And that’s the royal tea

Jess Kaplan, Print Managing Co-Editor

“I wasn’t planning on saying anything shocking. I’m just telling you what happened,” Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, told Oprah Winfrey as they sat on the patio of the former’s Santa Barbara estate. These are the famous last words of any shocking interview. 

In a two-hour interview with Winfrey, Markle described how her idyllic royal life quickly devolved into a suffocating and cruel one. Soon after her engagement to Prince Harry was announced in 2017, Markle was praised as a refreshing addition to the stodgy dynasty. A talented biracial actress, Markle’s presence had the potential to align the royal family with the 21st century. This trend reversed itself by Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018, by which she’d become the focus of vicious, racially-charged tabloids. She was recast as the American divorcee who lured Prince Harry away, causing an irreparable family rift. When the palace turned a blind eye to Markle’s suffering, she spiraled into a deep depression. The only solution was for the couple to depart the royal family.  

Indeed, Meghan’s story has an uncanny similarity to the late Princess Diana, another glamorous outsider who brought renewed interest to the British royals, only to become frustrated with the confines of royal life. Both women desperately sought help from the family, only to be ignored. Both women married into a family that expected them to conform to royal customs and traditions without question. Both women found themselves berated by the tabloids, accusing them of besmirching the royal name. 

But there are differences, too. Unlike Markle, Diana’s marriage crumbled after allegations of Prince Charles’s infidelity; and by the time she gave her infamous BBC interview (“there’s three in the marriage”), she was viewed as a threat. Only two years after the interview, she died in a car accident after a high speed chase with paparazzi. Princess Diana was sheltered and naive when she married Prince Charles at only 20 years old; Markle was 36 and independent, having had a successful career before marrying Prince Harry. And of course, Markle is American, and very much with an American sensibility, whereas Princess Diana’s Britishness taught her to respect and admire the royal traditions. Markle’s American-ness, as well as the openness in which mental health is now talked about, endowed her with the ability to question the order of things.

Markle and Prince Harry are undoubtedly aware of this connection; this interview was their chance to reclaim their reputation, as well as Princess Diana’s, perverted by the media. For one, Prince Harry pointedly acknowledged the parallels to his mother, saying that he “felt her presence through this whole process.” The connection was furthered by the diamond tennis bracelet Markle wore that had once belonged to Princess Diana. 

But oddly enough, Prince Harry and Markle’s departure was only made possible by the $25 million Princess Diana left Prince Harry after her death. 

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