Harry and Meghan’s baby name proves they’re not the heroes you thought they were. And that’s OK

The couple decided to adhere to royal tradition rather than do anything revolutionary. At the heart of this choice is a clear message: They are hurt family members longing for reconciliation rather than leaders of a protest movement

Nylah Burton
New York
Monday 07 June 2021 17:04
<p>In this file photo taken on October 16, 2018 Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan walk down the stairs of the iconic Opera House in Sydney.</p>

In this file photo taken on October 16, 2018 Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan walk down the stairs of the iconic Opera House in Sydney.

On June 4, Meghan Markle gave birth to her second child at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. “It is with great joy that Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, welcome their daughter, Lilibet ‘Lili’ Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, to the world,” a statement from the Sussexes read.

Further explaining the name, the statement added: “Lili is named after her great-grandmother, Her Majesty The Queen, whose family nickname is Lilibet. Her middle name, Diana, was chosen to honor her beloved late grandmother, The Princess of Wales.”

Any new life is to be celebrated, and I’m happy that Markle and her child are healthy — especially considering the high rates of maternal and infant mortality among Black women in America, regardless of class status. On a human level, I see this as a joyous occasion and I hope that Lili has a good life, surrounded by love and security.

However, her name opens up a political discussion.

For me and many others, Meghan and Harry’s decision to name their Black child after the head of the family that they say racially abused them is baffling. The Sussexes sat down with Oprah a few months ago and detailed their sadness at being stripped of security and hearing that their son, Archie, would not have a title. They spoke about a family member musing as to how “dark” Archie would be while Meghan was pregnant. Meghan also revealed that she struggled with suicidal ideation while confined to palace grounds, and suggested the royal family denied her the life-saving mental healthcare she so desperately needed.

In the shocking interview, Harry and his wife made it very clear — they left the Royal Family to save Meghan’s life, protect themselves and their children from racism, and flee the tyranny of British tabloids.

At first glance, this may seem like it has nothing to do with Queen Elizabeth. In fact, Meghan and her husband were effusive about the Queen’s support of them in the Oprah interview. But the Queen has a great deal of power when it comes to family affairs. For instance, several of Archie’s relatives — including Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips — do not have titles. But according to the family, this was a deliberate choice made by their parents. Meghan and Harry made it clear that they were not given a choice; they were merely informed.

Meghan’s lack of access to mental healthcare is also an issue. “I said that, ‘I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere,’’’ she told Oprah. “And I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.” But other royals, such as Princess Diana and her son Prince Harry, had received mental healthcare before. So what was different about Meghan? And is it really possible that the Queen couldn’t intervene?

The British royal family — across various Houses — has a long tradition of naming their children after sitting or previous monarchs. Perhaps Harry and Meghan just wanted to be a part of that, and to seem respectful. But this is the couple who went before the world to tell us that the institution was racist and abusive, and its traditions — especially when it came to the tabloid media — were regressive and often harmful. It feels strange, then, to see them reach for royal tradition so soon afterwards and for such an important issue as the naming of their daughter.

The announcement of Lilibet Diana’s name has led to a regression into Anglo-obsession across social media. Some of the same people who called for the abolishment of the monarchy back during that explosive Oprah interview are now saying how sweet it is that baby Lili is named after her grandmother, how perfectly it fits her, and the math isn’t mathing. There is a fundamental contradiction here.

The message sent by this name is that Harry and Meghan are still deeply invested in the royal institution. People need to sit with the implications of that, instead of engaging in stan culture with zero analysis. It doesn’t make anyone a terrible person — but it also means that we have to accept neither Harry nor Meghan are our knights in shining armor when it comes to anti-racism protest. They are not here to be heroes.

All too often, people focus their dislike of the royals onto members of the monarchy with less power, like Prince William and Prince Charles. But to act like the Queen isn’t the ultimate head of household would be wrong and insulting. By praising the Queen and anointing their child with her name, Meghan and Harry appear to be sending a message of support. It may be sweet when someone honors their grandmother, but it’s also political when that grandmother is leading the royal family. It is simply not enough to be anti-Windsor, or anti-Prince Charles, if one intends to fully engage with the racist history of the British royal family. One must be an anti-monarchist.

If people want to participate in Anglo-obsession, that is their choice. But combining reverence for the sitting monarch and anti-monarchist statements isn’t consistent.

Harry and Meghan say they want to live a royal-free life but their baby name announcement suggests otherwise. It feels like they are saying that they don’t want real, revolutionary change; they just want to be embraced by their family. That is understandable and human. But it’s ultimately unhelpful to the political movements that briefly chose to embrace them.

Let’s not make Meghan and Harry heroes in the fight against racism, then. Let’s remind ourselves of what they really are — hurt family members longing for reconciliation. Nothing more, nothing less.

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