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Disappointed but not surprised: Meghan’s interview with Oprah reveals royal bigotry

In bombshell interview, Prince Harry, Duchess of Sussex talk monarchy’s prejudice, prompt divides between British royal-loyalists, denouncers

The highly-anticipated interview of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry sent shockwaves through the British and American media after the couple revealed Meghan’s experiences of racism and exclusion within the royal family.

In the two-hour special with Oprah Winfrey Mar. 7, Meghan — who is biracial — explained that during her pregnancy there were “concerns” expressed about the potential darkness of her unborn son’s skin color from within the royal institution, as well as refusals to “protect” the family from the press. Markle also revealed that she suffered from depression and had contemplated suicide, but received little support from the institution.

The revelations of bigotry and ostracism from within the royal family split opinion globally, with the British tabloid press railing against Meghan and Harry, and American fans of the royal family rallying behind the couple. The couple has previously taken legal action against the media for libel. 

As with British princesses and duchesses of eras past — Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, being the most popular — Meghan, a former actress and an American herself, has become somewhat of a starlet for American fans of royals. Still, polls have shown a drop in Meghan’s U.S. popularity after the insurgent interview.

In 2019, Harry made an official statement likening the British media’s treatment of his wife to their treatment of his late mother. “Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself,” he wrote. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.” 

Professor of European History Tim Harris said the British media has undoubtedly been racist in its coverage of Meghan. 

“There’s no doubt about that,” Harris said. The British tabloids “just made Harry and Meghan’s life intolerable.”

In the interview, Meghan and Harry cited negative press coverage as a motivating factor in their decision to leave the United Kingdom and step back from their royal duties. Yet the bigotry they experienced also came from the royal family itself, as well as the press, as the couple discussed. 

Renee Andam ’24 said she was “not surprised” by the allegations of the royal institution’s colorism toward the couple’s son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, who was born May 6, 2019.

“This is the royal family, after all,” Andam said. “I was actually surprised that commenting about baby Archie’s skin color was the most racist thing they did.”

In response to the allegations, Prince William — Harry’s brother — told the media the royals are “very much not a racist family.” But the claims of racism and colorism have further stressed discourse surrounding the British legacy of colonialism. Commonwealth scholars and politicians have cited the revelations as unsurprising and reflective of royal history. 

“If someone had said to me before this interview that British monarchs (could be) racist, I would have been like, well … of course,” Sophia Saker ’23 said. “It's the pinnacle of social elitism and exclusion.” 

Harry confirmed during the interview that the racist comments did not come from his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. 

With Elizabeth aging and her husband in ill health, many have raised questions about the future of the royal family. People are beginning to ask: Is the Crown, which seems to many an antiquated symbol of colonialism in the modern era, bound to fall?

Harris explained that while he sees the monarchy as “obsolete and anachronistic,” he does not see the interview and the allegations of racism impacting the royal family’s status. 

“People seem to have a need to want to have a sense of adulation for a charismatic leader,” Harris said. “Not that the queen is particularly charismatic as an individual, but she's a charismatic symbol of what Britishness is.”

The royal family “survived the negative press from Princess Diana’s tragic death. Many people thought that the royal family wouldn’t survive the (public relations) nightmare of Charles and Diana’s relationship,” Andam said. “I think the royal family will be fine.”



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