The news are oversaturated with reports about the current pandemic, so Harry and Meghan’s interview was a welcome distraction.
The claims by the former actress and the current Dutches of Sussex turned royal presets a new low in the relationship between the couple and the Buckingham Palace. Beside the tabloid aspects, the rift reopened the question about the monarchy, and further stretches the existing divides between two (or even three) generations in the UK.
With the younger generation supporting the couple and the older generations the Palace, everyone has an opinion on the matter. Pundits were eager to take sides and show their own views. But what is the truth?
The fact of the matter is that we do not know, and cannot possibly know what has happened behind the closed doors of the Royal family. And we do not need to. Let tabloids stay in the realm of celebrities and not find its way into the personal space of families, whose purpose is dignity itself.
The simple truth is that we do not know the context, nor how was the infamous conversation about the color of the baby’s skin conducted. It is not our job to pass judgement. Discriminatory and mental health issues should be investigated and dealt with, but I hardly think anyone would even question that.
Harry and Meghan’s interview might seem like a family feud, but it is far more than that. It is a clash of cultures, with the United States on one side and the UK on another.
The Royal Family (or the Firm as the institution is known) represents the quintessential British values. It is their role to do so. They are the epitome of Britishness, and they can define it. They have to play into the image, whether it is a myth or not, where the Brits are stoic, do not display emotions, and do not go airing out their personal affairs to the world. Stiff upper lip.
The American approach is much more direct, a clap on the back, a how’re-ye-doing? And how do you feel? The display and talking of emotions is much more accepted.
In the age when everyone vents out on social media, everyone has their opinion, it can be difficult for a younger generation of royals to preserve the stiff upper lip. Harry and Meghan chose not to, and broke away from the Firm. It is their right to do so. They took the American approach in their PR war, which is also their right.
They openly discussed emotions, how things made them feel, going into details, and they discussed the hardships of living in the Palace. The US audience looked favorably on that, but the Brits were much more critical. The couple’s popularity plummeted after the interview, showing the cultural divides.
In the UK, whether they openly admit it or not, the people want the Royals to be better than average citizens. In full control of their emotions, sotic, and dignified. The US is in favor of people who are not afraid of admitting their weaknesses and talk about their feelings.
There are several takeaways from the matter from a liberal perspective as well. The truth can be elusive. It might be hard for an American audience to accept the fact that someone’s emotions are supressed, where at the same time that is the job of the Palace in the UK. Saying that either approach is right or wrong is oversimplifying matters (but the mental health concerns, however, are beyond this debate, and should be addressed). This black or white approach can lead to commentary which verges on disinformation.
When Meghan did not name the royal who commented on the skin color of their future baby, this could also lead to people assuming the whole Palace is racist, which may be considered “fake news”. Similarly, dismissing the monarchy as an outdated feudal remnant is plain wrong. As the monarchy in the UK can also uphold liberal values, just as the US under a president. Despite the controversies surrounding Donald Trump and Brexit, both countries are the torchbearers of liberal values.
A nuanced approach is required, where there is no black and white, one thing can be applied in one place, while another elsewhere. Harry and Meghan sought to find divides, and to victimize themselves. They were targeting the American audience, but meanwhile alienated the people of the UK.
The Royal family aspires to find unison in the UK, that is their job. This does not make one side plainly wrong and the other right. To claim otherwise one falls into the dismal populism methods. It is important that liberals understand this, and communicate accordingly.