The British royal house has begun to understand in this stormy week that, when it thought it knew all the answers, the questions had changed. The accusations of racism and indolence in the face of a serious mental health problem, made by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in their already world-famous interview with journalist Oprah Winfrey, have revealed a generational and emotional gap, not only in UK society but within the Windsor house. Hours after Buckingham suggested in his response statement that dirty laundry is washed at home, Prince William (38) jumped into the debate and proclaimed before the cameras that his family “is not racist by any means.”
The internal brawls of British royalty are a national entertainment. Tabloids like The Sun or the Daily Mail despite the crisis in the newspaper business, they continue to sell more than a million copies a day each. Real, imagined or exaggerated Windsor family battles are critical to maintaining income. Each photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, or the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, is accompanied by the corresponding advertisement with the most affordable copy that the market offers of the dress, jacket or pants they wear on that occasion.
There is an inertia in the establishment to think that the British adore their queen and are more than satisfied with their ancient monarchy. To discard any new storm as something temporary that will also subside. “As a story in the newspapers or on social networks, it gives me the impression that it will have little to do,” Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court magistrate and inveterate debater with an intelligence that even his enemies recognize him, ventures to EL PAÍS. “Buckingham Palace has skillfully played its cards, and has managed to present itself better than Meghan Markle as the victim of this whole affair. I don’t think the accusation of racism will endure. The Queen, the Prince of Wales [Carlos] and the Duke of Cambridge [Guillermo] they are extraordinarily correct when dealing with race issues, “defends Sumption.
Therein lies the key to all this new institutional, not constitutional, crisis in the United Kingdom. Countless offended, or simply surprised, voices this week have denied any vestige of racism in British society. “Why should it be racist to ask yourself what color your baby’s skin is going to be?” Asked the journalist Anil Bhoyrul, in an emergency article published by the conservative weekly The Spectator. Bhoyrul is Indo-Mauritanian, with a dark complexion and Asian features, and is married to a white woman. Each of her three children has a different color. Context is everything. And nobody knows what was the context in which a member of the royal family made that comment about the baby that Enrique and Meghan were expecting, “defends Bhoyrul. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey that someone from the Windsors had expressed “concern” about the boy’s skin tone. Later they clarified that it was neither the queen nor her husband, Philip of Edinburgh. But they left the bomb going.
The “context is everything” argument, however, works for one side and the other. “Last year’s protests by the Black Lives Matter movement and its aftermath have reminded the world – as if it were necessary to remember – that racial tension in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere is still latent. In some ways worse than a generation ago, ”says Alexander Larman, author of The Crown in Crisis: The Abdication Countdown. It is the story of Edward VIII’s resignation from the throne, in 1936, for his love affair with American divorcee Wallis Simpson, constantly remembered every time a new crisis arises in the Windsor family. “It is not easy to answer a charge of racism that is so damaging, in which no specific details are offered,” says Larman.
Increasingly influential ethnic minority figures in British society, such as Nigerian origin historian David Olusoga, have pointed out that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have hit the nail on the head. “When racism is admitted in Britain, it is not presented as something structural, as a social problem, but as a reality of life itself as insignificant as it is regrettable,” wrote Olusoga in The Guardian. “This is not just a crisis for the royal family, but for the UK. And instead of taking the opportunity to embark on an honest national discussion about racism, I fear that it will seek to further demonize Harry and Meghan. “
The measure of the crisis is not given by the noise in the media, but by the reaction of those affected. Faced with the predictions of many alleged experts in royal affairs who ventured the silence of Buckingham Palace in the face of the scandal – “never complain, never give explanations”, has always been the slogan – the royal house issued a statement a few hours later of the interview broadcast in the UK. “The questions raised [por el príncipe Enrique y Meghan Markle], particularly that of the breed, are worrisome. Although some memories may vary, we take them very seriously and will be discussed privately by the family, ”the text said. For the most critical, an insufficient response that tried to cast doubt on the version of the Dukes of Sussex, and an attempt to settle the matter indoors. For the defenders of the institution, a subtle way to get rid of an embarrassing controversy. “Even young people, more inclined to sympathize with Markle than older ones, are fed up with the couple’s insatiable appetite for money and publicity,” Sumption denounces.
The truth may be in the middle. The express survey conducted by YouGov it reflected two complementary realities. Among adults aged 18-24, nearly 60% show sympathy for the Dukes of Sussex. Among those over 65, there are between 70% and 80% who do not support them. And at the same time, a majority of Britons (58%) express their rejection of the couple. Much more towards Markle.
That is why the reaction of Prince William, second in line to the throne, by openly denying before the cameras that his family was racist, expressed both anger and the need to respond sharply to a debate that exists. Buckingham Palace was able to observe last year, along with the rest of the country, how statues with a colonial past were demolished or the removal announced, such as that of Edward Colston, in Bristol, or that of Cecil Rhodes (the founder of the ancient Rhodesia), at the University of Oxford.
In the UK, Meghan Markle is not the heroine the American public has made her into. For some Brits, she is a new villain trying to follow in the wake of the late Lady Di, her husband’s mother. For others, including many serious politicians and intellectuals, it is the vehicle to face a reality that for years has been hidden under the rug. Isabel II (94 years old) is already an untouchable figure. His son and heir, Carlos of England, is the weak link who has preferred not to enter the controversy. His grandson, Guillermo, is the image of the future of the institution. That is why it has been precisely he who has turned against the accusations.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.