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Meghan, Harry were the royal family’s last hope for a modern monarchy

When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry married in 2018, the possibilities for the royal family’s future seemed endless. Her appearance was, for many, a breath of fresh air and she brought an exciting personability to her official engagements. Oblivious to most of the Sussex’s private struggles, the public disappointment when they decided to step back as working members of the royal family was palpable.

It all seemed to start off so well. Touted alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as the “Fab Four”, it looked like a new generation of royals were ready to take over and lead the monarchy in a different direction. One that might have provided some much needed variety into the monotony of the regularly scheduled programming of the firm. Meghan, a confident and charismatic actor familiar with life in the public eye, appeared to be the perfect fit to life in such a glaring spotlight. On the surface, she took to her new role like a duck to water. It was only later that the private difficulties she and Harry experienced during this period truly came to light.

While many were thrilled to see a mixed race woman marry into the royal family, the racism that Meghan says she experienced proved more than she could reasonably bear. Though for many British people Meghan represented something they could finally connect with in an establishment that is the epitome of old fashioned values, she did not feel she received the support needed to manage her new life. Speaking to Oprah last year, Meghan said she regretted “believing [the palace] when they said I would be protected”. While she has said she was warned about the intense scrutiny of the tabloid press ahead of going public with her relationship, it seems it was even more powerful than she expected.

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Looking back, it seems unfair to have expected Meghan to shoulder that burden, simply by falling in love

If she had received the necessary support from the institution, perhaps the story might have ended differently. Both the dog-whistle and explicit racism found throughout coverage of Meghan understandably wore her down. Equally, that she was seen as an intrinsically modernising presence just because of her racial background will have brought its own pressures. Looking back, it seems unfair to have expected Meghan to shoulder that burden, simply by falling in love.

Prince Harry’s claims about racism within the royal family sparked intense debate and created shockwaves of controversy. It also left much of the country feeling simply deflated. Things were the same as they had always been, after all.

After the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah, a statement was released by the palace that said “recollections may vary” about the Sussex’s time as working royals. That the royal family, it is reported, told Meghan she was free to continue her acting career is a prime example of this. Harry saw it as his family refusing to ensure his new wife’s safety by abdicating themselves of the responsibility to pay for her much needed security. The palace may have interpreted this differently, that it was instead an attempt to shield Meghan from the full force of the press attention that comes with royal life.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle: the ‘slimmed down’ monarchy has long been in the works. The taxpayer has grown tired of the costs associated with the extended royal family and the palace may have been keen to both find a way around adding to security costs and to ensure Meghan’s happiness in her new marriage. However, the racism fuelling the hatred towards Meghan “changed the level of the death threats” Prince Harry has said. The intensity was such that it might have initially seemed safer to the couple to operate within the firm than outside of it. When their son Archie was born and, they claim, refused a title and the security that comes with one, may have added to the sense of betrayal and lack of support the couple felt.

Life in California might offer more flexibility and time away from the spotlight, but as public figures, Meghan and Harry’s appeal lies in their remaining at least somewhat visible. Reports that they are filming a new “at-home” documentary series as part of their multi-year Netflix deal might indicate that they are more comfortable leveraging their visibility with a level of creative control. In these circumstances, they will be able to tell their own stories, without worrying as much that outside factors will dictate their narrative. Harry’s upcoming memoir will be another opportunity for this, although a release date has yet to be confirmed. Heart of Invictus will be the Sussex’s first offering from their production company Archewell Productions for Netflix. The documentary series will “follow competitors preparing” for the recent Invictus games.



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