Rethinking Europe

Harry’s and Meghan’s Clever Commonwealth Ploy

The Oprah Winfrey interview lights a fire that is consuming the British royals.

Takeaways


  • The Oprah Winfrey interview has provoked a crisis in the heart of what Britain is and is seen to be that will last a long time.
  • Racism plays a significant role in domestic UK society. Anti-immigrant passions have a definite racist element.
  • The Commonwealth countries’ populations have long waited for an acknowledgment on the anti-racism front.
  • The royals’ real problem is dealing with celebrity. The royal operation can’t handle anyone who outshines the line of succession.

The Meghan-Harry interview on CBS is turning into a major crisis for the British royals.

Eighty-five years ago, a royal prince, to become King Edward VIII, wanted to marry an American divorcee.

That was then…

At the time, the British state was united in its resolve to destroy the prince’s hopes of happiness.

A conservative Prime Minister keen to keep Britain isolated from Europe, various archbishops, other senior royals, conservative newspaper owners and editors as well as the heads of British empire countries overseas all combined to stand in Edward’s way.

… this is now

Today a different calculus applies. The Windsors’ latest American divorcee, Meghan Markle, brings 21st century problems for the royal household in her wake.

Simply put, the lives of women and blacks matter in a way that just did not exist in the 1930s. Meghan is not only a woman of color, but also a thousand times more media savvy than the Queen.

Princely distraction, the old-fashioned way

The Queen is 95 years old this year. Her seriously ill husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, plus about 20 other titles, is being kept alive for a giant 100th birthday celebration in the summer.

That party has two ulterior purposes: It is to take the nation’s mind off the pandemic and distract from the growing evidence that Brexit is making Britain not just poorer, but also a nation with less standing in the world.

The royals and domestic racism

Meghan and Harry understand the new, post-Brexit reality of the UK and the royals and used it to their full advantage.

Racism plays a significant role in domestic UK society. Anti-immigrant passions have a definite racist element.
It does not help that this rightfully incendiary issue now also involves the oldest institution of the British state.

Why the Commonwealth matters so much

Simply put, in post-Brexit times, the royals – as a bunch of pale white people — could not afford to respond nonchalantly to the charges raised by Meghan.

All the more so as many of the Commonwealth countries’ populations have long waited for an acknowledgment on the anti-racism front.

The Biden intervention

It was a sign of such a reckoning that the front page of the UK’s chief Brexit cheer-leading newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, on the day after the interview was about President Biden saluting the “courage” of Meghan.

What is the U.S. president, with his own country if not the world to remake after the Trump disaster, doing wading into a British row about the royals?

Even if Meghan is a U.S. citizen and entitled to some defense by her president if she faces racist discrimination at the highest levels of the British state, it is unusual for a U.S. president to intervene in a domestic UK controversy.

Paralyzing the Windsors’ traditional pipers

The Biden intervention shows how the affair has now gone global — and is thus out of the hands of the royal household’s traditional wingmen.

It matters in particular that Prince Harry is a star of the African Commonwealth. His status as a former soldier who served in Afghanistan is also significant.

Unlike his father and brother — who have a wardrobe full of colorful uniforms as generals, air marshals and admirals but have never heard a shot fired in anger — Harry was a fighting soldier.

Inspired by Nelson Mandela, Harry also helped create the Invictus Games for ex-military left disabled after conflict. It is a global success and the best PR the UK Royal family has received in decades.

Pushing out their family’s PR masters

The Commonwealth is the most multi-racial international organization in the world. Finally, there was a woman of color in the British royal hierarchy close to the top.

That Meghan and Harry were driven to leave Britain after their fairy-tale marriage because the elderly white royals made remarks about the skin color of the Queen’s latest great-grandson has done huge damage.

Amateurs at their own game

Astonishingly, the royals’ real problem is dealing with celebrity. The royal operation can’t handle anyone who outshines the line of succession — Queen, Charles, William.

Diana did — and she was broken. Meghan was beginning to shine and so they began using the tabloids to undermine her. The sheer cruelty and viciousness of the British tabloid press is perhaps finally beginning to be understood.

As fewer papers are bought while revenue-thin online and social media provide the nation with most of its news, the fact that newspaper editors and owners are in a panic collides with doing the right, not the sensational thing.

The UK’s new social reality

Such is the reality of living in a multi-racial society, as the UK certainly does.

Old people, conservatives and rural England — nostalgic for empire, WWII and Churchill — and the Murdoch papers may want to trash Meghan — “How Dare She”!

But Britain’s young, its new ethnic communities with millions of non-white or mixed-race Brits; younger journalists, the city dwellers and the broader left-liberal community are upset about what has been revealed about the very heart of their country.

Conclusion

The Oprah Winfrey interview has provoked a crisis in the heart of what Britain is and is seen to be that will last a long time.

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About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexiternity. The Uncertain Fate of Britain” published by IB Tauris-Bloomsbury, London, October 2019. Follow him @DenisMacShane

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