When Meghan Markle, former actress on the American drama show Suits, married Prince Harry on May 19, 2018, it seemed like a dream. I had not known anything about Markle or the Prince prior to the day of their wedding — I hadn’t even known there was a royal wedding coming up — but it seemed like a scene straight out of a fairy tale: a young, American woman marrying into a royal family, and the two of them completely in love. It was very sweet, though I didn’t think much of it beyond that.
Even as someone who was completely uninterested in the lives of the royal family, I didn’t need to look too hard in order to see the constant vitriol that was sent Markle’s way — from articles that highlight how the press treats her and her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, differently, and a whole slew of articles that attack her for doing almost anything. When they left the family in May of 2020, it was hardly surprising. In the recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, one can only wonder why anyone would be shocked about the reality of Meghan’s life at the palace, and how they treated her.
The teaser for the Meghan Markle interview dropped on March 1, with the interview set to air March 7. Immediately after the trailer was released, the Times released an article claiming that Markle was facing allegations of bullying, filed from Kensington Palace. Markle has denied the allegations, of course, and her lawyers were quick to say that this was a calculated smear campaign against her in retaliation for the interview. Given the timing of the complaints, I’m inclined to believe them. It’s a rather transparent attack on her character, especially when it comes barely 24 hours after the teaser for the interview was released. As a woman of color, people have treated me as though I was aggressive just for taking up space — my words taken to mean something entirely different, or my resting face considered angry when I’m just sitting there. It’s incredibly frustrating, and, considering that the same royal staff had also treated Markle poorly, I’m more inclined to be skeptical.
A documentary about Markle and her struggles with the royal family, titled The Royal Divide, was released on Jan. 24 of 2020, and is available here to watch for free. After the bullying allegations came out, a clip from the documentary circulated around Twitter, specifically talking about Markle’s work ethic and how seriously she took her new job as the Duchess of Sussex. Omid Scobie, ABC’s News Royal Contributor, said, “I think the way Meghan tried to work in the Palace didn’t fit in with how other members of the royal family worked. I know aides who have one meeting a month with their principles. [ . . . ] Harry and Meghan were popping in and out of the office almost every day for briefings and updates.”
Given that one of the complaints involved Markle ‘aggressively emailing her staff at five in the morning,’ it seemed rather important to note this, especially since this documentary was released a year ago. Another set of interviewees were Kaitlin Menza and Lisa Ryan, co-hosts of the podcast Royally Obsessed, who remarked that, “If every American got in trouble because they sent emails too early in the morning. [ . . . ] I’m like, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?” American work culture might not be the healthiest, but, if Markle was considered overbearing and ‘bossy’ simply because she showed up to do her job, I marvel at how anyone at the palace was able to get anything done.
Comedian Gina Yashere, who was also interviewed for the documentary, said, “I hope to God Meghan breaks her silence and does a Diana-style interview. I hope she does! She deserves it!” Over a year later, she finally got her wish.
During the interview with Winfrey, Markle opened up about her time at the palace, and what her and Harry faced. Markle talked about how her mental health plummeted as she faced increasingly hateful tabloids and struggled with thoughts of suicide. When she pleaded for help from the royal family, they declined to assist her.
One of the biggest bombshells that Markle dropped during the interview was that the royal family had approached her and Prince Harry with ‘concerns’ over the skin color of their then-unborn son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Markle is a biracial woman, but by no means is she dark-skinned. The fact that this was even a topic of conversation is appalling. Speculation on who it could have been has run rampant, and, though Markle and her husband didn’t share any names, they both confirmed that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were not the ones who asked.
It genuinely isn’t a far stretch to think that the British royal family is racist — with members of the royal family being Nazi sympathizers in the past, to Princess Michael of Kent wearing a Blackamoor broach, a very racist caricature, to her first meeting with Meghan Markle.
These are just individuals, though; the entire British regime is still based upon colonization of nearly the entire world. As they say, “the sun never sets in the British empire.” The royal family is built upon imperialism and the suffering of their previous colonies, and have done little to amend these wrongs. The idea that attacks on Markle’s character are racially motivated isn’t far-fetched at all, especially with articles saying that she is “almost straight outta Compton” and referring to her mother as “a dreadlocked African-American lady from the wrong side of the tracks.”
This doesn’t even begin to cover the racist remarks that were made when their son, Archie, was born. Markle said, in the Winfrey interview, that the royal family did nothing to prevent untrue stories of her from circulating through the press, but she had noted that they actively tried to stop false stories circulating about her sister-in-law. Markle’s biggest example was the rumors that circulated when Markle made Middleton cry, when, in reality, it was the other way around. Markle did say, on the record, that they had since made up about that particular incident. Still, with the royal family refusing to take action on this particular incident, Markle was only further villainized in the media.
Prince Harry was deeply hurt over the lack of intervention on his family’s part, and admits that he had no idea of the unconscious bias that was involved when it came to his wife. As he spent more time with Markle, however, he became much more aware of the microaggressions she faced from his family and the press. The fact that his mother, Princess Diana, experienced the exact same thing, makes this much more heartbreaking. The refusal to give their son a royal title, and the protection that comes with it, seemed to have been the final straw.
People have accused Markle of being power hungry, but, honestly, it seems like common sense that you’d want your child, who is always going to be in the spotlight regardless of their title, to have some kind of security. The couple stepped away from the royal family and their duties, though they claimed they still wanted to be working members.
The situation as a whole is very heartbreaking, and the backlash that they continue to face — as they’re now expecting their daughter — is frustrating to see, from people dismissing Markle’s suicidal thoughts as attention-seeking, to reducing her as a gold digger (even though she had a net worth of $5 million before she married Prince Harry). Markle is a modern woman — she is a woman of color, she is hardworking, and, quite frankly, she has proven just how unnecessary the entire monarchy is. From an outsider’s perspective, I can see how she had been constantly battered by both her new family and the British public. How much worse would it have been, had Meghan Markle been a dark-skinned Black woman?
Markle and Prince Harry deserve peace, and the opportunity to share their stories — and, before you ask, Markle and Prince Harry didn’t make a dime off this interview. They deserve to be able to speak the truth, and to be able to expose the British monarchy for how outdated it is, and just how they had suffered at the hands of them. They deserve better, and so do their children.
You can watch the full interview with Oprah Winfrey here.
Featured Image: Courtesy of CBS