The fallout of the ‘Sussex sit-down’ with Oprah shows limited progress since Princess Diana

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was hailed as a turning point for the British monarchy. Their wedding was lauded as a symbol of Britain’s multiculturalism that might drag the Royal Family kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. Less than three years on following their dramatic exit from “the firm”, the Sussex’s interview with Oprah highlighted just how slow the British press and the monarchy have been when it comes to adapting to change.

Age is a significant factor in determining views towards the Royal Family. YouGov polling indicates that 48 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 are more sympathetic towards the Sussex’s while 15 per cent side with the senior royals. Only 13 per cent of young British adults believe that Meghan and Harry have been treated fairly, with six in ten (61 per cent) stating that they believe that the Royal Family have acted unfairly. By contrast, half of those over the age of 65 stand by the actions towards them.

While older generations consider the Royal Family an institution of British identity, young Britons increasingly see the monarchy as a hangover from the heyday of the British Empire. To some, the Sussex’s interview was a damning account of the inner workings of the Royal Family; to others, it was an act of treason committed by a Prince against his own family.

The Sussexes have been branded hypocrites for courting the press despite earlier wishes for privacy, a luxury they were not afforded when the Daily Mail published their home address last year. Critics fail to recognise the difference between incessant hounding by gossip columns and a consensual interview intended to clear the air. Furthermore, the argument that the Sussex’s should ‘grin and bear it’ as Royals tend to do ignores the added racial element that comes with Meghan’s media coverage, nor does it justify the actions of the tabloid press who continue to demonstrate an abhorrent sense of entitlement when it come to the private lives of public figures. 

Following the interview, Piers Morgan, one of Meghan’s most forthright critics, proudly stated that he did not “believe a word she says,” and alleged that she invented a narrative of suicidal ideation out of desperation for the limelight. The Duchess of Sussex stands accused of lying and attention-seeking by a former journalist who was sacked for using fake photos and spent his six years on Good Morning Britain spouting vitriolic soundbites primed for Twitter controversy. 

Morgan’s distaste for the Sussex’s is nothing new. He had previously accused the couple of being “grasping, selfish, scheming Kardashian-wannabes.” Like many others, it seems that he arrived at Sunday’s interview with his mind clouded by baseless preconceptions.

Doubts were cast over the validity of claims regarding her own mental health and conversations discussing the skin colour of her child, while accusations raised against her went unquestioned. Yes, the allegations of bullying are deeply concerning, but they should not be used to discredit the issues raised during the interview. 

Nevertheless, government minister Zac Goldsmith accused Harry of “blowing up his family” while ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage labelled the Prince’s actions “despicable” and an act of “public betrayal”. Dissent such as this demonstrates the entrenched belief that the Royal Family have a duty to serve the public interest in all parts of their life. When Harry criticised the actions of his own family, a great number of the British public felt let down, with columnists more concerned about how the Sussex’s actions impact Britain’s global image than what their comments illustrate about our society.

These views are commonplace within the media. In spite of his departure from ITV following his comments on the Sussex’s, Piers Morgan looks primed to join the ranks of Andrew Neil’s newly announced GB News. Playing the part of a disgruntled gammon-faced Big Brother on the lamentably named ‘Wokewatch’, Morgan would be afforded ample space to incubate his animosities within his own self-serving echo chamber.

The fallout of this interview has shown how slow progress has been since the era of Princess Diana. Meghan’s soiree into Royal life is likely to further entrench the attitude that “the firm” are an institution whose sole function is to preserve their public image as a monolith of nationalism whose default response on all matters is, as Meghan puts it, “no comment”. 

Some comfort can, however, be taken in the knowledge that younger generations are less willing to blindly defend the royals. While the likes of Piers Morgan may slither their way back onto our screens, the days of staunch monarchism may be numbered. 

Image: Bruce Detorres via Flickr