By ZACH ROBERTS
“Never explain, never complain,” was a maxim adopted by the Queen Mother and quickly became the motto of the Royal Family when it comes to drawing the curtain between public duty and personal affairs. But Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are no longer officially Royals, and have thus appeared to adapt the motto to something more akin to: “complain then explain,” which has led to arguably the most anticipated Royal interview since Martin Bashir’s with Princess Diana. Harry was always the odd one out when it came to keeping quiet, often discussing his contempt for living in the UK and his experiences with the press while serving in Afghanistan. However, is this 90 minute programme, that will attract millions of viewers, a step too far?
While Harry and Meghan are well within their right to sit down for such a programme, the dramatized promotion using edited clips across social media will do little good for the couple’s image in many eyes, as it felt almost soap-opera esque in contrast to the seriousness of the issues that they wanted to discuss. Equally, there were valid concerns over the timing of the programme’s release considering Prince Phillip’s current hospitalisation. However, we cannot be fully sure how much control Harry and Meghan will have had over the promotion or timing of their interview, so it would be unfair at this point in time to try and hold them to account for either. What does call for scrutiny, however, is the decision to even have the interview in the first place. Rights to a programme like this will likely have commanded a multi-million dollar fee, while a discussion with their family friend, Oprah, is unlikely to remain entirely impartial nor ask all of the hardest hitting questions. Many commentators have called them out as hypocrites for announcing last year that they sought a more private life, yet signing deals with Netflix and Spotify as well as this interview. However, this critique misses the point of their request for privacy. It would be naive to say that either Harry or Meghan could ever truly stay out of the public eye, so their plea was one for respect and boundaries rather than to totally disappear. They recognise that they will forever have a huge public platform, and hopefully they will use that to create content and initiatives for a greater good. While it is premature and speculative to praise them for that, it is also unjustified to criticise them for it too.
We must also discuss the impact of the several allegations and events that were discussed throughout the interview. Meghan spoke of times she felt she “did not want to be alive” while living as part of the Royal Family, a revelation that has to be taken extremely seriously. Sadly, that is not the case. When ITV’s flagship morning show ‘Good Morning Britain’ allows Piers Morgan to say that he simply “does not believe her” when she discussed feeling suicidal, it really questions just how beneficial this interview will be for the couple, as large parts of the British media and public alike seem to have already made up their minds, irrespective of what was said. Another claim that appears to lack the appropriate reaction, is Meghan discussing a lewd comment made by another, anonymous Royal voicing concerns over their son, Archie’s, potential skin tone. Once again, the point of this comment seems to have been missed entirely. Instead of focusing on the suggestion of underhand racism within the Royal Family, critics are instead accusing Meghan of unnecessarily dragging the whole Royal Family under the bus by not calling out the individual behind the comment.
Harry too had his fair share to say, as he expressed ‘compassion’ for his father and brother, who he feels are ‘trapped’ in the world of the Royal Family. This comment epitomises Harry’s feelings towards the institution of the monarchy itself, a relationship that has always been fraught. As have his relationships with William and Charles, which he noted in the interview, as well as his disappointment of being effectively cut off socially and financially following “Megxit” in 2020. Meghan also addressed the ‘hero vs villain’ storylines the media were allegedly trying to create between her and the Duchess of Cambridge. She cited one occasion where the media had reported that Meghan had made Kate cry, when Meghan claims it was not the case. Addressing misconstrued stories was a common theme, with Harry also venting his frustration, blaming tabloid racism as a ‘large part’ of why they left, while also expressing his disappointment at the inaction in addressing these issues by the Royals.
No-one won as a result of this interview, except perhaps the media themselves. For Harry and Meghan, this interview is unlikely to have helped rebuild any relationship with the Royal Family, but it has provided ample opportunity for the media to continue to stir the pot and continue to create Royal drama. But now they have expressed their side of the story, the Sussexes may not really care, and instead will hope they can now focus on why they stepped back in the first place. For Harry, this is about protection for his family. He is not running away, he is seeking security, and wants to avoid a similar relationship with the media that he blames for the death of his mother. For Meghan, this is about living peacefully with her Prince Charming. It’s irrelevant that he is an actual prince, it’s just important that he is the one she wants to spend the rest of her life and raise children with and now they have the opportunity to do so. They must remain sceptical though, for I fear that following the backlash of this interview, they may have to wait a little while longer before they are truly able to live happily ever after.
Image - Wiki Commons