After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced on Wednesday evening that they were going to step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family, the media went crazy. This is in part due to the way in which the royals chose to deliver this information: social media.
It is very possible that the deliverance of this announcement on Meghan and Harry’s website and Instagram was more shocking than the content of the news itself and speculation has been circulating as to whether other senior royals such as Prince William and Kate and even the Queen were informed of the couple’s decision before it was presented for the public to embrace and the media lap up.
Reviewing the media coverage of the event, it seems that rather than taking the couple’s announcement as a unified decision between husband and wife, Meghan has received the majority of backlash for their decision, with many unfairly suggesting that this was entirely her doing and that she knew the responsibility of marrying into royalty before the wedding back in 2018. In fact Meghan, a divorced American actress, has hardly been given a break from the glaring eye of the media since her ‘controversial’ entrance into the British commonwealth. God forbid an American enter the royal family. God forbid a divorced woman enter the royal family. God forbid an actress enter the royal family. These were all responses from the media at the time of Meghan’s initial association with Prince Harry before the two were announced to be wed. Is this fair?
So, having been in the media’s attention for the past two years, it is no surprise that the decision the couple made on Wednesday evening escalated into media vilification for the two. The situation has even been dubbed ‘Megxit’; a second rate attempt at irony given Britain’s similarly tumultuous political state of affairs. In a recent poll Meghan was voted the least liked member of the Royal family but if Megxit demonstrates one thing it has to be the bravery of Meghan and Harry against the royal family and against the darker, more discriminatory sides of British society. Nevertheless, the question remains, how fair is the media’s presentation of the couple’s decision. It was perfectly within their rights to step down so why is the media headlining ‘betrayal’ on behalf of the British monarchy and the British public?
The decision to step back from royal duties includes their desire to become financially independent and remove themselves from the royal rota system. The couple will no longer accept the Sovereign Grant (money paid by taxpayers to support senior royals’ official duties). Prince Harry and Markle received 5% of the Grant, which was specifically used for their ‘official office expense.’ Despite stepping away from their senior roles, the couple hope to keep their residence, Frogmore Cottage, with the permission of the Queen. This way, their family will ‘always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom’, they say on their website.
‘What it seems to me what they’re planning to do is give themselves more freedom, more flexibility, outside of what is certainly known as ‘the firm’ within royal circles,’ says British royals commentator Eloise Parker, referring to the Royal Family. ‘They’re saying, ‘OK, we’re not quitting, but we want to do our own thing too.’
Controversial or not, it seems that most understand what Harry and Meghan’s decision means for the royal family, but less understandable to many is the manner in which the public were told. The claim that they are trying to avoid the public eye, many consider hypocritical as it seems that relaying this announcement first to the media itself is somewhat counter-intuitive to their aim for a ‘private’ life. Nevertheless, it seems unfair to judge the couple for their decision as a relatively newly wed couple and recently new parents. It may be understandable that the upbringing they wish to give their son be one of normality and integration with children who aren’t connected to the British throne. Perhaps then, while Meghan and Harry may not have presented their decision as responsibly as they could have, it is equally as irresponsible of the media to bombard the couple in their stand against the expectations of the royals and brave move to independence. Something of a life lesson can then possibly be derived from stories such as theirs. Be bold.