The Harry & Meghan Show: Racism In Royalty?

Aidan Lomas

On Monday March, 8th, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex delivered a landmark interview with Oprah Winfrey over their decision to leave the Royal Family and embark on a separate life together. The interview raised many “bombshell” claims about the family itself and the mechanisms in place.

In scenes and sentiments reminiscent of Martin Bashir’s explosive 1995 BBC Panorama exposé of inside Royal life, with Diana, Princess of Wales, the rupture within the Royal Family do not come often but when they come, they come damned bitter. Oprah Winfrey’s subtle, yet prying style, laid bare the most recent and arguably the most damaging division of all. The interview with Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, was broadcast on Sunday in the US and sydicated on ITV, with over 11.4 million UK viewers tuning in on Monday evening. Harpo Productions/CBS/Variety

Easily the most important revelation of the interview was the issue of racism within the Royal Family. It was claimed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that. during her first pregnancy, multiple conversations were had within the Royal Family about the race of the then unborn child. Furthermore, the Duchess claimed the King George VI convention was altered purposely to prevent Archie from receiving a royal title. The King George VI convention is a protocol establishing that the directly inheriting, male children and grandchildren of the Sovereign have the right to attain the styles and titles of “HRH Prince….”

However, in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II issued new letters patent granting the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge the entitlement to ‘HRH’ and ‘Prince/Princess’ despite their indirect line to the throne. This second issue was not extended to the sons and daughters of the Duke of Sussex. It is being argued by defenders of the Royal Family that Archie was not given such titles because he is not subject to either protocols. Meanwhile, defenders of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are arguing that in fact this lack of titular privilege is down to the child’s race and not his position in the succession. An important thing to note is that the Prince of Wales, Charles, has made it clear he wants to ‘slim down’ the Royal Family in order to modernise it by focusing on the direct line alone. However, since he is not King yet, it is interesting to wonder why the Queen did not extend the privilege upon the announcement of the Duchess of Sussex’s pregnancy like she did with the Duchess of Cambridge.

On the topic of relationships with other members of the Royal Family, the Duchess and Duke both claimed to be on friendly terms with the Royal Family before their announcement to step back from senior duties in 2019; they also claimed that conversations were had before this announcement was made. Talking about the first official engagement shared by the Queen and the Duchess of Sussex, it was claimed that the Duchess was given jewellery by the Queen and the pair shared a blanket in the car ride home; easily the most upper-class conference of friendship. The Duke, meanwhile, made it clear that the relationship between his father, his brother and himself was one of “distance”. The Duke told Ms. Winfrey that the Prince of Wales was finally returning his calls. Meanwhile, the Duke has said he has a “really good” relationship with his grandmother, the Queen, and has spoken to her more in the past twelve months than at any other time.

The more predictable outcome of the interview was the revelation that the Duke feared what happened to his late mother, Lady Diana Spencer, was going to happen to his wife. What wasn’t predictable was that the Duchess’ mental health had seriously deteriorated during the height of the intense, and racially motivated, media scrutiny. She stated she was suicidal but was refused help from within Buckingham Palace because she was not a member of the Royal family.

“I didn’t want to live anymore” The Duchess of Sussex shockingly revealed how Royal life and duties had caused her to have suicidal thoughts. The Palace released a statement which said that the allegations raised in the Oprah Winfrey interview, including those of mental health and racism, would be examined “very seriously.” Harpo Productions/CBS/NBC News

This, the week following Queens University’s Mental Health Week, is something I feel important to declare the greatest sin of all. When considering all the Royal Family have come up through the very highest of elitist schools in Britain, is it really a surprise that one of them might be a racist? No, I would say not particularly. Does the revelation that, having admitted their suicidal thoughts, a member of the Royal Family — an institution paid for by the British taxpayer which supposedly represents the nation as a whole and whose own members have made public their mental health fears whilst campaigning supportively for mental health awareness — should shun someone come as a surprise? No, it comes as the greatest disappointment and affirms an even greater shame upon the institution.

To think that someone who is literally suicidal should ever be turned away because they don’t quite ‘fit the bill’ is sickening, it is grotesque and, in my own personal opinion, it is now the mightiest cause in favour of the abolition of such an outdated and unrepresentative institution. Considering the fact that the Royal Family saw great controversy and attacks following the tragic death of the Duke’s mother, it would be expected by many that the Royals might just learn a thing or two about modernisation. If this interview is anything to go by, it can be understood quite firmly that the Royal family still fails on the daily to represent the nation or even the period in which they reign. 

With the interview being only a very recent event, the ball is now in the court of St. James to decide how the Royal Family responds. Whilst unlikely that the public will ever learn of the racist in question — a concern when considering the reality it could be one of the next two men in line for the throne — it is certain that this interview must drive a reformist approach to the institution or be seen as the final nail in its gold-leafed coffin. More to follow in the coming weeks.

Editor’s Note

All words accompanying the images featured in this article are attributable to the Editor, Peter Donnelly.

If you are experiencing any metal health issues, or otherwise, here are contact details of support groups:

The Queen’s University, Belfast Student Wellbeing Service is available on their 24/7 helpline – 028 9097 2893

Inspire Student– (24/7 helpline – Freephone) – 0808 800 0016 (Wellbeing Support)
Lifeline – (24/7 helpline – Freephone) – 0808 808 8000
Samaritans – 116 123 (national line) or 028 9066 4422 (Belfast)
Emergency Services – 999 / Police Non-Emergency – 101

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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