TW: Mentions of suicide
On April 29, 2011 I pulled an all-nighter with my Mom to watch my very first Royal Wedding. I was twelve years old, and media networks from around the world eagerly waited to see the grand spectacle. I can’t say for sure that I understood the significance of the Royal Family at the time.
My Mom, who was born and raised in England, always had a natural fascination for the family as many British people do. Later, my Mom would tell me she enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of Royal processions, but remained skeptical of the family after the death of Princess Diana.
But little Jeevan sitting at home in Canada, had no clue about what the Royal Family really represented, and the toxic inner workings of their family relations.
It seems this sentiment was shared by Meghan Markle, when she sat down alongside her husband Prince Harry for a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey. The pair explained the media frenzy surrounding their marriage and the decision to step back from their roles as senior members of the Royal family.
During the interview, Markle shared many disturbing accounts of operating within the Royal Family, including intense social isolation, reaching out for support while on the brink of suicide (to no avail), and racist comments made by members of the Royal family about the colour of her son’s skin.
However, the pair were glowing in their depictions of the Queen, the current head of state. Many cited their skepticism of this depiction, claiming the Queen was likely implicit in the atmosphere that Meghan and Harry experienced.
The statements made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex sparked conversations around the world about the validity of the claims, and about the role of the monarchy in the present day.
Staunch monarchists made it a point to slander and discredit Markle, saying that it was inconceivable that the Royal Family could be racist.
To be clear, supporters are claiming that the family that is the figurehead of an empire that has spent centuries pillaging, and inflicting racial trauma under the false pretense of civilization, could in no way be racist.
The effects of British Imperialism are still alive and well today, and the Royal Family is a symbolic representation of this.
This is what makes the subsequent debates about whether or not the Royal family is racist, ridiculous to many people watching around the world.
TV host Piers Morgan has repeatedly been vocal about his hatred for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
After the interview with Oprah aired, he made comments citing Markle’s ability to act, and suggested that Markle was lying about her experiences with suicidal ideation.
Many others followed suit on Twitter. For those of us not in England, the response has been quite favorable towards Markle and Prince Harry. However, a quick search on Twitter or Google will show how enraged many are by the comments made in the interview.
Morgan, the host of one of the most watched morning programs in Great Britain (Good Morning Britain) took the liberty of outwardly discrediting the claims of Markle on live television, gaslighting her experience and poking holes in her interview.
In many ways, this is an act of harm.
To openly disparage a woman of colour’s experience in a colonial system is all too familiar for many women watching from all around the world. It feeds into the notion that women of colour do not have a right to their trauma and their pain, and that it is acceptable for our experiences to be a point of contention for men.
Buckingham Palace has since released a statement addressing the interview; “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”
A few days ago while visiting a school in London with the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William uncharacteristically responded to a stray question from a reporter, claiming he has not yet spoken to his brother since the interview and that, “We’re very much not a racist family.”
In September of 2020, Barbados announced their intention to remove the Queen as head of state. This decision has been recirculating on social media since the interview, prompting others to consider the colonial history behind the Royal family and question the Queen’s role as head of state for other Commonwealth nations.
The persisting buzz around this interview enables us to interrogate why we care so much about the Royal family in the first place. As figureheads, the Royal family holds almost no practical power, while simultaneously centralizing generations of wealth and stolen artifacts.
In a lot of ways they serve the public in the ways celebrities do. They smile and wave and live a grandiose life that is fun to imagine.
But is the idea of a Royal life enough for us to overlook the ongoing colonial history they represent?
As someone who is finally beginning to understand the painful legacy that the Crown represents, and the violence they continue to inflict; dismantling the monarchy doesn’t sound so bad to me.
I’ll survive without another Royal Wedding.
About the author: Jeevan is a UBC Sociology student, writer and self-proclaimed cinephile (to annoy the film majors). An aspiring journalist, she loves writing silly little articles about pop-culture, media, politics and the South Asian experience while balancing her job in community-engaged learning. When she isn't having an existential crisis, you can find her over-caffeinating, binging a new show or trying to prove that she's a much cooler, brown Rory Gilmore