Tin Hats On

Yes, I’m back. How could I not be after that? We’ll do a proper catch up some other time because we need to turn to what I’m going to go ahead and decree the cultural interview of the decade and it’s only 2021. I’m not going to give a lot of grounding context – unless you’re living under a rock (and clearly you’re not because you’re reading this!) you’re well aware that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry & Meghan) sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey and it aired in the U.S. this evening in a two-hour special. I had anticipated recapping while also touching upon the buildup this past week (the bullying claims, etc.) but I’m going to have to save that for another post. There. Was. No. Filler. We have much to cover.

I’ll try not to be long-winded, but if you’ve been reading here for a while then you well know that’s not really my forte, so here we go 🙂 [Edit: Now that I’m done writing, of course this is long. Of course! Tomorrow I’ll go back through and copy edit, etc. Apologies in advance for typos but I wanted to get this up tonight since my God, what else are we going to talk about??]

First things first, this was BIG. This wasn’t overhyped, there will be massive fallout, and I would bet very good money that the Palace will respond in short order. They have to. What was said this evening, regardless of your opinion of it, was incredibly damaging and it’s airing to a global audience, the majority of which isn’t overly educated in the nuance of the British Royal Family (BRF).

Meghan’s Knowledge of the BRF

I was rolling my eyes during this segment. If we accept at face value that Meghan knew literally nothing about the Royal Family, Harry, Diana, etc. then I’m still flummoxed as to how it’s something to brag about that you entered this situation without doing any research. It’s a marriage, yes, but it’s also a job and an entirely foreign way of life. Preparing for it doesn’t mean googling Harry or reading tabloids – it means educating yourself on the institution. Biographies, real journalism, history – literally anything.

It was very telling that Meghan equated royalty with celebrity. It’s understandable that was her context, but there seemed to have been a fundamental stumbling block that marrying him meant taking on a role in which you were agreeing to represent a monarch and an institution that does mean something to millions of people. It’s a massive responsibility, and one that no one should walk into blindly. It reminded me of the reported story that William cautioned Harry to move more slowly with Meghan – frankly, that was good advice for both of their sakes.

The anecdote about how Meghan met the Queen was interesting. She clearly hesitated when referencing Royal Lodge, not necessarily wanting to mention Andrew’s name (understandably), but the picture painted was cute – Fergie running out and asking if she was ready, which is notable only because it illustrates Fergie still regularly sees the Queen, and Harry teaching her how to curtsy before walking in. I also think her reaction to not realizing that the family bows/curtsies to the Queen behind closed doors was fair – I’m not sure that I fully tracked that until the kerfuffle when Charles and Camilla married in 2005. And yeah, it doesn’t normalize the BRF.

Kate

So this segment is when I knew this was going to get wild. It’s not that Meghan said anything particularly damaging about Kate, but the candor with which she answered this question is borderline unprecedented. In short, the famous story that Meghan made Kate cry in the lead up to the 2018 wedding over Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress was not only untrue, but in fact it was Kate who made Meghan cry. According to Meghan, Kate followed up later to apologize and gave her flowers. In a vacuum, this isn’t that big of a deal – Meghan was a bride days away from getting married and newly introduced to global superstardom and Kate had given birth to Louis weeks before. If one of them snapped, it’s pretty understandable. I actually believe Meghan’s version of events.

Meghan said that she accepted Kate’s apology and forgave her, but she called the incident a “turning point” because the “Palace” wouldn’t respond to the story or let anyone who witnessed it refute the falsehood. In short, the women aren’t close but Meghan referred to her as “a good person” and both she and Harry reiterated what they said during their engagement interview about Kate being very welcoming to Meghan when she came on the scene.

Palace v. Family

One thing Meghan does well is clearly articulate that there’s a difference between members of the family and the staff that works for them. She doesn’t necessarily make that differentiation easy to follow in her answers, but I’m glad she at least said that since the majority of the audience isn’t going to understand the split. “The Palace” generally refers to the household/staff, however “the firm” and “the institution” is a bit nebulous. At various points Meghan is asked to clarify to which she is referring and I’ll highlight that throughout the following portions.

Archie’s Title & Security

And then things got really wild. Meghan says that Archie’s lack of title was at the firm’s direction, and then clarifies that these conversations included both Palace staff and members of the family. She further says that they planned to deprive him of security and that they were changing the law to withhold his proper birthright. What’s interesting about this is that everyone assumed at the time that Archie’s lack of title was Harry and Meghan’s decision and it ended up feeding into a larger narrative that they were hypocritical about privacy.

What’s also interesting about this is that Meghan is fundamentally wrong about the law, but I can glean what she’s trying to say so here goes. The rule she’s trying to reference is Letters Patent from George V that state grandchildren of the monarch are styled as princes and princesses. As such, Archie would never have been styled “Prince Archie” at birth because today he is a monarch’s great-grandchild. In theory, he would become a prince when Charles became king. Charles and his camp want to change that law so that the children of younger offspring (for example, Archie, as the son of a younger son) wouldn’t be elevated to that rank. That has nothing to do with Archie personally. Charles’s desire to streamline the Royal Family has been well-reported and public for at least a decade and the rule change wasn’t inspired by Archie’s birth, but is rather one part of a broader plan to make the monarchy more modern and less expensive.

My guess is that it’s possible the Palace made clear that they didn’t want Archie to be given the courtesy title, Earl of Dumbarton, to which he could use as the Duke of Sussex’s eldest/only son, but Meghan doesn’t say this. Instead, she says Archie won’t be a prince because he’s mixed race. Now, I believe that Meghan believes this, but this leads me back to my earlier point: How are Harry and Meghan this illiterate about how their own family works? Particularly Harry? I don’t have the ability to absolve the BRF of racism charges, but I can say that on this particular issue, Archie’s lack of title has nothing to do with him, his race, or his mother’s.

Regarding security, I understand Harry and Meghan’s concern given the intense amount of scrutiny they were under (including death threats) that their son wouldn’t have any protection. For “the Palace” they’re attempting to set a precedent, but this is an instance where they probably should have found some flexibility. Archie as an adult may well not need security (Beatrice and Eugenie are doing just fine, for example), but for the time being, he’s very much a public figure in the midst of a very controversial dynamic. On this half of the debate, I’m going to side with H&M.

Archie’s Skin Tone

Christ. This was the worst part, in my opinion. Oprah asked Meghan why she didn’t pose for “the photo” with Archie when he was born (well, she did, but not immediately after as you may recall from that particular fiasco). Meghan’s answer is that it was fear, but indirectly says that since her son was being deprived of a title and security she didn’t see why she should be expected to. Later on, we learn the state of her mental health during her pregnancy, so the fear element makes more sense. As this conversation unfolds, we also learn that ongoing logistical discussions Harry was having prompted a member of the family to express concern about Archie’s skin color. In other words, how dark would he be at birth and how would that look?

This is objectively horrible and if the Palace responds to only one thing, it has to be this. This is so, so damaging. Of course, the natural next question is who said that to Harry, but both Harry and Meghan refuse to answer. So, who was it? Well, it would have to be someone who would be having conversations with Harry in the leadup to his son’s birth, which indicates a senior royal. My guess is that we’re talking about Charles or William. I’m sure there’s going to more to this story, so I’m going to leave it at that for now.

Meghan’s Suicidal Thoughts

In the saddest and darkest portion of the interview, Meghan shares that she was suicidal during her pregnancy with Archie due to the pressure, negativity, and isolation. She states that she reached out for support and asked to be institutionalized but was told that it wasn’t possible because it would look horrible. She says she finally reached out to HR and they said they sympathized, but there was nothing they could do because she wasn’t a paid member of staff. Listening to her, I was unclear if any of her outreach was to the family itself, and Harry later clarifies that no, they never told his family.

At first, I was confused about this, thinking that if Harry went to the Queen or Charles, then surely Meghan would receive help. But having absorbed the interview as a whole, based on Harry’s later comments, I think relations with Charles – and William and Kate – were incredibly strained at this point. Harry also spoke about his own embarrassment about how badly things were going, which I think stopped him from going to the Queen.

I don’t know what help Meghan ended up receiving personally – therapy, medication, etc. – because obviously she is allowed to see physicians and therapists, but the fact that she was desperately reaching out to staff paints a bleak picture. It’s also a bizarre one for most people but underscores the unique relationship that the royals have with their household staffs. They wield power, have enormous personal information, and are also employees. It is, naturally, a breeding ground for toxicity. The allusion to Diana is obvious, and it’s the most definitive answer as to why Harry and Meghan were at such a low point at the end of their Africa tour months later and, of course, their departure early last year.

Wedding Date

Turns out, Harry and Meghan were actually married on May 16, 2018 – three days before their public wedding. Now you know.

The Statement

There was contradicting information after Harry and Meghan released their statement last January as to whether or not the Queen was blindsided. I’ll have to go back and read what I said at the time, but according to Harry he had three conversations with the Queen and two with Charles before the statement went out. He and Meghan also both said that these conversations had been ongoing for “two years,” which, if taken literally, means that they started before they were actually married. It’s also a tad confusing because Harry also talks about how they had “no plan” when they arrived in Canada, but I guess those aren’t mutually exclusive. Just…odd.

Charles

The general understanding was that while Harry and Meghan made this transition they were receiving money from Charles. Again, I would have to go back and look as to what pot of money Charles was ostensibly tapping for this allowance, but that’s what was widely reported. According to Harry, he was financially cut off by his father in the first quarter of 2020 and after those two conversations re: the statement, Charles stopped taking his calls.

Later on, Harry said that the two were now back in touch, but the relationship has been damaged. This is definitely an issue I want to revisit, but for now: Charles isn’t going to have a good week in the press.

Jealousy

One of the more interesting things Harry said was that while his family was welcoming of Meghan initially, things changed after their Oz/NZ tour. He clearly states that there was an issue with how well Meghan did, how effortlessly she took on the job, and the glowing coverage. In other words, they were jealous. I think it’s safe to assume that Charles is wrapped up in this, and in fact Oprah references the 1983 tour that Charles and Diana took – recently covered by The Crown – during which Charles was famously jealous of his wife’s popularity. But notably, based on phrasing and what had just been covered, I also think William and Kate are wrapped up in this.

Do I think the state of affairs in their collective relationships comes down to jealousy of Meghan? No. Do I think there’s a kernel of truth in there? Yes. More to come.

Diana

Harry says that he believes Diana would be “angry and sad” by how this situation has played out, but that the end of the day, she would have wanted him to be happy. He also says that he thinks she saw something like this “coming,” and that’s part of why he was left with such a sizable inheritance from her. Indeed, Harry was left with more money than William due in large part to the fact that William will one day have control of a massive fortune as Prince of Wales and then king. Diana was giving Harry independence. Literally. Once cut off, Harry says that he and Meghan lived off his private fortune from his mother.

After all the Charles v. Diana parenting battles, Diana may have just won the war. If that’s not poetic, I don’t know what is.

William

Harry says their relationship is one of “space” and “time heals all wounds.” My guess is that time won’t come into play until the wounds stop and tonight was a rillll gunshot.

Princess Lessons

Meghan speaks about how little she was prepared for this role. She says it’s not how it is in the movies, with lessons on how to sit or speak. She also says that while others in the family may have received this, she didn’t. I took this as an allusion to Kate since it’s been widely reported that Kate was given a crash course in “princess lessons” upon her engagement. It’s also a clear allusion to Diana, obviously…whether or not Meghan was tracking that is, I think, up for debate.

Archie

There’s a brief video clip of Archie playing with his parents on the beach. It’s a short moment, but it struck me that it was blurry and in black and white since the Sussexes’ 2020 Christmas card was an illustrated photo. In other words, they aren’t making their son publicly accessible. Given the comments re: his lack of title, security, and birth, I do want to pick this back up at some point.

Ok, I haven’t covered the Press or the Palace’s lack of support….but I’ve run out of steam and there’s a lot to unpack there. I’m going to have to save that for another post later this week. I’ll respond to comments here and on Instagram, so eager to hear your thoughts. And I’ll follow up soon with further thoughts/odds and ends. It’s good to be back and Happy Sunday (er, Monday morning)!

12 thoughts on “Tin Hats On

  1. Anonymous

    So glad you are back here. Yay!

    I don’t give two hoops about these two anymore. I have a few questions though. I understand they had two weddings and both were religious ceremonies? Which one is legal then? Both?
    And that thing about Archie’s skin tone. My first thought was Prince Philip. It wouldn’t be the first time when he said something so outrageous.

    1. Hi! Glad to be back 🙂 Re: the wedding(s), it’s unclear based on Meghan’s statement. It’s possible the first was a blessing and she just phrased it poorly? I haven’t dug into this too much because I’ve been distracted by other aspects of the interview, but given that you’re not supposed to have two religious ceremonies, it’s possible this will need to clarified by either the Palace of representatives for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

      As for the Archie comment, Oprah confirmed this morning that based on private conversations with Harry and Meghan, the relative was neither the Queen nor Philip. The reason I didn’t initially think it was him was based on how Harry and Meghan described the incident(s) – they were surprised and said multiple times how damaging it would be if it came out. Given Philip’s age and reputation for tone deaf comments (to say the least), I don’t think him saying something like that would be as remarkable in public or private.

  2. LEW

    So good to see you back Rebecca and thank you for the masterly summary! To be honest, I think a suit of full plate jousting armour might be better than a tin hat…

    I must say I’m struggling to absorb it all, especially as there is a lack of clarity/consistency around some aspects, so these are immediate thoughts only.

    1) As things stand, obviously Archie will become a Prince when Charles becomes King. I can just about believe Meghan didn’t understand how titles are awarded but Harry? Really? I suppose it is possible Charles intends to change the rules as part of his streamlining ideas and they got wind of it and are aggrieved. Where I do sympathise is with any concern around security, considering there was a racist aspect to some criticism of Meghan publicly and I can (very sadly) believe death threats etc were made. Terrifying for anyone and an abhorrent situation and there they had every right to expect robust support.

    2) I struggle to believe that they were prevented from sourcing the therapeutic help and support Meghan needed. Diana had therapy, Charles has apparently, Harry definitely.

    3) It now seems clear that QE and Philip are not in the frame for making a racist comment about the baby. In terms of senior royals, that leaves Charles, William and their wives? I can’t work out exactly what was meant to have been said and when. All I can say is that I find it astonishing and that they are very, very wrong to not say plainly who it was, as it effectively smears all the others.

    4) The private wedding thing is just nonsense, it wouldn’t have been legal and framing what sounds incredibly like a private blessing as the actual marriage is just daft. I think the A of C is going to have to clarify that.

    I know it could be said that there is often reverting to Hanoverian type, but this feels more like the Angevins for the Instagram age. Boggled.

    Apologies for wibbling on!

    Laura

    1. Thank you and agreed! To chime in:

      1. The fact that they were both so clearly confused about how it all worked was so weird to me. Like, this was widely reported on when Meghan announced her pregnancy in 2018 and at Archie’s birth in 2019, so even if Harry wasn’t tracking the rule, it was a part of the conversation for a long time. It was also a big topic when Kate was having her children, particularly Charlotte in 2015. Also, like, if there were ongoing conversations with the family, why didn’t someone just explain and/or why didn’t Harry just ask? Pretty big elephant to let wander around the room unaddressed.
      2. Yeah, this is definitely a narrative where I think there’s more to the story. I think the pushback on Meghan at the time came around her desire to be hospitalized. Setting emotion outside, obviously had news broken in 2019 that Meghan was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts during her pregnancy it would have been complete chaos – that’s not a wholly unfair consideration for staff to make. Arguably, it’s part of their job to compartmentalize like that. That said, if someone says they want to end their life, you pretty much do everything and anything to get them what they need, including what they ask for. But yes, Meghan absolutely had access to medical help, including therapy. We don’t know if she availed herself of it, but it’s not uncommon for the royals, and the fact that it was presented as though she was denied any treatment is an incomplete picture.

      3. Bringing it up and not naming names is annoying for exactly the reasons you stated. I hope that some sort of explanation is provided and it gives additional context. As it’s been presented, it’s certainly hard to defend.

      4. Agreed!

      “Angevins for the Instagram Age” – love it!

      1. LEW

        Amidst all the current unhappy travails I confess to a bit of a smile imagining the Devil’s Brood on social media. Perhaps John Lackland would have written a book. “Finding Fiefdom”.

  3. Eliizabeth M.

    There is a lot in the interview that feels duplicitous or exaggerated when considered in the context of past interviews and information. Was this interview to clear the record or to confuse it? Perhaps the couple are confused; it’s possible they have convinced themselves of some seemingly illogical contentions, like that Megan didn’t do any research about Harry.

    It feels as if Meghan is using Princess Diana’s life as a playbook. The suicidal feelings, the contention that the popularity she garnered in Australia was seen as a threat, the naivete she had about what she would face as a royal are examples. (At the same time, it’s definitely not my intention to make light of suicide, to ignore the traumatic impact of shameful racism, or disrespect anyone.)

    It also feels that if the couple plotted out their goals for the interview ahead of time, then “revenge” and “hurting people” would figure more strongly than “clarity” or “bridge building” or “bringing attention to a new documentary we just produced for Netflix”. I don’t think a person heals from being hurt by being more hurtful. If anything, the opposite is true.

    I wonder if Meghan and Harry are confident enough to feel they are interesting on their own, without their narrative of being poorly treated.

  4. theresa kincaid

    I could not agree more….I think what they did was wrong on so many levels…and the fact that folks take them at face value is even more disturbing …What dose this say about us all.The constant drawing of attention to themselves and their so called problems…Folks there are real problems in the world that need to be addressed….real people who are suffering and working diligently to charge their circumstances without the millions of dollars these folks have and the privileged life they lead. When one throws out accusations…one sided…what are you trying to accomplish?!?! Now real threats are being made to William and Kate and their children…was this the goal…to sow seeds of hatred….poor me? Frankly I am so tired of it all! GET A LIFE…one that could be respected…not this!

  5. Miss Kitty

    The biggest and most shocking thing that most people seem to be taking from this interview is the revelation that someone in the royal family spoke to them about Archie’s possible skin colour. Somehow this has led to the whole royal family being painted as racist in the media. I don’t know what to think about it TBH, as there is no context given around the conversations, and even Meghan said they had not said anything to her. Was it someone just wondering about it, the way I remember reading stories about whether Archie might have red hair? (https://www.purewow.com/news/meghan-markle-prince-harry-baby-red-hair; https://www.quora.com/Will-Prince-Harry-and-Meghan-Markles-baby-have-ginger-hair) Is it really any different to that? Parents do wonder what their children will look like before they’re born, and especially when another race is thrown in you might wonder how much of each parent will show in the children, without it being in a negative way. I just don’t know what has happened here, we are left to presume it was said in a racist way, but knowing how sensitive and thin-skinned and protective Harry was of his wife by that point, I do have to wonder whether it was simply taken the wrong way, like William asking Harry whether he was sure about Meghan before they were married. (https://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/prince-harry-overwhelmed-with-guilt-about-being-away-from-royals-during-coronavirus/news-story/c2f345c074f3cacdb60ed139ff978f54) And I don’t believe it had anything to do with Archie not being given a title, as you point out. Meghan says that policy was changed for him but that is not correct, they are trying to dramatise something that never happened. Which does make me wonder a bit about the rest of their interview.

    If Meghan did have suicidal thoughts and was told she could not seek help for it then that is awful and something that the Royal family need to change. But going by the fact that so many other facts in the interview were incorrect or stretched, I do wonder. Why could she not have sought help herself? Why did she have to ask the Palace for help? So many questions.

    All that said, I’m glad that they are happy where they are now. I hope that now they have given this interview and got it off their chests, that they can stop looking backwards at their old lives and move forward with their new life.

  6. LEW

    I hope it is OK to add something, after more reflection!

    I’ve had a growing sense of something now I’ve absorbed more of the interview. Suppose Harry saw his pregnant new wife very distressed, vulnerable and expressing suicidal ideation and one or both of them felt the Press and/or the Palace “machine” responsible for this. Throw in concerns about inadequate security for your child (justified or not) against a tragic backdrop that has influenced your whole life, where you justifiably believe a similar combination of circumstances deprived you of your mother. Add the vile racist death threats and I can imagine the circumstances where, in a blind panic to protect your wife and child, you would think the best option is to run, and run again from Canada to California when the security situation seemed further threatened. I actually think this flight made the situation 100 times worse, but I can grasp-and pity- the possible thought processes behind it, however flawed or kneejerk.

    If we forget all the flummery about bridesmaids fittings and tights for toddlers and Googling anthems and advance weddings-that-weren’t, I think-possibly-at the core of all this is a terrible fear and a dread of history repeating. The protection issue is to me non negotiable. Harry didn’t choose to be born a Prince and he could call himself Comrade Harry Bloggs and go to live in a tent in the Outer Hebrides and would still need protection, because in reality they can’t give up being them. Maybe Archie will be able to live a freer life (I hope so) but Harry is right about the need for robust protection for the foreseeable future. This is expensive-really expensive- and I have to say as a British tax payer, I’m happy to throw in my 20p a year or whatever to ensure they have it.

    Laura

  7. Giovana Fiuza Ribeiro

    Don’t leave us again! Between this two and the Crown season 4 (argh) things have been a mess! So much misinformation!

  8. EMS

    I’m among those who are just not buying the part about Meghan not having done any research about what marrying into the BRF would entail. She’s neither stupid nor naive, but stupidity & naivety are really the only reasons someone in her position wouldn’t take a moment to try to find out what life after marrying Prince Harry would look like. She and Harry were not a couple of lovestruck teens running off to the Justice of the Peace on impulse. It just seems completely disingenuous.

    The other thing I keep going back to was their statement about the Queen inviting Harry to come for a visit and then rescinding the invitation with a claim of being too busy. I wonder if this wasn’t simply a case of Harry being invited for an informal one-on-one visit with his grandmother and then the reply being that both Harry & Meghan would be there. Most everyone has had a similar experience among family or friends. You invite your friend/relative to lunch only to have them decide you clearly must have wanted to include their partner. It isn’t that you necessarily have any ill will towards the partner, just that it completely changes the nature of the visit.

    It seems reasonable that perhaps the Queen was hoping to have a moment alone with Harry where she could speak more openly with him try to defuse the whole “exit” situation. When it was made clear that this could not happen the invite was rescinded. Saying she was too busy is a far gentler statement than saying she had hoped not to include Meghan. It’s just a theory, but it’s not an uncommon situation and one even members of the BRF may face now and then.

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