By Joey Gibbs
The year is 1995: the eight-month O.J. Simpson trial is keeping eyes glued to the screen, kids across all school gymnasiums are performing the Macarena, a humble online shop called Amazon sells its first product. A disastrous earthquake wrecks the British isles, raising questions of integrity to the kingdom.
At the epicenter of the tectonic shift is the unconquerable Princess Diana of Wales, magnificently walking into Kensington Palace with a vengeance. In a tell-all interview hosted by Martin Bashir for the show Panorama, Diana unearths the harsh and horrible treatment she endured from the royal institution.
She speaks of her husband’s infidelity and questions his character — is he even fit to be a king? She opens up about her struggles with bulimia and the price of fame: how the public and the tabloids force her to walk on eggshells and tightropes, only to viciously attack her in the end.
26 years later, in extraordinary parallels of cinematic nature, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, reveals that the same institution which faulted the world’s favorite princess now shines the spotlight on her.
In a two-hour bombshell interview given by Oprah “no subject off limits” Winfrey, the royal martyrs Meghan and Prince Harry leave no stone unturned. The primetime interview shed light on racism in the royal institution (honestly, and unfortunately, not surprising), gave a platform to Meghan’s struggle with mental health, and cleared up lies brought forth by the tabloids and even the institution itself. Harry then joins the interview alongside Meghan and expresses again the strong fear of history repeating itself, referring to the treatment of his mother Diana.
The interview also includes a touch of humanity as we are taken on a small tour of the couple’s beautiful Santa Barbara home. We learn about Prince Harry’s love of chickens as the trio collects eggs in the home’s chicken coop, lovingly titled “Archie’s Chick Inn.”
Meghan’s royal life was isolating and under harsh scrutiny, and she was unsure of how she would hold up. She told Oprah in a juxtaposition of pain and resolve: “I didn’t want to be alive anymore.” Dealing with these suicidal thoughts, she approached her provided human resources only to be turned away because she is not a “paid employee.” The former actress mentioned that she was part of a union that gave her access to the help she needed and was stunned and almost hopeless as she was basically left defenseless. Tradition and reputation are more important to the palace than the well-being of its inhabitants. She admitted that she felt shame opening up to Harry about her mental health, but she fears the grave consequences if she never did.
When Harry joins the fray, Meghan reveals he racism she experienced as a biracial woman in the royal family. While she was pregnant with Archie, conversations stirred up that spoke in concern of the baby’s skin color. Meghan really could not get a break as she was simultaneously pounded by a loss of security, loss of position and now harmful assumptions about her child.
Before Archie was born, the institution preferred that he have no princely title or protection. Oprah was appalled and pressed on, wanting to know who these conversations were with. Both Meghan and Harry dodged the question, saying that it would be damaging for those involved. I feel the reason they gave racists impunity was because they would be in danger if they revealed whom it was. The family also failed to understand the racism Meghan dealt with in the tabloids and news coverage.
Furthermore, both Meghan and Harry addressed major security concerns, citing it as a prime reason they essentially fled to California. They, at first, never intended to fully leave the family, only take a step back from all the scrutiny. Harry’s security funding was cut off by the institution in early 2020. This led to Harry’s strained relationship with both his older brother and his father; Harry transparently expressed how much that hurt. While the men are all on communicating terms after the couple’s royal withdrawal, forgiveness does not come that easily. Not only that, but if it was not for the combined efforts of Tyler Perry’s hospitality, his mother’s inheritance, and the deals with Spotify and Netflix, who knows what might have happened to them.
I used the term institution frequently because Meghan assured that there are two systems of power at play. There is the royal family, notably the adorable Queen we all love, and then the institution that took away Meghan’s keys, license and passport before she got married. Meghan said: “There’s the family, and then there’s the people that are running the institution, those are two separate things and it’s important to be able to compartmentalise that.”
The institution, also called the Firm, presumably for its grasp on its members such as this, barely let Meghan leave the house. Harry further elaborates on this describing how the institution not only had both of them trapped, but also other members of his family. Oprah played devil’s advocate and mentioned press saying that Meghan coerced him to leave; however, Harry is confident that Meghan was the light at the end of the tunnel. If it were not for her, he would still be trapped within the confines of royalty.
From the get-go when the young couple began dating after a little fun at Soho House in 2016, the couple faced backlash and strict dictation. The couple revealed this sort of unspoken alliance between the institution and the tabloid press that negatively affected them, with Meghan stating: “They were willing to lie to protect other members of the family, but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband.” They even eloped before their marriage plastered all around the public, this seeming to be a precursor of fear of being a public spectacle.
Meghan and Harry now reside rather peacefully in their lovely home, excitedly expecting a baby girl — who I like to see as our first American princess.
The anticipation of this interview led us to believe that drama will rise and we would all be left on the edge of our seats. We were high on both the award-winning Netflix series, “The Crown,” and our innate curiosity due to celebrity culture. However, we were met with a down-to-earth memoir of a young couple going toe-to-toe with the world. Meghan especially left a mark on me — the amount of power and courage she has is remarkable.
The royal family have their traditional hands extra full, dealing with not only the hospitalization of the 99-year old Prince Phillip, but also the skeletons in their closet out and dressed for the parade. My heart goes out to Meghan, Harry, Archie and the baby girl. I also remember the charity and elegance of Princess Diana of Wales, and want to invoke a lyric from Lady Gaga’s debut album “The Fame” on her song “Dance in the Dark,” a song detailing the fear of judgment, and the deadliness of fame:
“You will never fall apart
Diana, you’re still in our hearts
Never let you fall apart
Together we’ll dance in the dark.”