Improved — Joe Waters — 71%
For those keen fans of mine (I know you’re out there somewhere!) you will be aware that, over the summer, I wrote an impassioned piece in this paper defending Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, against her horrendous treatment by the press.
I stood by my argument then, and I stand by it now.
However, I’d go further than what that article said. Not only does Meghan deserve to be counted, respected and written about just the same as any other royal, but she also deserves to be treated as the monarchy’s best hope of not only surviving but thriving as this uncertain post-modern era which so easily shuns traditional institutions.
We live in a time where “standing the test of time” is no longer a valuable commodity. It is as such that a figure such as Meghan is of paramount importance to the monarchy. My first contention with the press coverage of Meghan, and of discourse around her more generally, is how the question is oft raised as to whether she is a “good royal” — with most of the press responding in the negative. I take issue with the dichotomy of the “good” or “bad” royal because, in my view, there is simply “royal.”
The last time I checked, the monarchy wasn’t a meritocracy, and the only qualification for being a “good” royal was if you were related to it. Of course Meghan is a good royal: she’s married a prince, and marrying a prince qualifies you for the royal family, ergo, she is a good royal. Period.
Even if we are to treat the royals as a meritocratic establishment, it doesn’t follow that Meghan has been doing anything to disqualify her from being a good royal, or to show her as damaging to the reputation of the institution of which she is a part. While it is true that taking political stands is inherently un-royal, standing up for certain causes isn’t. William and Harry have campaigned for the cause of mental health for a while now, Charles has been on about climate change for donkeys and even Her Majesty herself reportedly let slip her own views on Apartheid in the ’80s.
If Meghan and Harry, on their tour of Africa, plastered “Bo***** to Brexs**t” stickers on their state car, then perhaps I’d be inclined to agree that they both had taken things a bit too far. But saying that we should consider doing more to tackle climate change? Standing up for women’s rights? Are these issues so controversial, so divisive, that she must be branded a traitor to her position and her class? I think not.
Of course, the main criticism of Meghan nowadays is she has become a grade-A hypocrite. While campaigning for the aforementioned climate change cause, she and her husband enjoyed flying the world in a fancy private jet.
The incredulous thing about this isn’t the apparent double standards, but it is a fact that such faux outrage is directed squarely at Meghan, when in fact such outrage can be focussed elsewhere but isn’t.
Take Charles, for example. As I mentioned earlier, he has championed climate action for decades — often trying to lecture people how to live their lives in the meantime — yet he spends no less than nine times as much on travel than the Sussexes.
While Charles is oft cited as being hypocritical for this (as he should), never have I heard his royalty be challenged or anywhere near the vitriol Meghan receives for doing the self-and-same things.
If the rule is good for one, it must be for another.
Moreover, those who are quick to put the Sussexes in the stocks and fling mud at them aren’t exactly saintly themselves. I’m frequently amazed at the idea that the journos that spread such utter tosh are often the ones that are quick to rubbish positive climate action, but yet leap to its defence as soon as Meghan takes one step over the proverbial line of hypocrisy.
You can’t consistently argue against climate reform, enjoy a hedonistic and polluting lifestyle, and then tear Meghan to shreds for taking a couple of flights. As the Bible tells us, let he who hath not ever used air travel cast the first Telegraph op-ed.
Although Charles is the heir apparent, you might argue that he deserves to be a bit hypocritical. After all, with all of his royal duties, how can he not pollute at all? Well, I’ll tell you how: he can’t. And that’s fine. But equally, you can’t expect the Sussexes to make all of their royal tours and visits on a monarchical tandem bike.
Meghan is only standing up for the same causes the others do, making all the mistakes the others do, spending money the same way as her father-in-law, grandmother-in-law and siblings-in-law all do, and yet we find ourselves questioning whether she has damaged or improved the reputation of the Royal Family. Well, considering she broadly appears to be following by example, the answer must be improved.
Damaged — Matt Leighton — 29%
I’ve never been a Diana-worshiping, Daily Express-reading follower of royal gossip. I have the utmost respect for the Queen, think Prince Philip is pretty amusing, Charles is a bit cringe, and William is bland but dutiful. Therefore, like most normal, functioning members of society, the royals don’t enter my mind very often. However, Meghan Markle really does irk me for being a serial whinger when she really has little to whinge about.
First of all, Meghan does herself absolutely no favours when it comes to the press. Let’s take the example of the private jet controversy as the first sign of her being an oblivious hypocrite. During an interview with Vogue magazine where Meghan Markle was on the cover (why?), her and Harry insisted that they would only have “two kids maximum” in order to help stop climate change.
In a society where church attendances and respect for British institutions are through the floor, and with the nation seeming increasingly divided, many people look to the royal family for some form of moral authority. The Sussexes saying they would only have two children to stop climate change is not only nonsensical, but it also essentially says to large swathes of the British public that Meghan and Harry are better than us. Then, to add insult to injury, within two weeks of the interview with Vogue, they were seen taking four separate flights on a private jet, two of which were to Elton John’s private island. This output almost twenty tonnes of CO2, equivalent to more than three years’ worth of emissions from the average Brit.
To anyone looking, this was obvious hypocrisy. When this was criticised in the press, they could have apologised, or toned down the preaching on global warming, but no. Instead they sent Elton John out to bat, who insisted to the press that he had paid to have their carbon “offset.” Not only did Greenpeace immediately come out and tell everyone that this was complete rubbish, but it sent the message that the rich and famous live by different rules to you and me. It not only made them look stupid and inconsiderate, but it also undermined the royal family as a whole.
However, the most painful part of introducing Meghan Markle to the royal family is what she has done to poor Prince Harry. Sure, William has always been popular, but he’s always been incredibly sensible, acting like he knows very well that all of his actions are under the magnifying glass. Even his time at St Andrews had a sense of being idyllic while slightly boring: meeting Kate Middleton at NorthPoint, living on Greyfriars, playing a bit of Polo on weekends. Sure, it sounds quite lovely, but there’s no relatable slightly embarrassing charm to that.
For a long time, Harry had absolutely none of that. Despite being third in line to the throne, Harry acted like some absolute legend you’d meet in a pub during an England rugby game. While you could expect a lovely Christmas card from Will, Harry would get you a Lynx Africa shower gel set purchased hastily from a petrol station, along with the promise of a pint the next time you’re in Windsor. While William might have been playing Polo and going for dates at NorthPoint, Harry would have been a social member of the rugger club, taking his dates to the Whey Pat to watch a Rangers game. The public have nearly forgotten that for a very long time, Harry was the most popular royal after the Queen. That explains why, when he was caught wearing a Nazi armband at a Stag Do, he wasn’t pilloried or murdered in the press. No, he was treated as if he was just acting like a bit of a rascal who needed to layoff the Carling.
Now Harry is just a shadow of his former self. Standing in front of Channel Four’s news cameras talking about white privilege and global warming, he really doesn’t seem happy. On their first official state visit to South Africa, it seemed like Harry could start blinking “help” to the cameras in Morse code at any moment. You could almost see the mental image of a cold beer forming in his mind as he was forced to stand next to his wife crying to the press about how badly she has been treated.
The main issue with Meghan Markle isn’t necessarily her actions, but her reaction to criticism. Sure, maybe the press got a bit too outraged when she wore a blue dress and sunglasses to Wimbledon. However, the solution to that isn’t to accuse the British press of racism; it’s probably just to not reply. The royal family has always been the subject of massive press attention, and as such their behaviour will always be scrutinised. Meghan Markle surely knew this when she decided to marry a prince and become a Duchess. Instead of acting like just another celebrity, jetting out to film premieres and whining about the latest trendy social cause, Meghan Markle should realise she’s less important than the royal family and shut up for a while. It’s not that hard: don’t talk about politics, wave to the crowds, and you’ll never need to pay for anything for the rest of your life. Most people would kill for that job.