In one sense, Harry and Meghan’s exit from ‘The Firm’ doesn’t matter much. The pair are low enough down the pecking order that they are – or were, at least – relatively minor Royals. But nonetheless, their comments about the Royal Family may have fatally undermined this institution in the eyes of many young people. What could have been an easily dismissible, trivial soap opera – a family arguing, like most do – has made the rift between the Royals far worse.
Within the space of a two-hour long Oprah interview we have seen the debate about Megxit entirely change. It is no longer a war of words over Royal roles that is the main argument of the day, but one about racism and mental health. These are two subjects that are held close to the hearts of today’s youth. Do young people care about extremely rich people falling out over the line of succession? Probably not. Do young people care about people facing racial abuse and struggling with their mental health? Yes, very much so.
Meghan said that when she was pregnant with Archie, an unnamed member of the Royal Family raised 'concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born'. Meghan also revealed that she was driven to suicidal thoughts during her time as a Royal, but told she should not seek help.
These are bombshell accusations. And by speaking openly about these topics, Harry and Meghan will strike a chord with younger people – a group that find themselves with higher levels of anxiety and depression than ever before; a group that used the summer to protest against racial injustice. This depiction of the Royals – whether or not it is accurate – will badly tarnish the Royal Family’s image.
The couple’s claim of being financially cut off from the Royal Family after they 'stepped back' from their Royal duties is likely to garner less sympathy, particularly given the large amount of money Harry has inherited. While Meghan’s admission that she did not research royal protocol before marrying into the family – which could have helped avoid some of the ensuing chaos – will also not reflect well on the couple
But accusations of racism and bigotry that Meghan and her child allegedly faced will stick in people’s minds. Meghan and Harry were clever not to name names (although we now know it wasn't Prince Philip or the Queen). Why? Because it leaves the family tarred with the same brush until someone speaks out against the alleged remarks, which is something that the couple have so clearly wanted; a member of the Royals to publicly acknowledge and condemn the racism they claim to have faced.
Even before this explosive interview, there was already a generational divide over how people viewed the Royals. In the most recent polling, Meghan and Kate had almost the same popularity rating among respondents aged 18-to-24.
But in the 65+ age group, Meghan's popularity was less than one third that of Kate's. As more accusations of Kate vs Meghan and Charles vs Harry are dragged into public view, the impact of fallouts like this could result in a larger, long term dent to the Royal family’s popularity – and if Meghan and Harry’s positive association with the youth of today continues, it will be crucial for the Royals longevity that they get the pair back onside.
It used to be that the less we know of the Royals, the better. But what happens when we already know too much? The boundaries of debate have been redrawn, and each member of the Royal family is now seen as an individual. We were told that Kate made Meghan cry, and that Charles won’t take Harry’s calls. The head of the institution, the Queen, might have emerged relatively unscathed. But if Meghan and Harry have learnt how to use the new rules of the game to appeal to the younger generation, will ‘The Firm’?
Yes, the Oprah interview was only one side of the story, but how will Buckingham Palace respond? The Royals seem likely to opt for the traditional approach and show that public service is their priority. For many young people, anything other than a direct response to the accusations levelled at the Royals during this interview will not be enough.