Well! On the bright side, Oprah Winfrey got her money’s worth. Also on the bright side, Prince Harry is sixth in line to the throne so bear in mind folks last night’s interview by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex does not, really, matter in the great scheme of things. On the final bright note, Meghan makes Wallis Simpson, the last American divorcee to marry into the Royal Family, look relatively good.
And that’s about the limit of the positive aspects of last night’s self-revelations, of which I should say I’ve heard only extracts. They tell us a great deal about Meghan’s perspective but not an awful lot in the way of fact to substantiate her really damaging allegations about neglect, racism and indifference from the Royal Family and palace staff. Kate making her cry? The press being horrid? Prince Charles keeping them short of funds? The Royal Family, according to Harry, refusing to call out ‘the colonial undertones’ in the coverage of his wife? Damaging, devastating assertions, but the ones that don’t relate to Meghan’s own feelings are at the very least disputable.
The explosive stuff was the assertion of racism in the Royal Family and a conversation between Harry and one of his relatives about how dark skinned his baby might be. It’s quite possible it happened but it’s also quite possible the conversation was very different in tone from what we’re being told. And who was the Royal in question? We’re not told; it was a conversation with Harry which he helpfully relayed to his wife. But having planted the bombshell he’s too reticent to share further details. Sorry, you can’t do that. There’s now endless speculation about the identity of the culprit. When Oprah asked, Prince Harry replied: 'That conversation I'm never going to share, but at the time, it was awkward’. That’s belated discretion, don’t you think?
And then, having planted these incendiary revelations, they’re left hanging in the air. Consider Meghan’s remarks: 'In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, we have in tandem, the conversation of "He won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title," and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born.'
Oprah then interrupted and said: 'Hold on. Hold up. Stop right now. There's a conversation... about how dark your baby is going to be?'
Meghan replied: 'Potentially, and what that would mean or look like'.
The assertion seems to be that the couple’s baby wouldn’t get a title or security, potentially because of his race. He does have a title – he’s an earl and will be a duke – but is the rest plausible? And what’s all this about security? The notion that the Government or the Met would hold back on security because of the baby’s race seems inconceivable. This is loose talk, designed to create the maximum damage without, as they might say, taking ownership of the allegations.
She returns again to: '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.' How can I put this? I do not believe Meghan’s version of events.
And what’s this about Meghan being rebuffed when she sought help for mental health problems? We’re told she felt suicidal: ‘It was like, these are the thoughts I’m having in the middle of the night, and this is real and this is not who I am.’ That, as Oprah would say, is her truth. But the assertion that she was rebuffed when she sought help is a more concrete assertion and it’s both damaging and unsubstantiated.
Oprah pointed out that Meghan 'came in' as an actress, a divorcee, an independent woman and 'as the first mixed-race person to marry into the family'. Oprah asked if 'being able to fit in' concerned her, and if she thought about it.
Meghan replied: 'Well, I thought about it because they made me think about it.’
Stop right there. Were you, dear reader, there at the time of the engagement and the wedding? Did you notice anything except excitement, admiration, effusive stuff about diversity and female pundits sounding off about how fabulous it was that this was finally an independent woman with her own career marrying into the Windsors? Not by me, I may say, but by and large there was an abundance of goodwill towards the couple which only curdled when we got to hear about their extravagance and peculiar behaviour – like the very weird secrecy about their baby’s birth and christening. Social media is another matter, in a world of its own, but so far as print and broadcast journalists were concerned, I cannot remember ‘colonial overtones’ in the coverage. If the coverage changed, it was in response to the couple’s behaviour. It was this they didn’t like; they couldn’t understand that controlling coverage isn’t a press officer’s gift.
The person who comes out really badly from all this is Prince Harry, not his wife. He is absent from the first part of the interview and poisonous in the second. It was he who should have tried to explain to his intended about the nature of the royal role, though it’s hard to think of anything he could have said that would have deterred Meghan. His assertion that they would have remained with their role had they been given greater support is malign to the people who did try to help them. His declaration that Prince Charles and his brother are trapped inside the institution is ostensibly sympathetic and actually spiteful. His suggestion that he was kept short of funds by his father seems implausible; the couple’s extravagance is another matter. As for his implication that the Royal Family is racist, even subliminally, it is impossible to disprove but damaging all the same.
Really, it was apt that the couple bared their inmost selves to Oprah Winfrey, the woman who, like some Mies Van Der Rohe building, turns people’s insides out and privileges inner feelings over objective truth. Meghan was reflecting Oprah’s philosophy back to the satisfaction of them both. She and Harry… what a pair.