The ripple effects of Meghan Markle and Harry’s Oprah interview are sending shockwaves through the British Royal family, which is usually well accustomed to dealing with scandal and controversy.
During the Winfrey Oprah interview that aired on US television, the pair had accused a prominent unnamed member of the royals of voicing his or her concern over the skin colour of their son Archie.
Meghan Markle, or formally the Duchess of Sussex, is of mixed race, and the suggestion is that one of Harry’s close relatives could have made an insensitive comment about what race their child could be.
Although the pair has not disclosed who this person might be, the understanding is that neither the Queen, nor Prince Phillip were involved in the alleged incident.
The Palace had formally reacted to the allegations in their usual restrained style, saying that “the issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”
The part “some recollections may vary” has since become near proverbial in the British media and public discourse, and arguments are raging about the correct interpretation over this choice of words.
Although some understand it as a polite but firm rebuttal of the pair’s racism allegations, others suggest that this could be a misunderstanding.
Yet, interpreting this would be impossible without seeing the enormous cultural chasm between the upbringing of Britain’s royals, and the context in which the former Canadian actress has been educated.
As far back as 2016, the couple had complained about being affected by racist comments in the press and social media. Last year Harry had spoken about the “unconscious bias” that was part of his life and upbringing before he had met his wife, which is hard to interpret as anything less than an indirect criticism of the values that govern the heart of the British establishment.
It is of course an open secret that most Britons have never warmed to Harry’s wife as much as they did to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Early on there were questions about her ability to fit in to a life governed by royal duties, and the Sussexes’ constant conflicts with the media and criticism of British society did not help their popularity with the public.
Even the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who herself is of non-European heritage, when asked on radio whether in her view the British media was racist towards Meghan Markle, she replied: “I’m not in that category at all where I believe there’s racism at all. I think we live in a great country.”
Reportedly, the entire set of accusations against the Royal Family and British society that have been revealed during the Oprah interview have caused enormous distress to Prince Charles in particular, who, according to one of his close aides, “feels let down” by the allegations.
“It goes against everything the Prince of Wales believes in. He believes diversity is the strength of our society. For Harry to say he feels ‘let down’ seems a little rich when you consider what he has done. The Duke of Sussex continues to say he respects his grandmother, but he has ridden roughshod over the institution she represents,” added the Palace source.
Prince Charles has been a long-term champion of acceptance and integration within society and had gone out his way to contribute to community relations in Britain, even beyond his usual competences as a serving royal.
Reportedly, he is upset about the interview and is not taking calls from his younger son. Prince William has also reacted angrily to a reporter’s question whether the royals are racist.
“We are very much not a racist family,” he replied as he was visiting a school with his wife.
When asked whether he has spoken with his brother he has revealed that they have not spoken since the interview but plans to speak with him soon.
Despite the modernization efforts of the British monarchy in the past decades, the controversy is being used by some pro-republic members of the Commonwealth of Nations to call for the end of monarchy.
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the revelations coming from the Oprah interview support his view for Australia to sever its constitutional ties to the British monarchy.
“After the end of the Queen’s reign, that is the time for us to say: Okay, we’ve passed that watershed. Do we really want to have whoever happens to be the head of state of — the king or queen of the U.K., automatically our head of state?”, stated Turnbull.