casting the former in an unfavorable light and the latter in a flattering one. Eventually the public attitude towards her became so hostile that Markle reached a severely unhealthy mental state, asking the royal family for help and being denied, which ended up being one of the reasons she and Prince Harry decided to leave the royal family.
Leaving the royal family in another case would be something drastic. But because it was already very unlikely that Prince Harry would ever become king (his older brother, William, is the heir apparent, followed by William’s children).
His exit alongside Markle just means that they will not be financially supported by the Royal family anymore, nor will they have any obligations to fulfill, such as royal tours or duties. This is why Markle and Prince Harry have been making deals in the entertainment industry, ranging from services such as Netflix to platforms such as podcasting, because they need a new source of income.
So the big question is: Why does this all matter? What does this mean? Why do people care about the royal family, people whom we have known for so long to be nothing but ornamental figureheads?
I think the best answer to these questions was given by English author Hilary Mantel in a 2013 essay entitled ‘Royal Bodies’: “I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family does not have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting? Are they not nice to look at? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it is still a cage.”
by Jackie Hines