The British royal family has always attracted profound intrigue — from the moment Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s widely televised, elaborate wedding.
Rumors of infidelity and feuds have run rampant for years. The public has always loved a royal scandal, and Oprah Winfrey’s recent interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has proven no different.
The duke and duchess, who announced plans to step back as senior royals in 2020, revealed revelation after revelation about their time in “the institution,” each as shocking as the last. Among these were Meghan’s struggles with mental health, concerns from someone in the institution about the color of their baby’s skin and drama within the family.
Rumors of an argument between Kate and Meghan came up during the interview, as well as the revelation that Prince Charles was not taking Harry’s calls while he was in Canada in early 2020.
However, our main takeaways from the interview shouldn’t be about who made who cry before Harry and Meghan’s wedding or who isn’t speaking to who. We should be concerned that the public and media reaction to the interview is yet another example of a pathology of issues troubling the world today, including poor treatment of women in the media and the enduring stigmatization of mental health.
In one of the most damning bombshells from the interview, the couple revealed someone within the royal family approached Harry with concerns about how dark their baby would be when he was born.
Meghan also revealed she struggled with mental health during her time at the palace. When asked whether she was thinking of harming herself and having suicidal thoughts, she answered with a resounding yes.
“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” she said. “And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
She said she wanted to seek help, but was told she couldn’t “because it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
These two revelations have led to a very heated public reaction. Comments on snippets of the interview posted on YouTube are nearly all critical of Meghan, calling her a liar.
English broadcaster Piers Morgan has arguably been the loudest voice of criticism of Meghan since before the interview, though they were once friendly. In January 2020, Morgan called her a “selfish social climber.”
Since the interview aired in the United States, he has continued to be vocal with his criticism of Meghan. He has repeatedly asserted that she is lying about everything in the Winfrey interview, tweeting, “I wouldn’t believe Meghan if she gave me a weather report.”
After being called out by a colleague for dragging her only because she hurt his feelings, Morgan walked off the set of Good Morning Britain.
An important distinction needs to be made here: The media and the public are characterizing Meghan as a liar and a flake, not Harry. There has been much discussion about how Meghan is the problem.
There is no better reflection of how men and women are treated differently by media outlets than the response to the interview. It is disappointing, but not surprising.
In some cases, Harry is being portrayed as the victim of Meghan’s manipulation, but what many are conveniently choosing to ignore is that Harry is making the exact same allegations as Meghan. Harry confirmed that someone pulled him aside to discuss the color of their baby’s skin and expressed his concern for Meghan’s mental health.
According to a USA Today article, there has also been doubt that Meghan was truly suicidal, and speculation that she used mental health to manipulate Harry into leaving the royal family. The British tabloids dubbed Harry and Meghan’s decision to step down from royal duties as “Megxit,” again promoting this idea.
I find these accusations incredibly tone deaf. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the U.S. someone commits suicide every 13 minutes. It’s a widespread issue, and for someone to assume Meghan did not really experience it simply because she lives a comfortable life — and, going further, that she fabricated the story to manipulate Harry or gain favorable public opinion — is incredibly disrespectful and ignorant.
This hostile reaction is the exact reason why those who are contemplating suicide don’t speak up.
To put it another way, the Duchess of Sussex won’t see your posts and comments doubting that she really experienced suicidal thoughts, but your friends who have experienced them will and they will never come to you for help.
Some U.S. citizens are wondering why we should spend so much time talking about this interview in the first place.
I’m writing to assure those who are doubtful that we should care, and here is why: The reaction to this interview reflected many issues that, while going on across the pond, are still extremely pertinent to us universally.
We are seeing a biracial woman who has dealt with mental illness speak up about her experiences. And while her position as the Duchess of Sussex is special, racism, mental illness and the stigma surrounding both of those is not. Falling victim of a smear campaign by a ruthless, relentless media outlet isn’t either.
If we continue to walk on the path of true equality, we must not turn a blind eye to the issues happening in front of us, or overseas.