It has been nearly three weeks since the biggest royal television event since Princess Diana’s shocking 1995 interview with Martin Bashir—and still the shockwaves keep coming.
The latest bombshell is that Meghan Markle’s confession to Oprah that she and Prince Harry had secretly married before their televised royal wedding was not strictly true. “You know, three days before our wedding, we got married,” she insisted in the interview watched around the world. “No one knows that. The vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
As the British press have now gleefully pointed out, this simply could not have happened — by U.K. law, a minimum of two witnesses are needed for a wedding to take place … and even the Archbishop of Canterbury himself only counts as one person.
Such an easily provable untruth has naturally led to an examination of all the couple’s other assertions and accusations that rocked The Firm to its core. Was Meghan really bullied? Were the Windsors really not allowing Archie to become a prince? Was Harry, as he claimed, “literally cut off financially” by his family? Were they denied the kind of security detail expected of the Queen’s grandson? Was she really denied mental health care?
And, most damningly of all: has she really been the victim of racism — by the British press, and most shockingly, by a still-unnamed “senior royal”?
Perhaps unfortunately for Meghan and Harry (though Meghan especially) the exposure of one falsehood — the wedding that never was — has left all of their other complaints open to question. And while some of them show the couple to be, shall I suggest naïve, or disingenuous, or unaware of longstanding royal protocol, others simply cannot be dismissed. The danger is that all their accusations will be lumped in together — and that, to use a British expression, the baby will end up being thrown out with the bathwater.
First, their errors. According to longstanding royal protocol, Archie will become a prince — but not until Charles becomes King. This has been the case since 1917 and would remain the case regardless of who Harry had married.
Likewise, as non-working royals, the couple was simply not entitled to the same kind of taxpayer-funded security as they would get had they stayed inside the fold: as a former royal protection officer explained to The Sun newspaper, “Once Harry and Meghan step down as working royals, they become high net worth individuals/A-list celebrities but that doesn’t entitle them to taxpayer-funded security. Elton John has to pay for his own security and so do Harry and Meghan.”
What’s more, far from being broke, Forbes valued the couple last month as having an estimated worth of some $10 million.
So, where does that leave the accusations of bullying, of the denial of mental health care, and of racism?
These are deeply serious allegations — and they’re also effectively unprovable allegations. Without definitive evidence, any argument over their veracity becomes a classic case of he said, she said.
So, who are we to believe?
The British press — regarded as the most hard-hitting, and also most notoriously judgmental, free press in the world — would have us believe these too are lies. As well as picking apart the couple’s demonstrably false assertions, they have lined up numerous “palace insiders” and royal experts to pour scorn on the idea that Meghan could have been bullied, that her mental health was ever an issue, and that anyone inside the palace could have discriminated against her or her baby on the basis of the color of their skin.
Meghan and Harry are fantasists, according to Fleet Street.
They lied about their wedding.
They lied about their missing security detail.
They lied about the lack of a title for Archie.
So, in effect, they’re lying about everything else too.
Even the country’s most popular satirical magazine Private Eye — no friend of the tabloid newspapers and frequent lambaster and lampooner of the senior royals — has weighed in, with a blisteringly sarcastic article asking readers to “spot the logical fallacy in Harry and Meghan’s reasoning, as featured in their historic ratings-busting Oprah interview."
There, Private Eye follows 10 examples, including:
“For security reasons it’s better to live in a country where everyone has a gun."
“As a mere A-list actress on a top-rated show I was totally unprepared to enter the media spotlight.
“I’m broke, apart from the millions my mother left me.”
“I love my grandmother so much I’m completely loyal to her. F**k you, granny.”
It’s clever and it’s funny … and it’s extraordinarily vicious. But it also belittles Harry and Meghan’s more serious allegations.
The fact is, Meghan has been the victim of racism. As one of only a handful of non-white students at Northwestern University in Chicago, she was mocked for being the child of a mixed-race marriage, and on another occasion she was with her mom in a car when someone called Doria the N-word. “We drove home in deafening silence, her chocolate knuckles pale from gripping the wheel so tightly,” she later wrote.
Her accusations of racist treatment at the hands of the British press hold some weight too — with examples including being described as having “exotic DNA,” and in one instance being the subject of the headline “(almost) straight outta Compton.”
Nobody can tell Meghan that such language is not racist — least alone the white editors who signed off such headlines. If she, as a person of color, considers it racist, we have to respect that … or be guilty of a kind of racism ourselves.
For Harry, his wife’s treatment by the press may have resonated with the tragic fate of his mother, Princess Diana.
Harry has never recovered from death of his mom — and has been candid in the past about his own struggles with mental health issues, deriving partly from losing her at such a young age. One can also safely assume that he, along with much of the British public at the time, blamed the press for her death: regardless of how drunk her driver may have been at the time of the crash, the narrative that she was killed by a pursuing pack of rabid paparazzi is one that remains hard to shake off.
It’s understandable that Harry hates the press. Why wouldn’t he? They hounded his mother and now they’re hounding his wife. But what is new is his apparent resentment towards his own family. The root of Harry and Meghan’s quitting Britain – and by extension turning their back on the Windsors — may not only lie with Meghan’s treatment by Fleet Street, but also by her in-laws.
Was she subjected to bullying, snobbery and even racism inside the palace? We will never know for sure, no matter how many “royal insiders” the papers wheel out. But what does seem certain is that when Harry took Meghan’s concerns to his brother and his father, he did not get the public support he expected. And for a young man who saw his mother feted and then ostracized by both the press and the palace, with the most terrible consequences, that was a betrayal too far.
And so, on March 7, they struck back. But if the Oprah interview was supposed to be Harry and Meghan’s decisive blow in their war against the two great British institutions, it was fatally ill-judged. Worse still, it was fatally inept.
The couple’s exaggerations and untruths about the trivial things — Archie’s royal status, the missing security detail, whether or not they really did get married before their official wedding — has left their gravest allegations open to being dismissed as just more over-entitled whining.
We would do well to remember that in the Oprah interview, yes, Harry and Meghan did embellish some of the details, deliberately misinterpret royal protocol, and even peddle the occasional deliberate falsehood. But this does not mean they were lying about the serious stuff. Allegations of racism and a young mother’s mental health are too important to dismiss so easily — regardless of what else we may think of her.
Dylan Howard is the author of Royals at War: The Untold Story of Harry and Meghan’s Shocking Split with the House of Windsor along with co-author, Andy Tillett. It was released on June 30, 2020.