Opinion | The royal family needs to get its priorities straight


Joe Pugliese | Harpo Productions, TNS

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sit for an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

By Remy Samuels, Senior Staff Columnist

If you thought Netflix’s “The Crown” revealed some ugly truths about the British royal family, wait until you watch the two-hour bombshell interview that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry did with Oprah Winfrey last Sunday.

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is sixth in the line of succession to the British throne — as the son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana — and he married American actress Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, in 2018. As many as 17.8 million people tuned into the couple’s first sit-down interview since leaving the U.K. and stepping down as senior royals.

After watching this, any respect that I had for the royal family and institution went right out the window. Not only did it become very apparent how unjustly the media has scrutinized the couple over the past few years, but it also revealed how reluctant the family was to defend them from false accusations.

As a whole, the royal family has its priorities in the wrong place. Members had numerous opportunities to promote diversity by embracing Markle — a mixed-race woman — into the family, but they failed to do so on many occasions. While they have consistently made efforts to protect certain members of the family, such as Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who has been accused of sexual abuse and is an ally of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, they have done virtually nothing to quell rumours that villainized Markle and depicted her as a bully. This is a family, and institution, that has continuously shown a lack of support toward family members who were clearly suffering — namely Princess Diana. It seems that history keeps repeating itself, as Markle’s mistreatment is almost identical to Diana’s when she was a royal.

One of the most shocking revelations to come out of the interview with Winfrey was that there were conversations within the family concerning the skin tone of the couple’s firstborn son, Archie. Markle’s mother is African American and her father is white, which makes her mixed-race. Therefore, welcoming Markle into the family was an incredible opportunity to have more diverse representation within the royal institution.

But Markle told Winfrey that from the onset of her relationship with Prince Harry, the tabloids were “so attacking and incited so much racism.” The couple also suggested that the extremely negative and racist press may have contributed to the family’s decision to not grant Archie a title and in turn, not provide him any security protection.

In addition to stripping Archie of his rightful title, Markle told Winfrey that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he [was] born.” My reaction to this was almost identical to Winfrey’s — completely shocked. The fact that Archie’s skin tone was something that warranted discussion is truly absurd and uncalled for.

It’s no wonder the couple decided to step back from their senior roles in January 2020. With all the racism circulating in the British media, as well as the family essentially telling the couple that their son would not receive security because of his lack of title, it seems like the most obvious decision was for them to take a step back from the family.

In comparing Archie’s situation with someone like Prince Andrew, it doesn’t make much sense. Why would Archie — who was an unborn child at the time — be stripped of his title, while Prince Andrew — an alleged pedophile — suffered no retribution from the family and did not lose his?

Virginia Roberts Giuffre — a woman who was sex trafficked by Epstein at the age of 17 — claimed in 2015 that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew multiple times, but he denied all the allegations and claimed he never met Giuffre. When the accusations first came out, Buckingham Palace released a statement that said, “It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”

Prince Andrew did an interview with journalist Emily Maitlis in November 2019 where he expressed no regret for his relationship with Epstein, and he continued to deny Giuffre’s allegations. A few days later, he announced he was stepping down from his public duties for the foreseeable future because of his “ill-judged” association with Epstein.

Based on the statements it released, the institution clearly did everything it could to deny Prince Andrew’s sexual abuse allegations and protect him from scrutiny. However, when tabloids made racist comments about the Duchess of Sussex and spread false information about her, the family did nothing to deflect those rumours. Even something as seemingly trivial as Markle supposedly making Kate Middleton cry — which Markle told Winfrey was untrue — was not debunked by the institution. Clearly, its priorities are completely backwards.

Additionally, the strikingly similar parallels between Markle’s interview with Winfrey and Princess Diana’s 1995 interview with BBC’s “Panorama” further reveals the royal family’s misguided priorities. Markle spoke about her struggles with mental health while living and working as a royal member, and she said she even contemplated suicide. She brought up these concerns to the institution, asking if she could receive inpatient care, and she was turned away because she was told it “wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

Diana expressed astonishingly similar feelings of entrapment and misery within the institution. She experienced an eating disorder, as well as postnatal depression while living in the palace. In her interview with the BBC, Diana was open about her struggles as a royal.

“You have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for,” Diana said. “People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention … But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales.”

In both situations, the family knew these women were struggling, and members did nothing to help. Both Markle and Diana were essentially told to suck it up and deal with the misery because that’s what their role required of them.

The Winfrey interview further solidified this notion that history keeps repeating itself within the royal family. This is an institution that will go to great lengths to sweep sexual assault allegations under the rug, but stay silent when racist remarks are targeted at someone within the family who should be treated as an equal. The institution will refuse to give a title to a child who is a rightful heir, but it will not remove the title of someone who has committed and been involved with horrific acts.

As a whole, the British monarchy is incredibly antiquated and should probably be abolished so history does not keep repeating itself.

Remy Samuels writes primarily about pop culture and current social issues. You can write to her at [email protected]