Virtual Event Series

‘Meghan and Harry need to be seen as the future not as traitors’, says royal expert

The Independent’s Harriet Hall hosted a virtual event exploring what the future holds for the most famous family in the world

Friday 05 November 2021 13:12
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The press treatment of Meghan and Harry has been “pretty appalling”, “positively abusive” and “unrelentingly hostile”, according to royal commentators speaking at a virtual Independent event this week.

The publication’s panel The British monarchy: what does the future hold? explored a range of topics around the British royal family, from the question of what is likely to happen to the monarchy when the Queen’s reign comes to an end, to the argument for Britain to become a republic. But while panelists were divided on several issues, they were unanimous that media coverage of Meghan and Harry had been a stark departure from how other royals had been treated.

Hosted by Lifestyle Editor Harriet Hall, the panel included Independent Associate Editor Sean O’Grady, Republic CEO Graham Smith and US royal commentator Kristen Meinzer.

Questioning why the couple had been at the receiving end of so much negativity, Meinzer said: “She and Harry did what people who are opposed to the royals have said they wanted all along: they stepped back, they pay their own bills, they’re making their own money and they speak up on behalf of issues that frankly all of the royals should be speaking about.”

Meinzer opined that the couple, who officially stepped back from royal duties in March last year, were conducting themselves in a way that other members of the institution should seek to emulate. “They just made a statement this week that they will be carbon neutral by 2030 and are the rest of the royals walking the walk or are they just showing up at a conference?,” she said, referring to appearances by several senior royals at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow this month.

“They need to be looking at Meghan and Harry as the future not as traitors,” Meinzer added.

Smith, who argued that the existence of a monarchy is fundamentally undemocratic, agreed. “The British press response to the Oprah interview was pretty appalling, it was essentially gas lighting them and telling them that we simply aren’t going to believe you. They made very serious accusations around negligence around mental health and racism.”

To watch the event in full view the video below

The British monarchy: What does the future hold?

When asked by an audience member why the British media rarely espouses republican sentiment, O’Grady responded that “ broadly it does reflect the fact that the monarchy is a popular institution,” but that the press are by no means indiscriminately positive about the royals. “I think the media do and will criticise on issues of behaviour and constitutional issues,” he said.

“They were unrelentingly hostile I’m afraid and a bit racist, a lot of it, about Meghan, which was terrible to see and witness. And they’ve certainly not let up on Prince Andrew – even papers that were very sympathetic and very supportive of the monarchy and the Queen,” he added.

Meinzer added: “It’s not just Meghan and Harry – if you look at Princess Mako in Japan, if you look at other royal families and how they’re treated by the press, it is positively abusive and who they decide to attack makes no sense when you look at what the bigger problems are – whether it’s with regard to their own crimes or their financial misdeeds, there are much bigger things to be focusing on and distractions are created and women are made villains in ways that really are unethical.”

The panel also discussed how the monarchy might look with Charles in the position of sovereign. With discussions around a “slimmed down” line of succession, which would ease taxpayer funding, the possibility of the Queen appointing Charles the Prince Regent and whether a referendum on the future of the head of state should be a consideration.

The argument for Britain to become a republic has never gained much momentum, but as the Queen nears her 100th birthday, and with the Duke of Edinburgh having died earlier this year, the question of what is likely to happen to the monarchy seems more pertinent than ever.

Our next free virtual event is discussing maternity inequalities in the UK. It is being hosted by our health correspondent Shaun Lintern and is being held on 17 November at 6.30pm.

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