The public’s investment in Harry and Meghan

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spoke frankly and candidly in a documentary with ITV in October. The world watched as Meghan Markle adopted a stiff upper lip on their tour of Africa – the same tour Prince Harry’s mother took 22 years ago. When asked how she was coping with being a new mum under a royal spotlight, she humbly admitted that she was struggling under the pressure.

Just three months later, the couple announced their planned departure from the Royal family via Instagram. Their delivery of the news through their own social media is unprecedented and is a clear reflection of their desire to raise their family without the media attention Princess Diana was subjected to.

At the time of their marriage, the world rejoiced at the fact that this would be the first inter-racial marriage in the British Royal family. Edward Adoo, a reporter for the Independent.co.uk, said at the time that the positives of their union would “go beyond race and how we perceive interracial relationships; their union will help people to understand what it is like to be from a different background”.

Since then, Meghan has been subjected to the media attention that she was admittedly naïve about receiving before she took her vows. Her coverage in the media has had a stark contrast to how the press treated her sister-in-law Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. She was attacked across countless headlines for doing things that any mother would do to bond with their baby whilst pregnant; Kate could cradle her baby bump and be praised by the Daily Mail, but Meghan would be accused of indulging her “pride and vanity” for doing the same thing by the same paper.

It is hard not to acknowledge the fact that there is one difference between these two women that may have encouraged the press’ harsh treatment: one is white and one is mixed race.

The public reaction to the Sussex’s decision has been varied. It seems as though the Royal family and its influence does not seem to have the same impact on the public as it did before. Jack Worton, a 23-year-old from Essex, said that their decision to live a more private life shouldn’t have gotten as much as attention as it did. Although he feels that the situation could have been handled privately before their announcement, their decision to live independently didn’t come as a surprise.

“There should be no issue whether any member of the Royal family wants to leave or not, I don’t see any harm in that,” he said. “It makes sense to me; maybe they just want a quieter and more “normal” life.”

Sally Dobie, a journalism student from North Yorkshire, agreed that the modern Royal family is seen as more of a symbol to the people of Britain than an influence on their society. However, Dobie also said that a lot of people saw Meghan as “an icon for change and acceptance, and to see it all go wrong for her and Harry was tough to watch. Even comparing the coverage of her and Kate Middleton, there’s a worrying difference as to what is acceptable which is shocking”.

The most common response to their decision to live a private and independent life has been that whilst people may be disappointed, there is also a lot of empathy and understanding. Speaking to ITV last October, Prince Harry made it clear that he would not allow the tragedy of losing his mother repeat itself.

“I will always protect my family. And now, I have a family to protect. If anybody knew what I knew… you’d probably be doing what I’m doing as well.”

Lora Doyle

Image Credit: WikiMedia