I am a mixed-race, Labour-voting feminist. I also can’t stand Meghan Markle.
Unlike those Middle England closet xenophobes, I couldn’t care less about Markle being a bi-racial American divorcee. I was speechless when I saw Danny Baker’s deplorable tweet comparing Markle’s new-born baby to a chimpanzee. I even used to feel sorry for her for how the tittle-tattle of the tabloids would leave her unable to perform even most mundane and inoffensive actions, like touching her pregnancy bump or eating an avocado, without being mercilessly ripped apart. All this seemed especially offensive given the fate of Harry’s mother, who was being chased by the paparazzi when she was involved in a fatal car accident in 1997.
But perhaps the reason why I, and many others, see Meghan – and Harry – as deserving of some scrutiny is because of their dire attempts at ‘celebritising’ British royalty.
Even before the Sussexes announced earlier this year that they would be stepping back from royal duties, they had already sullied the reputation of the monarchy with an impressive number of scandals. Dubbed ‘Duchess Difficult’, Markle was slammed for her behaviour towards staff, which has seen the couple go through two royal aids and three nannies since 2016. They seemed loathsome hypocrites, playing at being the new ‘woke’ face of the crown with their pledge to support the climate change movement, while also jetting around the world on private planes. Their tastes were deemed too Hollywood, with Markle spending $11,000 on acupuncture and numerology during her pregnancy and $200,000 on her baby shower. To top it all off, her family stateside, in particular her father, Thomas and her stepsister, Samantha, proved to be loose cannons, keeping the couple’s name permanently in the gossip columns.
For me, then, it already seemed that Harry and Meghan wanted to have their cake and eat it; their decision to ‘continue to carry out their duties for Her Majesty the Queen, while having the future financial autonomy to work externally’ merely seemed the cherry on top. Therein lies a fundamental issue with the Sussexes. The reason why the monarchy continues to draw in almost £2bn a year is their enigmatic allure. Their aloofness from everyday life and disdain for the vulgarity of the digital age aren’t what make the royal family relics of the past; they are the only things that preserve their future.
And our future, too. With Brexit forcing us to strike new trade deals and make new ties with foreign countries, we should not underestimate how important a role the royal family can play. The monarchy embodies Britain’s unique selling point, our ancient heritage and quaint culture, and it does so partly by refusing to modernise and demystify. Meghan and Harry have thrown into jeopardy the power of this exclusiveness and elusiveness by styling themselves as an embarrassing melange of a corporate machine that works with the likes of JP Morgan, and a Kardashian-esque brand that has garnered the interest of Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer of Netflix. By turning the monarchy into a brand driven by money instead of tradition, they are replicating the damage done by the 1969 ‘Royal Family’ documentary. To have too much access to the members of the royal family, to erode their mystery, is tantamount to the death of the British monarchy, and, by extension, a good deal of our overseas marketing attraction.
All this before you even look at the practicalities of this so-called ‘Megxit’. What does it matter that Harry and Meghan will no longer receive money from the Sovereign Grant, which only covered 5% of their expenses, when their very logo (an ‘H’ and an ‘M’ interlocked over a crown) exploits their royal ties? So what if they repay the £2.4 million of public money used to fund the renovation of their Frogmore Cottage property; the taxpayer will still have to fork out millions to cover their security costs as they split their time between Canada and Britain. With each stage of the negotiations, from the ‘Sandringham Summit’ to the latest development that the Sussexes will have to drop the word ‘royal’ in their brand name, the monarchy seems less the grand family that our country needs them to be and more a bunch of barterers quibbling over issues that should be below them.
I’m not saying that we should hate Meghan, and as the death of Caroline Flack showed last month, media vilification should be handled with care. In fact, I think that such personal attacks on the Duchess actually distract us from seeing her and Harry as they actually are. We shouldn’t view her as the slightly smug, often demanding Lady Macbeth figure, but something altogether more damaging. Together, her and Harry are commercialising the name of the Royal Family just when we need them to be more regal than ever.