Looking back at the first month of the year, the most I heard about in the news was the Australian Bushfires, Brexit and the Sussexes. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have decided to stop being senior members of the royal family. After the Sandringham Summit decided the fate of the couple, I don’t understand why we care all that much, after all the chaos surrounding the family isn’t about them because it’s about us. These changes won’t damage the monarchy because there are not enough people invested in it for it to crumble over the withdrawal of two senior members. However, when the public does become invested in it, it’s us that turn out to be the real antagonists. Yes, they were both forced to quite their roles, but the Sussexes are still being berated for their desire for self-preservation. Prince Harry is being vilified and Meghan Markle is being compared to Yoko Ono. The way the press and the people view their situation is through bigotry and misogyny.
It’s easy to identify the bigotry and misogyny from the press and the family when you compare the situations of Prince Harry and Prince Andrew. Let’s start with the misogyny of it all. Meghan Markle is portrayed as ripping apart the royal family, similar to how Yoko Ono is illustrated as breaking up the Beatles. The media constantly presents her as an ‘exotic’ creature who is too ‘woke’ for the people of Britain. Imagine the horror of it all! Meanwhile, Prince Andrew, who has been accused of having sex with minors is receiving considerably less attention now in comparison to the Sussexes. Of course, the undeniable racism from the media was not as obvious at first, we were all more focused on the fact that the royal family was becoming progressive, modern and tolerant for accepting a woman of colour into the family. Although, over time, Meghan Markle has been bashed by the media instead of the family in its entirety. This is revealing of how sexist and racist our institution and the people have become, we are so quick to point out the problems of misogyny and bigotry in other countries, now we aren’t prepared to even understand how prejudiced we are towards the public and our rulers.
Now, let’s compare Prince Harry and Prince Andrew, who are both paying for their crimes in unfair ways. On the one hand, Prince Andrew is being given the chance to rehabilitate his reputation by becoming the Queen’s aide in the ‘crisis’ that is the Sussexes withdrawing as senior members of the royal family. On the other hand, Prince Harry is not being treated as an entitled rich kid who refuses to please his grandmother and would rather start a new life without the help of his family. Let’s remember that one is being accused of having sex with a minor and is associated with Jeffrey Epstein. Let’s also remember that the other is just trying to put his wife and child first. For Andrew’s scandal, he’s still allowed to have his titles and money from the Queen, but must remain away from public duties in the foreseeable future. For Harry’s scandal, the couple are to relinquish their titles and have a total break from their family and taxpayer funding. The Sussexes are also required to pay the public back millions of pounds after renovating their home. That’s fair, an accused sex offender is given a chance at redemption, and a man responding to his wife’s and child’s needs is the antagonist in all of this.
It just goes to show that patriarchy, bigotry and misogyny are alive and well within the royal family, in the press and within the public, too. The reason why this disruption caused by the Sussexes is creating more headlines is that the blame is being placed on Meghan Markle, she is the woman disrupting the institution, just like her mother-in-law and so she must be blamed in the eyes of the royal family and the press. Prince Harry, similar to his mother in so many ways, views the different life that his mother had envisioned herself. If the couple wants to walk away because they have to, then let them go, but don’t punish them for putting their well-being first. Their resignations were virtually destined to be treated differently. The Sussexes were inevitably going to face harsher criticism in their desire to relocate in comparison to Prince Andrew being friends with Jeffrey Epstein, a child sex offender may I remind you, who is also accused of having sex with a teenage girl. The institution has been built on principles to stand against the values that the Sussexes stand for and support the defence of Prince Andrew in the face of these allegations.
The difference in these cases are glaringly obvious. There is an undeniable level of racism towards Meghan Markle. There is an insane level of misogyny in the monarchy and from the public, too. At the end of the day, Prince Andrew is another powerful man being accused of harming another vulnerable woman, and society, the press and the family doesn’t really care what these men do. He will always be able to get away with it. In contrast, Prince Harry will always be depicted as the man submitting to his wife, a modern-day cuckold. According to society, the press and the royal family, it’s wrong from him to his wife’s needs first. The Sussexes don’t owe us anything, and we shouldn’t criticise them for wanting better for themselves, just leave them be and let them do what they want.
The monarchy was once about duty, which has clearly ended with Queen Elizabeth II, but it’s clear that if this family is going to represent the public then it has to change. Yes, family dysfunction is hardly news-worthy, all families have their fair share of it. Most importantly, the news about the royal family is really about us, it was never really about them. The public, the press and even the family, have been projecting their beliefs, desires and values onto the couple. Ultimately, we’ll never be royals, so let’s just give this couple a break. We need to focus on the real issues that are being hidden behind the smoke screen of royal scandals.