The contemptible Oprah /Sussex circus

It told us nothing about the Royal Family and much more about Meghan, Harry and America

Duke and Duchess of Sussex at The Lion King European premiere, July 2019

It will take time before the smoke of battle clears from the Oprah Winfrey interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and we can more properly assess its impact. It is unlikely, however, to dent support for the monarchy in Britain. 

Indeed, the whole Oprah/Sussex circus tells us nothing about the Royal Family that withstands proper scrutiny. It tells us a great deal more about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and America itself. And none of it is good. 

From the reported reaction, it seems America is overwhelmingly on the side of Meghan and unquestioningly believes the preposterous story she has told of her own alleged persecution and suffering at the hands of the royals (other than the Queen herself, who by Meghan’s own account treated her with nothing but kindness and has now had her whole family smeared and trashed for her pains). 

In America, there seems precious little desire or ability to subject the Sussexes’ denunciation to anything like the scepticism it requires. For the whole thing was not only an attempt to besmirch the Royal Family by spraying a poisonous miasma of unspecific smears and unsubstantiated assertions. It was also riddled with astonishing ignorance and contradictions.

Take, for example, the explosive accusation of the Royal Family’s alleged racism. The Duchess told Oprah Winfrey that, while she was pregnant with Archie, there had been “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”. She variously ascribed this alleged topic of conversation to one individual and to more than one who had been talking to Prince Harry.

When the prince was asked about this alleged remark later in the interview, he told Winfrey the conversation in question had been “awkward” and left him “a bit shocked”. But he appeared to suggest he had heard this alleged slur from a royal figure before he and Meghan were married. He said

That was right at the beginning, when she wasn't going to get security, when members of my family were suggesting that she carries on acting, because there was not enough money to pay for her, and all this sort of stuff. Like, there was some real obvious signs before we even got married that this was going to be really hard.

So was the comment made about the unborn Archie, or was it part of a different and maybe broader conversation? Without knowing the context of the remark, we cannot judge it. 

The Duchess seems to have based this smear on conjecture. She said of the remark: 

That was relayed to me from Harry. That was a conversation that family had with him and I think that it was really hard to see that as compartmentalised from everything else. 

Winfrey asked her whether the royals were “worried that if he was too brown that would be a problem?” To which Meghan replied:

If that’s the assumption you are making I think that feels like a pretty safe one.

So she was repeating a second-hand conversation to which she was imputing a racist motive without a shred of evidence to back that up. What’s more, since both she and Prince Harry refused to say who had made this remark they were in effect smearing the whole family.

Subsequently, Winfrey told CBS that off-camera Prince Harry had stressed that “neither his grandmother or grandfather were part of that conversation”. But he didn’t choose to say it himself on camera, and so still left other members of his family smeared by implication and unable to defend themselves.  

Meghan’s determination to assert racial prejudice against Archie at Buckingham Palace merely exposed her own risible ignorance. She suggested that these racist attitudes had deprived her son of the same kind of title or security protection as other royal grandchildren, by which she presumably meant the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She expressed anger at 

the idea of our son not being safe, and also the idea of the first member of colour in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.

But under royal convention, only the children of a future monarch have the right to the title prince or princess — which means the Cambridge children have those titles, but Archie Sussex is currently too far down the pecking order.  And the idea that a royal child would be denied adequate security because of the colour of his skin is nothing less than paranoid or malicious nonsense.

In a previously unbroadcast section of the interview revealed yesterday, Prince Harry was asked if he had left the UK because of racism. He replied:

It was a large part of it.

What rubbish. Prince Charles stepped in with delight to walk Meghan down the aisle in the absence of her own father. The Queen was gracious and friendly to both Meghan and her mother. Britain was delighted to have a mixed-race princess. The public’s attitude soured as a direct result of the Sussexes’ arrogant and boorish behaviour, such as not allowing the public to know the names of Archie’s godparents. 

People perceived correctly that Meghan was simply not willing to adapt to the rules of behaviour as a member of the Royal Family. Public unease and criticism turned into outrage when it became clear that the Sussexes wanted to milk their titles and royal status while refusing to undertake the duties of that role.

As for Meghan’s claim that life as working royal had taken her to the brink of suicide, is this really plausible? Suicidal feelings are the product of profound psychological disorder.  She said she had recognised she needed professional help and wanted to check into a hospital. She said she went to “the institution” but claimed: 

I was told I couldn’t, it wouldn’t be good for the institution. I went to one of the most senior people to get help.

Why didn’t she just visit a doctor? Why didn’t her husband haul her off to one when she told him she no longer wanted to live? And in the light of the trauma over Princess Diana and the damage done to the Royal Family as a result of her own psychological problems — not to mention her throwing herself down the stairs — is it really likely that if anyone at the palace had thought Meghan was mentally ill they would have sat on their hands? Isn’t it more likely that they chose instead not to act on what appeared to them be yet more tendentious complaints about the way she said she was being treated?

The most egregious contradiction, however, is between the Sussexes’ much-professed insistence on privacy and the appalling nature of those who dare invade it, and how they have not only made themselves into the biggest story in the world but have trashed the privacy of their family’s conversations and dealings with them.

Even worse than the Duchess’s attack on her husband’s family was Prince Harry’s attack on his own father, accusing him of cutting off his money and refusing to answer his calls, and on his brother and sister-in-law.  More unscreened footage which has now been made public shows him piling yet more insults on his family. 

This altogether despicable performance has now buried forever the notion these two assiduously promote that they are kind, decent and compassionate people. They have now revealed themselves to be the opposite. This interview with Oprah was a mutual, and mutually grubby, exploitathon. 

The interview was a disaster: not for the British monarchy, but for the reputation of Prince Harry and his wife in the only place where this matters — in Britain, which these two have now grossly insulted along with the Royal Family and the monarchy. The Duchess has now revealed herself as self-obsessed, spiteful and venal. Prince Harry has done something even more unforgivable to his father, his grandparents and his brother and sister-in-law.

And in America, where the pair have apparently solid support, we can see exposed the yawning culture gap with Britain.

For it appears that this America (presumably there are some exceptions, which may grow in time) can’t even recognise the blindingly obvious contradictions in this encounter. This America can’t acknowledge the grotesque disloyalty and spite that’s been unleashed against close relatives. This America can’t spot the rank hypocrisy and arrogance of a couple who lecture the world on its failings but cannot themselves behave with elementary decency.

This America can’t separate manufactured images from reality. Just as it was a sucker for Princess Diana’s manipulation of her media image, it is now being played by the woman who is trading on that tragic history to exploit Diana’s son. Incapable of separating reality from Hollywood, this America is now mesmerised by the performance of a Hollywood actress; from which it has formed a hanging jury to condemn a family across the Atlantic whose side of these events it doesn’t even think it necessary to hear. 

This is because it already has a view about the British monarchy drawn almost entirely from ignorance and caricature. It has watched The Crown, and has assumed that the fabrications and character assassinations in that soap-opera are also true and so it now understands the British monarchy.

In the same way, it has a view of Britain that is itself drawn from the comically outdated caricature of a country still run by the English upper class. This America’s  understanding of Britain, of the iron sense of duty embodied by Britain’s monarchy and the role it plays in unifying the country and underpinning its shared sense of decency, gentleness and identity, is next to zero.

As the British born journalist and American diva Tina Brown has said: “Let’s bow down to the real queen here – Oprah”.

Yup — that’s about the level of all this.

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