Britain’s least popular couple, ex-royals Meghan and Harry, accused the royal family of outright racism in a Sunday night interview with Oprah Winfrey. Meghan Markle, a B-list actress, displayed her limited theatrical range in tearful claims that her in-laws had driven her to the brink of suicide, and that “the Firm” had refused security for her baby Archie because of the color of his skin.
Meghan and Harry bear the titles of Duchess and Duke of Sussex, at least for the time being.
British commentators dismissed the allegations as a “woke” attack on one of the most venerable of Western institutions, the thousand-year-old British monarchy, consistent with attempts to cancel Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Dr Seuss.
The Winfrey interview coincided with the annual celebration of the British Commonwealth, comprising 54 nations with a combined population of 2.4 billion, and was beamed to most of the former British colonies in Africa.
Celebrated on television rather than in assembly because of pandemic restrictions, the Commonwealth event proceeded in high pageantry with an Anglican service in Westminster Abbey, attended by Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth. Britain’s cultural influence and the Queen’s personal prestige among the former British colonies is an important part of Britain’s remaining world influence.
The Oprah interview will not play well in the United Kingdom, where Markle has one of the highest negative ratings of any public figure. While Queen Elizabeth II has a 73% positive rating on the YouGov poll and her grandson Prince William has a 75% rating, Markle’s positive rating stands at just 32%.
Sunday Times columnist Clare Foges wrote just before the Oprah program went on the air, “In Her Majesty the Queen we have a soft-power asset of incalculable value.… So when you come for our monarch or her ‘establishment,’ you come for Britain’s reputation, too.
“Though the Sussexes will always stress their fealty to Harry’s grandmother (their titles depend on it, after all), by suggesting that ‘the Firm’ has been ‘perpetuating falsehoods,’ they are attacking her life’s work. The Queen has spent decades preserving the mystique that is essential to monarchy’s power; in one two-hour interview they have lobbed a grenade through it.”
In the United Kingdom, Markle is viewed as a vengeful adventuress who spurned a US$40 million wedding and the vice-presidency of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, among other emoluments. But the American left will seize upon her complaints as yet another proof that systemic racism infects all the important institutions of the West.
Oprah’s theatrics played first of all to a domestic American constituency, and secondly to African Commonwealth countries.
Meghan’s biographer Omid Scobie remarked on the Oprah interview that “The US wants to uncover the darker side of the royals.”
The campaign against the legacy of the British Empire began when the just-elected president Barack Obama banished a bust of Winston Churchill, the most prominent Western statesman of the 20th century, from the Oval Office. Obama’s successor Donald Trump restored the bust – a gift from the British people – to its perch in the presidential office, and President Joe Biden removed it once again.
When statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are removed from public display in the United States in order to purge public life of the alleged residue of racism, Britain’s monarchy is a prime target for America’s cultural revolutionaries.
Meghan and Harry would have been dismissed as spoiled attention-seekers under normal circumstances, but have found their 15 minutes of fame as an instrument of attack on one of the West’s wellsprings of tradition.
American progressives will deplore the supposed racism of the monarchy, which presides over an Anglican Communion that is now overwhelmingly African in membership. That does not, however, discourage the progressives from currying favor with the British Establishment to enhance personal prestige. Ex-president Obama’s daughter Malia has been dating British toff Rory Farquharson, a former head boy at Rugby School whose relatives worked for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles for more than a decade.
Markle has been called out repeatedly for her hypocrisy. The same woman who wears diamond earrings given to her by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is given to denouncing Saudi Arabia for its treatment of women. The British press has reported extensively about Meghan’s bullying of office and domestic staff.