From era to era, the British crown has been a constant source of drama, intrigue and controversy in Great Britain and around the world. Think, for instance, of the tumultuous rule of Henry VIII, the bloody reign of Mary I, or, perhaps most shocking of all, the hideous decision of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to…focus on their family?
That’s right, as worldwide refugee rates have hit an all-time high, a deadly epidemic sweeps through Asia and the rest of the globe and nuclear powers are on the brink of war, we have decided to shift all focus onto the personal lives of the (former) Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Harry and Meghan’s announcement that they would take a step back from traditional royal roles on Jan. 8 dominated the news cycle, equated by British press to the Brexit controversial crisis surrounding the UK’s financial future.
The media coverage of and public outcry against “Megxit,” as it has been dubbed, reveals an utter departure from common decency and empathy amplified by Twitter’s toxic call-out culture and cheap journalism aimed at pleasing readers, easy profits and disregard for journalistic integrity. The harassers of the former royals should step back and reevaluate their arguments and priorities, along with the situation itself.
Consider the actual effects of Harry and Meghan’s decision. Yes, their stepping down is indeed unprecedented, but seems mostly inconsequential for the British people at large. While Harry and baby Archie are technically in line for the throne (sixth and seventh, respectively), the odds that they will ever control the crown are exceedingly low, considering that they are behind Harry’s father, brother, two nephews and one niece in succession.
So, in effect, this break is more of a hit to the ego for the British monarchy and the public’s view of their national image than an actual threat to their governing system. Patriotism and national pride are not to be dismissed, of course, but perhaps British tabloids and concerned citizens should recall past controversies. For example, the divorce of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1995 seemed a monumental event that the royal family and country at large would not recover from. And yet, life went on and so did royal traditions.
In fact, it’s worth noting that the same invasive media circus took over during the marital dispute between Charles and Diana. The harassment was especially detrimental for Diana, who underwent constant invasions of privacy by tabloids and paparazzi. Harry himself evoked his mother’s treatment by the press when addressing the public on Jan. 19 as a reason for his step back from royal duties.
Recalling the damaging effects of the media on Diana, Harry said, “My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
We must be mindful of this sentiment—that the royals are, in the end, human. They are vulnerable and overanalyzed, too, in ways that other celebrities are not. Simple association with the royals, especially by women including Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle, results in ruthless judgement by Daily Mail columnists over their “royal etiquette”, from the way they sit, to the order in which they enter a room, to the looseness of their hairstyle, to their technique in holding a teacup. In the modern age of smartphone cameras at every turn, the scrutiny never ends, and any expectation of privacy is stolen from members of the royal family.
Some say this publicity is part of what it means to be royal, that Markle should have known what she was getting herself into when taking on the title of Her Royal Highness. It should never be socially acceptable or excused, however, for a new mother to be assailed endlessly for forgoing a press-laden public appearance days after giving birth, among many other instances of hypercriticism of Markle since her engagement to Prince Harry.
For decades, Queen Elizabeth II has been taking strides to modernize the role of the British crown and royal family and has been widely celebrated for doing so. To treat the former Duke and Duchess’s decision to dial back as a shameful, selfish, atrocious or hurtful act (as multiple publications have referred to it) is to reject progress already in motion in Britain.
Harry and Meghan’s decision to preserve the privacy, well-being and mental health of their family, not to mention their gladly forgoing public funds, is far from selfish. Rather, tabloids’ attempts to shame and deny them their necessity of peace of mind are selfish. Press and internet users alike should shift focus to real issues and let the formal royals seek happiness privately.
Courtesy of The Independent